I have completed my genealogical look into the families of the Children buried at the Point of Graves. It has been a fascinating experience and I’ve enjoyed getting to ‘know’ the Ancestral residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the surrounding seacoast areas. In a way, I feel like we could have been neighbors at some time in the past.
There are 36 known children buried in the cemetery, with another probable five more based on documented information and family circumstances. The sad reality, though, is that there are many, many more that will forever be unknown and forgotten.
The Point of Graves was established as an official cemetry in 1671, although most likely there were burials on the land well before that time. Burials stopped in the 1800’s due to over crowding. Many records of burials have been destroyed over time or were never recorded at all.
It has been estimated that 33 % of children died before the age of nine in the early years of our country. The number was higher in populated areas. Diseases such as Smallpox, Measles, Whooping Cough, Diptheria, several Fevers (Yellow, Scarlet, Typhoid) to name some, wiped out entire families. Because of certain religious beliefs, children who had not been Christened or Baptized before they died, did not have an official name and were buried simply as “child of…”.
The Point of Graves cemetery has a open, grassy section, barren of gravestones. This is known as the Paupers’ field — the place for criminals and those who were too poor to pay for a burial. Portsmouth, New Hampshire can boast the building of the first Poor House in the United States. Many children passed through those doors and the conditions were not the best. Many died there and consequently were buried in the Paupers’ Field… unnamed.
In my quest to identify the location of gravestone markers in the Point of Graves, I came across a name that I had not seen in any of my research on the cemetery. There is a small stone located in the Northwest corner of the cemetery next to the stone of Eleanor Shackford, that I think is most likely a foot stone rather than a head stone. After brushing away the winter’s build-up of dust and dirt, a name was boldly revealed… ‘James Stoodly’. Given its small size, I had thought it might be a marker for a child. I am slightly embarrassed that I did not recognize the name immediately and it wasn’t until researching later that I had my ‘duh’ moment.
Those who are familiar with Portsmouth, New Hampshire history and the American Revolution, probably know about James Stoodly, sometimes spelled Stoodley. James Stoodly owned and operated a tavern in Portsmouth that was used as a gathering place for Revolutionary patriots. It was also the location where auctions of bulk goods and slaves occurred. Stoodley’s Tavern has been restored and is now part of Strawbery Banke Museum.
My research also revealed that [tavern owner] James Stoodly is buried in the North Cemetery on Maplewood Avenue in Portsmouth. Find a Grave My first thought was that someone had re-appropriated the foot stone of Mr. Stoodly from the North Cemetery to Point of Graves. The shape of the stone [in the Point of Graves] looks like a miniature version of the head stone. The font style of the inscription looks to be the same as well.
On further research of James Stoodly, I find there to be several over a period of a hundred-plus years during the time Point of Graves burials took place. James Stoodly’s father was James, who died sometime between 1760 when he wrote his will and 1762 when it was proved. James’ brother, Jonathan had a son named James. There is a James Stoodly in the Portsmouth 1800 census. There are ‘James Stoodlys’ (of various spellings) that are not of that family lineage located in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts, as well as those emmigrating from England.
So which James Stoodly does this stone belong to? As very few records exist of Point of Graves burials, it is a mystery that may never be solved.
Documenting the lineage of the children buried in the Point of Graves cemetery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.