The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Cemetery Committee of Portsmouth, New Hampshire


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The city of Portsmouth, NH is one of the oldest settlements of the United States. The area was first formally settled as Strawbery Banke in 1623, and fishing colonies have been here since the late 1500's, making it the oldest community in New Hampshire and the 6th oldest town in the United States.

In the beginnings of Colonial America, Portsmouth had a prominent place in American history. It was a working major seaport of eastern North America among peers like Boston, Salem and Newburyport and imported as well as exported goods to and from all over the known world.

During the Revolutionary War, Portsmouth also held a place of prominence in history. Like many other seaports up the coast of New England who imported English goods but who were subjected to the rule of the crown of the colonies who were not fairly represented to the English Parliment.

Today, Portsmouth has retained much of its colonial and early historical charm. Many of its homes and buildings average 200 to 300 years old. The oldest homes in town being the Jackson House (ca. 1664) and the Sherburne House (ca. 1695, now part of Strawberry Banke Museum) as well as many other historic homes are now a tangible piece of history for the public recipients to tour and enjoy.

Burial grounds remain the most tangible links we have with our history. The committee's mission is to make the city's four historic ancient grounds more recognizable and available as historic and educational urban parks affording visitors quiet retreats for reflection and meditation within the city limits.

To achieve this goal of bringing to the public's attention, these burial grounds, North, Union (on The National Register of Historic Places), Pleasant Street, and Point of Graves, should be sites at which resident and visitor alike may experience personally guided tours, lectures, educational programs and eventually, audio, self-guided tours.

School groups and others will be encouraged to come to these sites to learn more about Portsmouth's history. All should be made aware that cemeteries provide an insight into the Revolutionary War heroes who contributed to the founding of this country such as John Langdon and William Whipple, who, according to historian David McCullough, are America's secondary Founding Fathers. Additionally, burial grounds provide insight into lost histories, giving us traces of people whose lives would be forgotten without these grounds. The burial grounds are also a wonderful display of an early American art form, tombstone carvings. A vital project should be the restoration, resetting and cleaning of many of markers and the eventual publishing of a volume depicting all the gravesites.

Latest News

July 12, 2008: Gravestone Conservation Workshop directed by Jonathan Appell.
Our gravestone restoration workshop was a great success. Click here to see photos from the event.

July 17, 2007 - Coming for a visit? Download a self-guiding tour brochure of the highlights of Point of Graves Burying Ground in PDF Format

October 10, 2006 - Signs tell histories behind the headstones
Visitors to the city's four historic cemeteries no longer have to wait for a tour to learn about the people buried there. The Mayor's Blue Ribbon Cemetery Committee recently installed signs to teach passers-by about the history lying beneath their feet. The durable blue placards highlight some of the famous and lesser-known people buried at North, Union, Pleasant Street and Point of Graves cemeteries.

July 6, 2006 - Cemetery volunteer honored
Her contribution to the city doesn't make headlines and her work that sits in the library won't ever make the best-seller list or win an award, but Louise Tallman's vital role in preserving Portsmouth history was honored on Tuesday by the city.

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