Do you have any ideas for changes or additions to state laws that should be made? I would
like to assist you as a member of the NH General Court.
Arthur Jillette, President
NH Old Graveyard Association
----- Original Message ----
From: MICHELLE SMITH <smithmvs(a)verizon.net>
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 4:57:17 PM
Subject: [NH-CEMETERIES] court for my charges on cemetery
First and foremost may I offer my sincere appreciation to each and
everyone of you who have tried everything you could possible do to help,
give advice or just plain be astonished with my fight this year in
regards to recent case that I was involved in regarding the digging of the
cemetery in Rochester, New Hampshire. I also don't have any names but
anyone who donated to my Defense Fund and you know who you are, I want to
thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can tell you that any monies
left over will be spent on the Rochester Cemeteries (not munipality
cemeteries) either in documentation, beautification, cleaning, repairing
or any else that the cemeteries need. I didn't receive a tremendous
amount of money but the money that I won't be using for my defense will
be used wisely. At some future date, I will be changing the name of
that account and file the necessary paper work so that this money will be
used in a non-profit sort of way and that the account can be amen!
ded to reflex what will be the account's purpose, which is Rochester
Cemeteries, If any one still wants to donate to this account it will be
used for the purpose of the cemeteries.
If you wondering why I am writing this, it is because I went to court
today. It was basically a formality to finalize an agreement that my
lawyer and the City of Rochester Prosecutor have agreed upon. The
agreement was that I submit a public apology to the police that were at
cemetery site for not knowing there was a cemetery there and that my initial
grievance was not with the police department. In doing so, the City
of Rochester's Prosecutor agreed to drop all five charges against me.
Nothing more to happen from the Police's point of few. So it is
finished. I have put a copy of the letter in this note to you so that you may
see what it says. I can assure you it isn't all mushy or wishy washy
and once you read it you will see what I mean. This has been approved
by the Prosecutor, my lawyer, myself and has been submitted to the
local paper so I can now release it.
Enjoy the reading, have a chuckle or two and be it known that I am not
under any circumstances going to go away. I have other things up my
sleeve after the new year and this is going to prove to be a busy year
for me. New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association members, hold on to your
hats, I've got some interesting and exciting things planned for
cemeteries in general in this state.
Again, thank you again for you help and support, it was and still is
very much appreciated. This isn't something I will forget.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
To the Citizens of Rochester, New Hampshire:
For the past nine years, I have volunteered along with others to
research, identify and record data about Rochester cemeteries. As such, I
receive an identification card issued by the Chief of Police, but I am not
a city employee and have no access to the city's resources. I am a
founding member and the Vice President of The Society for the Preservation
of Rochester Burial Grounds (an organization established two years ago
because of the interest shown by a number of individuals). I am also a
member of the New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association and the
Association for Gravestone Studies.
During this time, I have struggled to persuade the Rochester City
Council to take the necessary actions to preserve historical burial sites in
our community, and to appoint cemetery trustees, as New Hampshire law
requires. It refuses do so.
As a result, concerned citizens such as me are often placed in the
position of trying to protect the numerous, abandoned cemeteries in
Rochester from development and other acts which disrespect and dishonor the
memories of those buried there.
It is against this background that, on April 25, 2007, I was outraged
as I watched construction vehicles drive over graves that have been
identified as the French-Hussey burial cite. The French-Hussey site is
located at the corner of Woodlawn Street and Route 202 in Rochester. This
burial site includes eight known graves and perhaps up to 19 graves (not
all yet verified). The oldest grave dates back to 1864.
In November of 2006, this burial site was surveyed by Independent
Archaeological Consulting, LLC (IAC), whose director is a registered
professional archaeologist with over 25 years of experience. As a result of
the survey, stakes with blue markers were placed to mark the perimeter of
the cemetery and the graves that were located there. A copy of the
archaeologist's report was provided to the Rochester City Attorney Daniel
Wensley for distribution to the City Council and other departments.
Copies of the archaeological report were also provided to the Flatley
Company, which purchased the land in 2003 and was in the process of
developing the adjacent parcels as commercial property, as well as to CLD
Consulting Engineers, Inc. (CLD), Flatley's planning and engineering firm.
The IAC report provided detailed information about the burial site, the
existence of which was already known to the Flatley Company.
(According to court records, Thomas J. Flatley registered a warranty deed o!
n September 22, 2003, which contains specific reference to the
cemetery and described its location).
On January 4, 2007, state and federal officials, as well as CLD,
participated in a meeting at the NH Department of Transportation offices in
Concord. The purpose of that meeting was to discuss concerns related to
the French-Hussey burial site and Flatley's development plans. Despite
this, the cemetery is missing from the construction plans drafted by
CLD and filed by Flatley with the City of Rochester. To my knowledge, no
corrected or amended plans were filed even after CLD and Flatley were
given the archaeologist's report about the burial site
When the construction began, the Severino Construction Company, who was
contracted by Flatley to oversee the project, obtained a driveway
permit for the adjoining parcel. However, because the burial site was not
fenced off and the state-mandated buffer zone was not enforced,
construction vehicles cut through the French-Hussey cemetery, driving over
graves, destroying almost all of the grave markers and stakes placed there
during the archaeological survey.
And so, on April 25, 2007, I was arrested by the Rochester Police
Department after I attempted to stop construction vehicles that were digging
in and driving over the cemetery at the corner of Woodlawn Street and
Route 202 in Rochester. As you can imagine, I was shocked to witness
such disrespect for the dead, never mind plainly seeing unlawful activity
taking place while the police stood by and directed traffic.
Regretfully, I directed my anger at the officer, who it turns out, was never
advised of the existence of the cemetery, and, understandably, did not
believe me when I told him that a cemetery existed on the site.
Within a half hour of my arrest, a temporary fence was put in place,
and a metal fence was installed the following day. To this date, neither
Flatley, Severino nor CLD has been held accountable for desecrating
that burial site, nor have they taken appropriate remedial steps to remark
As a result of an agreement reached between my lawyer (Richard
Samdperil) and the Rochester Police Department, the police have agreed to
dismiss all charges against me. I am thankful for this decision and, in
turn, offer my sincere apologies to the Rochester Police officers who were
working the construction detail that day, and who were not made aware
of the French-Hussey cemetery. I was upset and frustrated over what I
observed taking place. I now recognize that my anger was misdirected at
the police, that the desecration of that site was not the fault of the
police, and I apologize for my actions toward those officers.
It is my hope that the Rochester City Council will finally take action
to protect the abandoned cemeteries in our community and appoint
cemetery trustees as the law requires. It is my further hope that our local
and state legislators will pass laws that allow private organizations
and perhaps individual citizens to adopt abandoned private cemeteries
when the heirs cannot be located, and the city fails to meet its moral
responsibility to protect these sites, as the City of Rochester has done
in this case.
I appreciate the support of those who understood my outrage that day,
such as Cyndy Lambert, William Smith, my kids - Crystal and William, the
New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association, Richard Longo, and others.
Burial sites have a great deal of historical, sentimental and sacred
value. They should not be ignored or mistreated. I intend to do
everything in my power and assure that this sort of thing never again occurs in
the City of Rochester, or elsewhere in New Hampshire.
Vice President of the Society for the Preservation of Rochester Burial
Member of the New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association
Member of Association for Gravestone Studies
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