Rye Reflections

November 2005 Features

Family cemeteries are sprinkled throughout Rye

Louise Tallman has spent years documenting, helping preserve private plots

Margaret Carroll

Louise Tallman
On your walks around the streets and roads of Rye, you may have stopped to look at one of the small cemetery plots tucked away in a front or backyard.  Like me, you wondered about the people from past generations who are buried there.  If the stones are marked, they might tell you that this is the burial plot of a veteran of the American Revolution, or an infant, or a ninety-five-year old woman. And you realize that this is our history.  This is sacred ground.  You know that there are stories here.  You have questions.

I took my many questions to Louise Tallman, a Rye resident, who has spent years working on the preservation and documentation of the ancient cemeteries in Rye and Portsmouth.  We had a wonderful visit as we sat on her porch on a beautiful September afternoon.  She told me about her house and its history. Among its previous owners was David Francis, past Governor of Missouri and Ambassador to Russia. And she told me a little about herself.  Louise studied landscape architecture in college, served on the Rye Conservation Committee, and the Rye Bicentennial Committee in 1976. This led to her interest in genealogy and to her scholarly work on the local cemeteries.                                                                              

Dow Monument at center of cemetery on Washington Road
Louise will tell you that she has a dislike for meetings.  She prefers working on her own with no one telling her what to do.  After talking with her and seeing the work she has done, it is clear that we all benefit from her preference.  She has made a great contribution to the history of Rye.  When she began her work in the 1970s, only 23 grave sites were documented in Rye. When she looked for those plots, people came forward with other sites.  By the end of the 70s, she had found 39.  Today there are 60 identified family cemeteries in our town.

These gravestones are the only record of burials before 1850. In 1891 the town of Rye built the Central Cemetery.  Prior to that time, each family or neighborhood made its own provisions.  People were asked to move the remains to the main cemetery.  Some complied.  Many did not. The historic burial grounds around the town are the remains that were not brought to the new cemetery.

Louise took on the task of clearing many lots and recording family names where she found inscriptions.  She mapped locations, including the site of the Brackett Massacre, Sept. 29, 1691.  She added a section of sites in the Central Cemetry, Divisions I, II, III where older stones are located.  She made notations of facts about families and individuals.  She noted the condition of the plots. She also worked with her neighbors in Portsmouth to help with the restoration of their old cemeteries.  She carefully recorded her information in notebooks which are kept at the Rye Public Library.

"Quiet like a chapel" on South Road
In the course of her work she found some fascinating facts.  Stones are laid in pairs, six feet apart and set in rows.  They have an east/west position with the larger stones on the west and the smaller ones on the east.  Many slate stones had been laid flat on the ground and covered with soil. This could be the family’s attempt to cooperate with the town request to clear the front yard of tombstones.  Also, she noted that slate stones weather well, as contrasted with the white marble stones.  Many marble stones are illegible.  Time, says Louise, is running out to read some of them.

Family plots still belong to the original families. They need not be in residence on the property.  Care and upkeep of the sites falls to these families and helpful volunteers.  Unfortunately, many sites are left overgrown with broken stones.  There are, however, some neat lots.  A good example of a fine neighborhood site is on South Road, which, says Louise, ”is well kept and quiet like a chapel.”

She ended our visit by quoting an epitaph from a discarded marker found on Star Island:

                                               Think of John Smith
                                               As you pass by
                                               As you are now
                                               So once was I
                                               As I am now
                                               So you will be
                                               Prepare for death
                                               And follow me.

CEMETERIES OF RYE (as listed by Louise Tallman in 1995):

