CONCORD — The New Hampshire Division of Historic Resources announced that Kingston Plains Cemetery, also known as the Village Cemetery, has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. .
Established around 1725, Plains Cemetery was Kingston’s only public cemetery until 1857 and served as the city’s main cemetery through the first quarter of the 20th century.
A typical early 18th century city burial site, it is the final resting place of many descendants of Kingston’s earliest families, prosperous local religious, military and medical leaders, lawyers, farmers, shoemakers , carpenters, factory workers and elected officials.
Plains Cemetery is the final resting place of Josiah Bartlett (1729-1795), New Hampshire’s first constitutional governor and second signer of the Declaration of Independence after John Hancock. Bartlett also helped establish the Continental Congress, voted and signed the Articles of Confederation, and served as Colonel of the Seventh New Hampshire Militia Regiment, which brought together the residents of Kingston.
The original section of the cemetery is in its center, where almost all the markers are individual stones. Later sections have family plots or several family members located in close proximity to each other, sometimes with the names on an obelisk, pedestal or block monument, as well as smaller markers to designate individual burials in the parcel.
Plains Cemetery added sections for burials in 1859, 1869, 1890, and 1957. Its location and the placement of markers in each section illustrate not only the chronological expansion of the burial site, but also the evolution of commemoration burials and views of death.
As was common from the 17th century to the end of the 18th century, early cemetery markers include rough fieldstones, some with chiseled lettering but many without lettering. 18th and early 19th century markers are mostly made of slate, red or gray sandstone, or fieldstone, while those of the last three quarters of the 19th century are usually marble. At the beginning of the 20th century, granite became the most common material and the rest.
Headstone art reflects the evolution of the shapes and symbolism of tombstones popular in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, including effigies of winged souls – represented by winged faces – urns and willows , and sentimental Victorian images such as withered roses, a sheaf of wheat, or a hand with an index finger pointing skyward. A few have the eerie winged skull motif, a design more common in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Over time, changes in imagery have been accompanied by a change in transcriptions and epitaphs, with an increased use of vital details, sometimes accompanied by verses of consolation and hope instead of the earlier use of resignation and loss claims.
Several 18th-century headstones appear to be the work of Jonathan Hartshorne, grandson of the originator of the Merrimac Valley style of headstone carving. Others, from the 18th and early 19th centuries, have been attributed to the Lamson family of Charlestown, Mass., – which is strongly associated with the Boston school of sculpture – and the Noyes family.
Other monuments include marble obelisks and marble or granite plinth monuments, some surmounted by urns dating from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. There is also a box tomb and an earthen tomb, as well as a timber-framed, gabled and clapboard building, originally to store a horse-drawn hearse, which is now used to store lawn equipment.
The most elaborate pedestal monument in Plains Cemetery is that of Major Edward S. Sanborn, a Kingston native who in the 1880s funded Sanborn Seminary to provide education beyond the eighth grade, donated to several local churches and public improvements – and whose fortune in Boston came from illegal means as the owner of several brothels.
Administered by the National Park Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a nationwide program to coordinate and support efforts public and private. identify, assess and protect our historical and archaeological resources.
Listing in the National Registry imposes no new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Lists identify properties of historical significance and can serve as educational tools and increase opportunities for heritage tourism. The rehabilitation of commercial or industrial buildings on the national register may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.
In New Hampshire, listing on the National Registry makes affected homeowners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the License Plate Preservation Program ( nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).
For more information about the National Registry program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact the Division of Historic Resources at 603-271-3583.
New Hampshire’s Division of Historic Resources, the State’s Office of Historic Preservation, was established in 1974 and is part of the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online at nh.gov/nhdhr or by calling 603-271-3483.