EPPING — Two brothers who own the land surrounding an old family cemetery on Dimond Hill Road are hoping to put to rest allegations that gravesites were disturbed.
Jerry and James Thayer told selectmen on Monday that they’ve been trying to clean up the mess left behind after two large pine trees in the Dow Cemetery were toppled during storms in recent years.
The cleanup work involved using an excavator to vertically lift the stumps out of the cemetery. After the stumps were removed without causing additional damage, the Thayers said several more trees surrounding the cemetery were removed.
The work made it appear that the cemetery had been disturbed with “open gravesites,” according to Selectman Tom Gauthier, board chairman.
Cemetery Trustee Jerry Langdon said the Thayers were the target of “false accusations” alleging they had disturbed the cemetery, where their ancestors are buried.
“Nothing has been dug. These (trees) were picked up and pulled out of there, and that’s completely observable that that’s what happened,” Langdon said. “These weren’t bulldozed out of there or backhoed out of there.”
When the state Attorney General’s Office learned about the allegations last week, a representative contacted the town to see what had happened. The inquiry prompted an investigation and a meeting between the Thayers and selectmen Monday night.
Gauthier said he doesn’t believe anything was done with “malice.”
Questions were also raised about the headstones for John and Harriet Dow, who died in the 1800s and are related to the Dow family buried in the cemetery off of Dimond Hill Road.
The stones somehow disappeared from the cemetery years ago and were found sitting on the ground next to a different cemetery — the Leddy Cemetery and crypt — several miles away.
Jerry Thayer said he is aware of the headstones, but isn’t sure how he should return them to the Dow Cemetery.
“I just can’t start moving headstones from one place to the other,” he said, adding, “I don’t even know the exact location of where those headstones should go.”
Thayer said he would be willing to restore the cemetery, but admitted that it could be costly and that he would need some guidance from the town or a cemetery organization.
Town Administrator Gregory Dodge said the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources should be able to help the Thayers with the restoration effort.