This Day in Westport Island History
On this day in 1861…151 years ago today
Westport Island’s 70 plus cemeteries provide a mini history and window into the lives of its people and their times.
According to a headstone in the Dunton family cemetery near Squam Creek, Martha A. Dunton, daughter of Captain Stephen and Elizabeth Dunton, died on April 24 in 1861. She was 21 years, 1 month, and 15 days. Her death came 12 days after the start of the Civil War.
Martha’s father, Stephen Dunton, was a sea captain: he was a troop at the Island’s Fort McDonough during the War of 1812, signed the petition that separated Westport from Edgecomb in 1828, and mastered a ship named the Martha Jane until 1840. The grief that he and his wife felt at the death of their daughter, Martha, is evident in the carved rose and accompanying inscription etched on her tombstone. The inscribed verses come from a poem by Charles Doyne Sillery (1807-1836), a Scottish/Irish poet and essayist.
She died in beauty, like a rose from its parent’s stem.
She died in beauty, like a pearl dropped from some diadem.
She died in beauty, like a star lost on the brow of day.
She lives in glory, like night’s gems set ’round the silver moon.
She lives in glory, like the sun amid the blue of June.