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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lyndeborough woman trying to compile info on all veterans’ graves

Jessie Salisbury

Memorial Day often is associated with the Civil War and Decoration Day, but it’s a day for remembering the veterans of all past wars, usually by putting a small American flag on the graves.

Many organizations take part, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Boy and Girl Scouts. In Lyndeborough, it’s the Lafayette Artillery Company, which dates to 1804 – the second-oldest such company in the country (one in Boston is a little older). ...

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Memorial Day often is associated with the Civil War and Decoration Day, but it’s a day for remembering the veterans of all past wars, usually by putting a small American flag on the graves.

Many organizations take part, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Boy and Girl Scouts. In Lyndeborough, it’s the Lafayette Artillery Company, which dates to 1804 – the second-oldest such company in the country (one in Boston is a little older).

Artillery members consult a list noted as “revised in 1895 by C.H. Holt,” which lists “those graves that were to be decorated.” It has been periodically updated, and the late Edna Worcester did a lot of research into veterans’ graves. A hand-drawn map of the South Yard made in 1816 recently was found, which added more information.

A few years ago, Ginny Chrisenton was elected a trustee of the cemeteries, and soon thereafter, she began collecting all of the cemetery records to create a database – a project on which she continues to work. That database includes everything she has found so far and where she found it.

One of the aspects of that project was locating and documenting all of the town’s veterans from all of the wars dating to the Revolution, and she found one from before that – the French and Indian War.

In her research, Chrisenton used a book compiled by Ann Nichols in 1984 that records all of the headstones in all of the cemeteries, the 1895 list, updates by the Artillery Company and records in both Lyndeborough histories (1905 and 1955). She cross-referenced those names with genealogies and town mortuary records.

In checking the list from 1895 with current maps, Chrisenton discovered that four of the men do not have grave markers, and she set out to find their resting places. They are Oliver Stiles, War of 1812, in the Center Cemetery; Jeremiah Abbott, Revolutionary War, South Cemetery; Andrew Thompson, noted as having been at Bunker Hill and at Fort Ticonderoga, West Cemetery; and James Thomson, who also served in the Revolution but apparently from another town.

The 1816 map lists two graves: Capt. William Blaney in the Revolutionary War and Capt. John Stephenson, who apparently served in the French and Indian War. Neither has a marker.

The lack of a headstone may mean the family had no funds, there were no immediate family members, or the original marker was made of wood and has since deteriorated.

The only Blaney family member whom Chrisenton has discovered – and that by serendipity – lives in New Zealand. The family returned to Marblehead, Mass., after his death.

“It’s sort of like trying to herd cats,” Chrisenton said recently of the project when we were elbow-deep in maps and records of her research. Everything found leads somewhere else.

For starters, Lyndeborough has eight cemeteries, most of them now closed to new burials.

“In 1970, all of the cemeteries were mapped,” she said. “But different trustees used different copies to write things on. I had to look at all the copies. There are names on some and not on others.”

Her job now is to document the service of those men without headstones and to apply to the Veterans Administration for military-style markers, which require a request from a family member.

Except for Stephenson.

“In the French and Indian War, we were British, not fighting against them,” Chrisenton said. The VA might not recognize that war.

This summer, the trustees plan to “go out with maps and check the ground” to make sure the dates, locations and spellings of names are accurate, Chrisenton said.

“When we finally get it done, we will have a copy at the library and the town office, as well as the database,” so people can locate family plots, Chrisenton said.

And all the veterans will finally have flags.

Keep up with the past with Another Perspective, which runs every other Sunday in The Telegraph. Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or jessies@tellink.net.