Abigail’s gravestone returns to West Newbury | New
WEST NEWBURY – The remains of Abigail Chase, who died of diphtheria at the age of 17 months, have been lying between the graves of her sisters and parents since the 1700s, but her intricately carved gravestone was missing until early the year, when it appeared in Pennsylvania.
The Abigail Stone was resettled and re-consecrated last week by a group of people who visited to mark their safe return to the Chase family grounds at Bridge Street Cemetery.
Former Museum of Old Newbury executive director Susan CS Edwards wrote in June how Ron Pook, owner of an auction house in Pennsylvania, contacted her about a small gravestone he had found in the dirt while picking up items in an estate.
Pook, the founder and CEO of Pook & Pook Auctioneers, asked a researcher at his company to study the name and engravings on the stone and trace it to New England. At that point, Pook contacted Edwards and the process of bringing the stone home began.
On Friday, Edwards joined new museum director Bethany Groff Dorau, Bridge Street cemetery administrators and several others at the cemetery to celebrate the return of the gravestone, the life of Abigail Chase and the many bonds the Chase family have. with several generations in town.
After Edwards and Dorau spoke, many in attendance picked shiny sunflowers from a bucket and placed them, one by one, over Abigail’s grave.
Local historians knew that Abigail was buried next to her parents and sisters Rebekah and Anne in 1736. The three daughters were among the many who died when the “sore throat” – known today as diphtheria – swept the area.
Abigail died first on May 15, 1736, followed by 5-year-old Rebekah three days later and their 8-year-old sister Anne on May 27. Their parents, Moses and Elizabeth Chase, had separate headstones engraved for the girls to be buried in the cemetery, not far from the family farm.
Cemetery administrators hired a company to use ground-penetrating radar to verify Abigail’s remains were where they were believed to be. By scanning several sections of the cemetery, the company located other graves that were also missing gravestones.
Edwards said cemetery administrators were certain Abigail’s unmarked grave was between those of her sisters, on the left, and her parents on the right, and analysis of the ground-penetrating radar confirmed this. The return of the gravestone filled “a long, notable gap in the family plot,” Edwards said.
Ghlee Woodworth, a historian and author from Newburyport who uses her skills to repair gravestones and place them upright, did the job of properly installing the Abigail Stone at Bridge Street.
Dorau, who said she, like many residents of West Newbury, was related to the Chase family, told the assembly that the border settlement of West Newbury in the early 18th century would have been very united.
“Everyone in this community would have known (Abigail) and seen in her the future of this city,” she said.
The fact that her parents ordered separate tombstones for the three daughters in such a short time attests to both the rank in the life of Moses and Elizabeth Chase, “and their concern and concern for individuality. of their children, ”Dorau said.
Although Ron Pook was unable to attend the ceremony last week, as a member of the Berks County Association for the Preservation of Cemeteries, he understood the importance of the New Stone. -England.
As Edwards wrote in June, Pook told him, “The beauty of these tombstones makes people take them off, but it’s a sacrilege that it happens. someone would care about that gravestone. “
So on Friday, around 20 people, including Wayne Chase of Cambridge, a first cousin of Abigail Chase six times kidnapped, celebrated the return of the old gravestone to fill the void in the family land and mark the last place of Abigail’s rest.