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Claremont Cemetery Headstones Toppled, Broken by Vandals

Several vandalized gravestones are pictured at the West Pleasant Street Cemetery in Claremont, Monday. Claremont police report that about 75 gravestones were damaged and cost of damages is expected to be in excess of several thousand dollars. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Several vandalized gravestones are pictured at the West Pleasant Street Cemetery in Claremont, Monday. Claremont police report that about 75 gravestones were damaged and cost of damages is expected to be in excess of several thousand dollars. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

Claremont — About 75 gravestones were damaged and toppled at the West Pleasant Street Cemetery, a city-owned burial ground that dates back to the mid 19th century and in which several prominent Claremont citizens are buried.

The vandals struck sometime between Friday and Saturday, according to a news release from Claremont Police Chief Alex Scott. A resident reported the vandalism to police Saturday afternoon, the chief said Monday.

Police said the cost of repairs at the city-owned cemetery will probably be in excess of several thousand dollars.

The cemetery, with a few thousands grave sites, sits on a triangular shaped parcel bordered by Pleasant Street, Mulberry Street and a wooded area with a steep dropoff. A chainlink fence lines the cemetery on the Pleasant and Mulberry streets sides but there are several openings along the fence for cars to enter. The openings are not closed at night during the warm months.

The damage was not confined to a particular area but seemed to run in a line in an area closer to Pleasant Street, though not near the road. Several markers near the unpaved road in Section A were knocked over, while others were toppled toward the center of the cemetery and closer to the grass road that cuts through the middle.

In one area, there was a cluster of about 10 to 12 gravestones pushed over with some knocked off their base.

Others were pushed completely over, with the bases pulled from the ground, exposing the dirt. A few markers had obelisk-shaped stones on top that were knocked over and at least one of those was broken in half. Several stones were broken in half and a few had ornamental pieces knocked off.

Scott said yesterday police believe the damage was done by more than one individual.

Bill Binder, who lives on West Pleasant said he was up late Friday night and out on his deck trying to take pictures of lightning from an approaching storm. He retreated inside when the heavy rain started but came back out about midnight or 12:30 a.m. and noticed several youngsters walking along West Pleasant toward Maple Avenue.

“It was not really out of the ordinary and they were just walking along and talking,” Binder said, adding that it is common to see people on the sidewalk next to the cemetery. “I never heard anything.”

When Binder came out the next morning, he noticed a tall column on one grave knocked off and wondered if the storm caused the damage. He later learned the damage was widespread.

“There has been vandalism there before but never to this extent.”

Historical Society member Colin Sanborn said the West Pleasant Street Cemetery dates to the 1840s and is where several prominent Claremont citizens from the 19th and early 20th century are buried.

Among them are William Moody, who donated the land for Moody Park, Hira Beckwith, who built the Claremont Opera House in the 1890s, Carleton Chase, the first Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, Samuel Fiske, who started the city’s library and Osmon Way, a prominent doctor.

Anyone with information or who saw anything suspicious is asked to call police at 542-9538.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.