New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association
May 10, 2003

The summer meeting of NHOGA was held at the Valley Cemetery in Manchester, NH on July 12, 2003. Vice President Barbara Benoit presided.

John Wood, Chairman of the Board of the Friends of Valley Cemetery and representative for the City of Manchester (as the Mayor and Cemetery Chairman are away on vacation) welcomed us.

Past Recording Secretary, Clark Bagnall, read the minutes of the May 10, 2003 meeting.

Treasurer, Jean Mertinooke, reported a current balance of $2,841.17. The report was placed on file.

Corresponding Secretary, Doris Ashton, asked for articles for the Rubbings.

Records Committee: Clark Bagnall mentioned that he has most of the maps and his assistant, Jean Mertinooke, has some. He received an inquiry from a Massachusetts woman regarding Barnstead and he sent her maps.

Computer Committee: Clark Bagnall spoke about a new version of the dbase program. He gave Joan Casarotto a copy. Someone in Goshen wanted a copy.

Website: Clark Bagnall stated there was not much to report. When Trina (Purcell) set it up, a reading of usage count could be made. Clark wants to try to set up a robot to check the site weekly and send the information around to those interested.

New Business: Our September meeting in Derry has been postponed. Richard Alperin has volunteered to host us in Newmarket on September 13th. He spoke to us explaining that he lives there in an old house with an interesting history. Wentworth Cheswell, important in the Revolutionary War, devoted his entire life to Newmarket. His stone is in terrible shape so Richard has set up a fund to raise money to repair the stone and have a replica made. It will cost $3,000 and $1,500 has already been raised.

John Wood spoke about the Valley Cemetery. It began in 1841. The Amoskeag Mill, one of the largest mills in New England (the building was over one mile long), bequeathed this land to the city. In 1841 this was very rural country. An engineer designed the land as a "Rural Garden" cemetery. Prior to 1859 people were buried on the other side of the cemetery and then this side. It was designed as a "Rural Garden" cemetery. The city raised money for special plantings. There are 289 different species of trees. The Cucumber Magnolia tree is the largest in the state. There are also black birch trees in here. With the help of grant money, the trees will be individually marked, bad trees will be removed and new ones planted. Fifth and sixth grade school children are involved in gathering information in the cemetery which will be passed on to others. The cemetery is the largest green space, 19 acres, in the city. It had gazebos and paths and a stream in the valley in the center. The stream became polluted and in the 1950's culvert pipes were installed so the stream is no longer visible. The Friends plan to build gazebos to encourage families to come and enjoy the tranquility of the cemetery. A lot of important people in Manchester's history are buried here.

By the 1950's it had been neglected by the city. In 2001 a group of citizens started Friends of Valley Cemetery. They have become a 501-C3 organization so they are able to apply for grants. John Wood recommends that any cemetery group wanting to apply for grants should obtain 501-C3 status.

The Friends of Valley Cemetery hold regular monthly meetings and have 150 members. They have speakers, activities and ten committees. In 1955 cemeteries came under the Parks and Recreation Department so are under a low priority for funding anything other than cutting grass. The Friends have regular cleanup days. The Friends are trying to get more people into the cemetery to help discourage vandalism and homeless people from staying there.

The Friends have applied for and received grants to help fund publishing information cards and booklets for the public as getting the information out is very important. They also received grants to develop a master plan, to hire a professional fund raiser, and toward having the Currier Gate refurbished and reinstalled.

In order to get information to the public the Friends of Valley Cemetery have their own website. They send 400 monthly newsletters to members and local leaders. They are working on an informative booklet which will be published and distributed. John Wood feels it is very important to keep the fundraising effort going so they can accomplish the restoration of Valley Cemetery. Today's Strawberry Shortcake is the first of events held. In the fall people in costume will be giving history of twenty people buried here. The annual meeting will be at the Millyard Museum and Verizon Center will host a meeting during the winter. Publicity and various media coverage are important. Fritz Wetherbee will do a program on this in the fall.

A question and answer session was then carried on. It was stated that the cemetery is full with 7,500 people buried there.

After lunch were took a walking tour of this side of the cemetery guided by John Jordan. This was the first cemetery in new Manchester. Prior to 1910 Manchester was called Derryfield. He gave us details of many of the important people buried here and many of them have very unique monuments.

Respectfully submitted,

Joan A. Casarotto