Collection of materials documenting deaths and burials in Hanover, NH, from the late 18th to the mid-20th centuries

detail from map of Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., 1920s

Detail from map of Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., 1920s

About this collection

The Hanover Cemetery Records collection consists of several groups of documents: the William Dewey Journal, which records deaths in the vicinity of Hanover from 1769 to 1859; the Chivers Notebook, a cemetery plot plan with diagrams of lots, along with inscriptions on monuments in each lot; hand-drawn maps of the cemetery from 1862, 1911, and 1950; and records of the Hanover Cemetery Association, including meeting minutes (1845-1871) and bylaws (1897-1956). These documents provide an extraordinary wealth of information on mortality and genealogy in the Hanover area in this important historical period.

Also known as the Old Dartmouth Cemetery, the Hanover Cemetery was created when Eleazar Wheelock set aside an acre of level land in the original survey of the village of Hanover in 1771. That land was sequestered by the College Trustees in 1774 “as a burying ground for the use of the College and the inhabitants of this vicinity.” By the 1840s, however, the cemetery had become crowded and had fallen into disrepair. In 1845, Rev. John Richards took it upon himself to form the Dartmouth Cemetery Association with Prof. Brown. For the next 100 years, the Association became the caretaker of the Dartmouth Cemetery. They maintained the fences, nurtured vegetation, and in 1851, built a tomb and hearse house. By 1943, despite careful financial management, the Association had run out of money and people to adequately take care of the cemetery. The trustees dissolved the Association and signed over the rights to it to the Town of Hanover with the stipulation that the “cemetery shall remain perpetually dedicated to the burial of the dead.”

The town of Hanover, New Hampshire, in partnership with Dartmouth College, is working to catalog, restore, and conserve gravestones and the cemetery property. As part of the Dartmouth 250th celebration in 2019, a group of students researched and produced a podcast series on the history of the cemetery.

The Hanover Cemetery Records form part of the manuscript holdings of Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College. The original documents are available for research and may be requested by asking for Codex 003442 (William Dewey Journal) and DH-38 (Chivers Notebook, maps, and records) in Rauner Library. More information about this collection may be found in the full archival finding aid.

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