South Cemetery actually consists of at least four cemeteries: Cotton’s Burying Ground, Proprietor’s Burying Ground, Harmony Grove, and the Sagamore Cemetery. This is a great place to Walk Portsmouth.
The land was originally uses as a pasture by Goodman William Cotton. In 1721, the area that became known as Cotton’s Burying Ground was enclosed by a fence. This is in the northeast corner of South Cemetery, opposite the intersection of Richards Avenue with South Street.
|Grave of Levi Woodbury|
The surrounding area was used as a military training field, where Captain John Pickering drilled his company of Puritan soldiers. Starting in 1735, Reverend Shurtleff also used the field as pastureland for his livestock, followed by every minister of the South Parish. Not surprisingly, the area became known as Minister’s Field.
|Proprietor's Burial Ground Vault|
Portsmouth publicly executed Ruth Blay in what would become Proprietor’s Burying Ground in 1768, for concealing the birth of her illegitimate baby. She is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere at the bottom of the hill, north of the lake.
|Peter Jenness Tomb|
A few years after the South Parish moved to the Stone Church on State Street, around 1830, the field became a privately-owned cemetery. It was named the Proprietor’s Burying Ground because it was the first cemetery in Portsmouth that was not public.
Cotton’s and Proprietor’s Burying Grounds are adjacent to South Street and occupy the northern section of South Cemetery. South of them are the Harmony Grove Cemetery, added in 1847, and the Sagamore Cemetery that was added in 1871.
The vintage photograph was published in 1902. Amazingly, some of the "new" tombstones that did not appear in the original photo are now a century old. The tall monument to the left marks the final resting place of Frank Jones, a remarkable Portsmouth resident who once owned one of the largest breweries in the United States, the Frank Jones Brewing Company on Islington Street. He also owned and extensively remodeled the Rockingham Hotel on State Street.