Seen Some Shit: Old Dunstable Cemetery

September 25, 2018 — It sits on a rise six feet above the Daniel Webster Highway in the center of the busy shopping corridor that is South Nashua, New Hampshire. Its neighbor on one side is a Walgreen’s. On the other, a Pizza Hut. Across the four lanes of traffic poisoning the air in front of it is a strip mall with a fitness equipment store, a cabinet store, an electronics repair shop, and other obvious money laundering operations.

It’s called Old Dunstable Cemetery. Sometimes Old South Cemetery. Sometimes Little Cemetery. Sometimes Little’s Station Cemetery. Stick around long enough and you accrue names.

Long enough in this case is sometime in the 1680s, back when this land was under the Massachusetts flag. Back when the train came through here. Back when its neighbor was a tavern owned by a man named John Little.

Defining characteristics today? The 19th century one-room brick school building and its size, since you can almost see the whole thing from the road.


But this small cemetery shares a lot in common with New England cemeteries in general: A low stone wall. Multiple different types of skulls engraved on the tombstones. A more than average number of Ebenezers buried there.

All told and including those Ebenezers, the graveyard has about 250 graves in it, only a fraction of which have surviving tombstones.

Perhaps the most interesting tombstone image I saw, which I had never seen before and could well be misinterpreting that age-scarred image, was a tiny skull in the middle of a flower bloom. An ultimate image for death at the center of life.

I’ve passed by this cemetery hundreds of times on my way to the mall or the theater or to the Massachusetts line, noticing it casually like all the other tiny New England cemeteries peeking around the glass and cement corners of modern New England life.

But it’s worth a stop. More than that. Worth a stay.