The people of all civilized nations have from time immemorial shown proper respect to their departed dead. The early inhabitants of New England followed the customs of their ancestors in the old country, either in establishing public cemeteries, or in sparsely settled communities, neighborhood or family burying grounds.

In the original grant of the town of Goffstown six acres of land was reserved for public purposes. "To make a burying yard" was one of the specifications named in the reservation. And in 1801 the town voted "To sell that land that belongs to the town which was reserved for a burying yard in laying out the town, and Joseph Craig, William Kennedy and Samuel Poor were chosen a committee to sell the same." The neighborhood cemeteries in Goffstown were very few in comparsion with some of the other towns, and likewise were the family cemeteries; of the latter but few exist today.

The McDougall burying lot is a strictly family lot, located easterly of the dwelling house of the late James McDougall; here are buried William McDougall, born 1732, and his wife, Jane McFarland, born 1744; their daughter, Isabelle, born 1784, died 1872; their son, William, born 1786, and his wife, Lydia Gregg, born 1786, and their children, Andrew and wife, Elizabeth Dunlap; James and wife, Mary Ann Gage; Sarah Ann, Isabelle, William, Elizabeth McDougall and Lydia McDougall Bowman. Upon the Dodge homestead on the north Uncanoonuc Mountain there is a tomb, which contains the remains of James Dodge and his wife, Margaret Gordon. On the road leading from the village to the Uncanoonuc Mountain, on land now owned by John Taylor, is the tomb of Jefferson Jones, which contains the bodies of Jefferson Jones and wife, their son, Thomas J., Walter, son of Thomas J., and Mrs. Hough.

Upon the southerly side of the highway leading past the residence of Edward Gatz, formerly Albert G. Robie, in the field southerly of the house is an old burial lot. There is no record of the burials. Who fills these unknown graves or when the burials were made is shrouded in obscurity. There is no legendary story that sheds any light upon it, and no information can be obtained relative to the occupants of these graves. They were buried many years since, uncared for and neglected.

"Each in his narrow cell forever laid
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep,
Waiting the judgment day."

In the field owned by David A. Paige on the southerly side of the highway leading from Paige's corner to Grasmere, some of the early inhabitants buried their dead, constituting a neighborhood cemetery. The burials in this lot were early made, and in the process of time they ceased, and when the land changed owners and it was objectionable to the purchasers of the soil that the bodies remain, they were removed to the Grasmere Cemetery. No knowledge was ever obtained of the occupants of these graves.

There was an ancient cemetery upon the Mast Road near where the oak tree stands at the Hillsborough County buildings. There is no record of any burials, and when the first and last person was there buried is a fact unknown, but from reliable circumstances we infer there were few if any burials after the Revolution. Mr. John Butterfield, one of the original emigrants to Goffstown, was buried there.

There is another old cemetery on the northerly side of the present county cemetery at the County Farm, where rest the remains of those unfortunates who died at Hillsborough County Farm from the time of its original purchase in 1850 to its removal in 1868. No marker of any kind identifies a grave, but unknown and unepitaphed, those who once had been prosperous citizens and met with the reverses of fortune, and those who had hardly risen from obscurity here rest side by side.

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire:
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre."

The present burial lot and one which the county has used since 1894 is located north of the railroad and east of the road leading from the farm to the interval. In this cemetery every grave is marked with a marble slab numbered which refers to a number in the record book giving a description of the deceased. At the present time (1918) the number in the yard is 383.


The original part of the cemetery at Grasmere was undoubtedly where the first burials in town were made. The early graves were marked with a field stone placed at the head and foot. The older portion of the yard contains a large number of these unmarked graves. The earliest gravestones are all slate, and have wonderfully withstood the ravages of time. Perhaps they are the most durable of any. The earliest inscriptions found in the yard are those of:

There is no record concerning the yard until 1782, when the town voted "That the burying ground be measured out and fenced the present year, and that the surveyors warn their hands to do the work."

The surveyors referred to were the highway surveyors. It is uncertain how the vote was carried into effect, but probably on account of the hard times, poverty, absence of men in the army, etc., little was done this year.

On May 2, 1791, it was voted "To fence the burying yard front and two ends with a stone wall equal to that, that is done, and the back side with a good fence with good white oak poles." And the following year the vote relative to fencing the backside "was reconsidered, and a good stone wall was named in place of the fence, to be vendued to the lowest bidder."

From this time on probably little change was made in the yard for a number of years. A post stood on each side of the center driveway situate about halfway from the northwest corner of the cemetery to the hearse house. These posts, which were some eight feet high, supported a sign board painted black, upon which were representations of a coffin, spade and pick axe, skull and cross-bones. The bodies were borne upon a bier, carried from the house of the deceased person to the cemetery on the shoulders of bearers. When the distance was long there were several relays of bearers, and sometimes it was a heavy burden to be borne upon men's shoulders.

I remember an account given by an aged resident of Goffstown of the severe physical exertion he once experienced on account of the great weight of the body carried. In 1817 the town voted to buy a hearse with all the necessities belonging to it. When this had outlived its usefulness another was procured, also a heavy large cloth to throw over the coffin, the last being generally of cheap construction, unsightly, and bearing little resemblance to a casket of the present day. This pall was called the mort-cloth or sometimes the palm-cloth. A short time preceeding the solemn hour of the funeral service, the custodian of the mort-cloth, who generally conducted the hearse, would appear at the house of mourning, and cover the coffin with the same, where it must remain until the body was borne from the house.

