SHOWN ABOVE: Original coffin name plate for Charles H. Woodus, 1862-1929
In June 2002, IAC assisted in the identification and recovery of human remains from a 19th-century family cemetery encountered at the edge of a gravel pit in Madbury, New Hampshire. Cemetery #41 was recorded in the 1930s as an unmarked burying ground on property across the street from the dwelling house of Mrs. Patience Church and her son-in-law, Ira Locke. Known at that time as the Church Cemetery (Shackford 1932: 2), by 2002, the founders and occupants of the cemetery had been forgotten, and it was known to Madbury town officials only as #41.
IAC archaeologists identified five intact graves, one nearly intact grave, and the remains of three other individuals. The remains have been identified as members of the Church, Locke, and Woodus families, who were all related through marriage and/or consanguinity and centered on the matriarch, Patience Church. We have positively identified Patience Church, who died in 1886 at the age of 81, thanks to the silver nameplate found among her remains. We also identified the three individuals to her left as the remains of her unmarried children – Nathaniel, who died in 1904 at the age of 58; John, who died aged 75 in 1907; and Ellen, who died in 1914 at the age of 71. The fifth intact grave belonged to an elderly female, believed to be Lydia (Church) Locke, who was laid to rest in the “family cemetery” in 1916 at the age of 83 (Tasker and Chesley Funeral Home personal communication to Ellen Marlatt, 2002). Her husband Ira Locke is also said to have been buried in the family cemetery, but we found no clear evidence of his remains.
In short, we have what we believe to be remains from three family groups interrelated through marriage and/or consanguinity, and centered on the matriarch, Mrs. Patience Church. We have identified Patience Church, her three unmarried children, two of her married daughters, and some of their children. It is not clear how many others were originally laid to rest in the Church family cemetery, but records suggest that there might have been as many as 14. We have been able to account for nine of those, and given that five of the recovered burials had already been partially destroyed by gravel extraction activities, it is entirely possible that those nine were all that remained to be found.
Based on a comparison of the burials and the amount of elaboration evident in each with respect to the others, and within the reconstructed historical context of these families, a pattern seems to emerge. All of the elaborated burials, be they different because of hardware, coffin shape, or presence of a viewing window, come from the second and third generations of the family. Patience Church is the only individual from the original family branch (or trunk, rather) who was buried elaborately. The care taken in her burial, therefore, would seem to take on special significance, and provides a window into the mindset of one family and its ideas about what constituted success in life, proper treatment in death, and how one would collectively like to be remembered. As the second and third generations progressed into the increasingly connected, industrializing, and literate society of the late 19th century, leaving farming behind, and sending their children to school, it may have been especially important to the surviving children to see that their mother be buried as they wanted their family to be seen, regardless of whether it reflected her own reality in life. The elaboration of Patience Church’s burial may, therefore, have been more of a testament to what the family hoped to become – or felt they had already become – than a tribute specifically to her.