A Graveyard with Horse Power: Eli Wallace Horse Cemetery

March 11, 2015 — It was a father-daughter outing with my then three-year-old. She wanted to see horses. I wanted to see a cemetery. We compromised.

So what do you do after you’ve beaten a dead horse? You bury it, of course, of course. I assume the reason that I haven’t come across very many horse cemeteries in a life spent so often among gravestones has something to do with the fact that it’s not as much dust to dust with horses as it is dust to puppy chow. Actually, the truth from a cursory Google search seems to be that it’s because many are in places I rarely get to. Cowboy states. And Kentucky. Also it seems horses are cremated a lot or buried on private land. But I have come across one horse cemetery in New England. It’s about a century old, and it’s in Littleton, New Hampshire.

The graveyard is a small patch of fenced-in grass in a clearing on the edge of a forest close to Interstate 93. It’s located at the intersection of Mt. Eustis Road and Birchcroft Drive. A small brick pumping station is its only neighbor, and a wide, grassy path takes off past the cemetery into the wood because it doesn’t have time to doddle at equine graveyards.

Only three horses are interred in the dirt, all belonging to Eli Wallace and his wife, Myra, hence the name of the cemetery. Four stones mark the grass, one of which is inscribed with the family name, the other three each marking a horse who has been put out to pasture in the “under it” sense: Maud, Mollie, and Maggie. Those three horse graves represent what must’ve been a ton of work as the horses were interred in the early 20th century. The backhoe wouldn’t be invented until the 1950s, and horses need big holes.

As my daughter pretended the stones were saddles, I read the black information placard. It revealed more backstory than you’d think for a pet cemetery of three and was kind of touching. Here’s the photo of the thousand words:

The graveyard actually popped up in the local news a few years back when a fragment of skull was found buried therein...a fragment of human skull. After a bit of investing, the origin of the piece of bone turned out to be less than mysterious. Somebody had buried it there after it resided in a private collection for years.

In a way, a horse cemetery is almost a better token of mortality than a human one. If these strong, graceful, beautiful creatures who rarely so much as deign to kneel in the dust must one day permanently do so, it makes more sense that us ungainly, weak, bipedal things always lounging on couches will, too.

I explained it more succinctly to my daughter, “Horses die. So will you. Maybe from riding one.”