In October, 1840, the yard was enlarged upon the easterly side by the purchase of land from Elnathan Whitney, and again upon the east side in 1855 by the purchase of land from the same party, and subsequently upon the southerly side by the purchase of land from Mr. Whitney. In 1849 the yard was enlarged upon the northerly side between the northwest corner and the hearse house, and in 1875 enlarged upon the northerly side between the hearse house and the northeast corner. In 1877 a road was laid out through the cemetery from the westerly side south of the Methodist church to the road east of the cemetery. In 1888 a receiving tomb was purchased of the city of Manchester and placed in this cemetery.

This cemetery is the most historic of any in town; here are buried the earliest inhabitants, those who cleared the forest and rendered the field suitable for cultivation, and those who suffered toils, privations and hardships, in order that those who came after them might enjoy the fruits of their labors. Here also are buried those who served their country in the French War, the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Rebellion, patriotic dead. Their number each recurring spring is indicated by the patriotic emblems that marks their graves. Here are buried those who took an active part in early shaping the destiny of the town, church and state --brave men and women who lived not for themselves alone, but that succeeding generations might be benefited thereby.

"For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share."


This cemetery is in Hooksett in what was formerly the extreme northeasterly part of Goffstown, upon the easterly side of the river road leading from Manchester to Concord. When the yard was laid out, or who were among the number first buried, is shrouded in obscurity. The earliest record concerning this burial yard is in 1791, when a vote was passed "To fence the burying ground at Grasmere," and at the same time the town voted "To excuse those at the east part of the town that did fence that graveyard then from being taxed for this."

This is presumptive evidence that the yard was in existence and occupied and had already been fenced. Probably the earlier settlers in that location had buried there for some years preceding this date, and set up, as was the custom, common field stone at the grave. In this yard are buried many of the former residents of that portion of Goffstown annexed to Hooksett.


In March, 1817, it was voted "That the selectmen purchase a piece of land and fence the same for a burying ground near Ens. Thos. S. Littles," and accordingly the selectmen purchased a lot of land upon the Mast Road September 22, 1817, of Thomas S. Little Photo: West Lawn Cemetery and John Smith, and also a small lot of Jonathan Gove adjoining upon the easterly side. The lots of land purchased in 1817 constitutes the original yard. Preceding this purchase there had been three burials within the territory named: a child of William Cook, Sept. 8,1803; David Hale, Jr., Nov.25, 1808, and Mrs. Sally Stevens, Dec. 27,1815.

The two former were buried on land bought of Little and Smith, and Mrs. Stevens on the land purchased of Doctor Gove. The question may be asked why these burials were on private land, and the only plausible answer or theory I can give is, they were near residents of the location, and probably obtained permission of the respective owners. Then, again, the inhabitants of this section of the town must have realized that very soon a burying place would be necessary, and this was an ideal location.

At the March election in 1835 the town authorized the purchase of a hearse, harness and pall-cloth, and the erection of a hearse house for the same, to be attached to the burying yard in the west part of the town. The hearse house was located on the Mast Road near the center driveway, and was removed not many years since.

For thirty-eight years burials were made in the original plat of ground, at the end of which time the land was mostly taken. At this time the necessity of an enlargement of the yard became apparent, and on the 31st of October, 1855, land was purchased of Joseph B. Hoit to enlarge the cemetery upon the west, and November 20th of the same year of Mrs. Hannah Sargent to enlarge upon the east.

The yard has been enlarged upon the east as follows: Hannah Sargent, Feb. 8, 1868; Albert Little, May 29,1873; Orrin Moore, June 28,1873; John G. Dodge, July 4,1891. The most recent addition was upon the westerly side, by land purchased of Daniel W. Hoit, May 11, 1904.

In 1882 the town purchased of Thomas R. Butterfield his private tomb, and in 1897 removed and used the same in the construction of the present town tomb. In 1894 water was introduced into the yard by connecting the public system, which is a great advantage.

At the annual election in March, 1894, a set of by-laws relative to the appointment of a board of trustees and the care of the West Lawn and Grasmere cemeteries was adopted; also a set of rules governing superintendence of cemeteries.

The board consists of the chairman of the board of selectmen, town treasurer, and three citizens of the town; one of whom retires annually, the trustees have the sole care and superintendence and management of the yards. This management has been of great advantage and a marked improvement in many respects is noticeable in the yards. Another advantage is the funds received the interest of which is expended for the care and maintenance of the lots each year.

The yard is adorned by many costly and beautiful monuments. This is a very attractive burial place; few country cemeteries are more so, which is in a great measure due to the efforts of the Ladies' Unity Club of Goffstown.


At the annual meeting March, 1835, the town voted "That the selectmen be authorized to purchase and lay out a burying ground near Amoskeag Village. And in pursuance, thereof, the selectmen purchased of Moody Hardy the following September, a lot of land on the plain. The land purchased in 1835 is the old portion of the Amoskeag Cemetery of today.


In the summer of 1840 the town acquired of Daniel M. Shirley a lot of land for the purpose of a burying ground, and the same was the original Shirley Hill Cemetery. In 1893 the same was enlarged by the addition upon the westerly side. In this yard are buried mainly the residents of Shirley Hill.


On the northerly side of the highway leading from Grasmere to Amoskeag, a short distance westerly of the present Manchester line the Polanders of Manchester purchased a tract of land in 1912, upon which they began at once to make improvements looking toward the establishment of a cemetery. Very soon they began to bury their countrymen in this yard and at the present time many of the lots are taken.


ALHN Hillsborough County

Email Kathy Chapter 21
History of Goffstown
Hillsborough County
ALHN-New Hampshire
Created August 29, 2000
Copyright 2000