1. Beebe, Star Island
2. Berry, Central Road, opposite #130
3. Brackett Massacre Burial Ground, Brackett Rd. opp. #605
4. Brown, West Road, opposite #333
5. Brown, off West Road, rear of #144
6. Caswell, Star Island
7. Caswell, off Washington Rd., rear of 117
8. Central Cemetery, Central Road
   (The only active public cemetery in Rye.)
9. Dalton, Garland Road, opposite #121
10. Dow, Parsons Road, near #139
11. Dow, Washington Road, opposite #1159
12. Fieldstone, off Central Road, rear of #176
13. Fieldstone, Grove Road, corner of Washington
14. Fieldstone, off Sagamore Road, #236
15. Fieldstone, off Sagamore Road, rear of 361
16. Fieldstone, Rock Orchard Lane, off Wallis Road
17. Fieldstone, off Wallis Road, #588
18. Fieldstone, Wallis Road, #161
19. Fieldstone, Washington Road, next to #221
20. Fieldstone, Washington Road, opposite end Long John Road
21. Fieldstone, Washington Road, rear of #320
22. Fieldstone, off Washington Road, rear of 659
23. Foss, Washington Road, west of #25
24. Foye, Brackett Road, near 181
25. Garland, off Washington Road, rear of #1151
26. Jenness, Cable Road, rear of #125
27. Lang, Washington Road, #832
28. Locke, off Harbor Road, rear of #14
29. Locke, Locke Road, west of #166
30. Locke, off Locke Road, rear of #315
31. Locke, off Brackett Road, rear of #571
32. Marden, off Wallis Road, rear of #218
33. Marden, West Road, rear of #51
34. Nason, Washington Road, near #410
35. Odiorne, off Brackett Road, rear of #233
36. Odiorne, off Ocean Boulevard, rear of #505
37. Old Burying Ground, Star Island
38. Locke, Old Beach Road, corner Locke (Fieldstones)
39. Philbrick, off Cable Road, rear of #36 (fragments only)
40. Philbrick, Church Road, at St-Andrews-By-The-Sea
41. Philbrick, off Cable Road, rear of #62
42. Remick, Brackett Road, rear of #405
43. Salter, Wallis Road, near #651
44. Seavey, off Brackett Road, rear of #20
45. Seavey, off Pioneer Road, rear of #220
46. Seavey, off Sagamore Road, rear of #510
47. Sleeper, off West Road, rear of #245
48. Sleeper, West Road, north of #333
49. South Road Cemetery, near #434
50. Trefethen, Washington Road, near #333
51. Tucker, off Elwyn Road, near Portsmouth line
52. Tucker, off Washington Road, rear of #257
53. Varrell, Sagamore Road, near #300
54. Wallis, Brackett Road, near #500
55. Webster, off Long John Road, near #591
56. Wedgwood, Lang Road, near #19
57. Fieldstone, Park Ridge Avenue, rear of #28
58. Rye Historical Society, Town Hall & Library
59. Fieldstone, Odiorne Park at Gage house site

Author's note to readers:  When you tour the roadside family cemeteries in Rye, we ask that you respect the sacred ground as you would in any cemetery.  And consider the privacy of the residents. Enjoy!


2. BERRY---opp. 130 Central Road;  3. BRACKET MASSACRE BURIAL GROUND---opp. 605 Brackett Road;  10. DOW MONUMENT---near 139 Parsons Road;  23. FOSS---35 Washington Road (between 25 & 45);  
24. FOYE---near 181 Brackett Road;  29. LOCKE-DOWNING---near 190 Locke Road;  
36. ODIORNE--rear of 505 Ocean Boulevard (park near barn);  
40. PHILBRICK---Church Road at St. Andrew's;  43. SALTER-RAND---near 651 Wallis Road;  
49. SOUTH ROAD---near 434 South Road; 54. WALLIS-ODIORNE---near 500 Brackett Road

Notebooks by Louise Tallman
(On reference at the Rye Public Library)

Family Cemeteries of  Rye-listings: 1970,1975,1978

Cemetery Markers of Rye--index of inscribed stones in Family Cemeteries and Central Cemetery, 1978

Rye Gravestone Records--an aid in genealogical research of Rye families, 1994

Family Graveyards of Portsmouth--Community sites and family sites, 1983

For information, lists and maps of Rye veterans' sites, which Tallman compiled with assistance from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Seacoast Memorial Post #8942 and the Rye Historical Society, see http://s89689303.onlinehome.us/genj/veterans.html  If anyone knows of a veteran buried in Rye but not listed in the Grave Site Project, please contact Jim Cullen, 603-964-9918, so that the name of the veteran and site location may be added

Too Young to Travel Abroad, Journal of a Year of European Travel in 1856-7

By Agnes Woolsey
Introduction by Louise Herman Tallman
Peter E. Randall, Publisher

When eighteen-year-old Agnes Woolsey was invited to join her uncle and his family on a trip to Europe, her father, Yale President Theodore Dwight Woolsley, wrote to urge her to decline the invitation.  She was too young to judge works of art or to understand the modern history of European countries.  "Your mind needs discipline and study before you can see more than the outside of things."  He suggested that she stay home to take care of her grandmother who was becoming feeble.

We will never know how Agnes got around her father, but what followed is a charming journal of her trip to England and the Continent in 1856-7.  The notebook was written from a youthful point of view, in beautiful language and thoughtful insight into art, countries and people.  She pasted sketches of some of the places they visited.

More than a century later Louise Tallman found the manuscript in her aunt's attic.  This was the grandmother she never knew. Louise made a typed copy of the notebooks.  Deciphering the faded handwriting was not an easy task.  Changes were kept to a. minimum.  Now, in 2005, this unique travel book presents the writings of a very bright eighteen-year-old who was not too young to travel.

(This book is on sale at the Rye Town Museum)

November 3, 2005



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