Gravestones presentation kicks off Rockingham Meeting House season

gravestones
This figure represents the soul rising and is a recurring motif on early New England graves. The Rockingham Meeting House cemetery has several notable examples. Photo provided

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – The Rockingham Meeting House will kick off the 2019 season Saturday, May 25, at noon with a special program, “What the dead have to tell us: A look at the iconography of gravestones.”

Meetinghouse docent Walter Wallace will present this free program using as examples some of the early graves in the adjacent cemetery. Following his talk, participants will have an opportunity to wander in the graveyard and see the recurring symbols and motifs that grace many of the resting places of the town’s earliest European settlers.

Wallace earned a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. He has taught American social and cultural history at Johnson State College and the Community College of Vermont. He has an interest in early American gravestones, both because of their artistry as well as their significance in historical research.

“I see the graveyard, especially through its headstones and markers, as a reflection of the hearts and minds of its early residents,” Wallace said. “Headstones are as important an archival resource as a diary or letter or other historic documents.”

The program is sponsored by the Rockingham Historic Preservation Commission. The meetinghouse, built between 1787 and 1801, is owned by the town of Rockingham and is the oldest public building in Vermont that still exists in a condition close to its original state. It is a National Historic Landmark. In its early years the meetinghouse was used both as the town hall and as a place of worship.

As of May 25, the meetinghouse will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-October. The building is wheelchair accessible but does not fully comply with ADA requirements. For more information, email clg@rockbf.org.

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