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Great Caesar's Ghost

Vicky Avery

Stratham Heritage Commission

There is a ghost in Greenland asking for your help. A few months ago there was a story in the Exeter Newsletter about a black slave named Caesar who lived in Stratham in the 1700's. It was supposed to be a story about Caesar's life in the town and recognition of his final resting place. But what was discovered was that he was not the man buried in that resting place. The gravesite belongs to another Caesar, a slave who lived not in Stratham but in Greenland and who was buried on property spanning both sides of the Stratham/Greenland line. His life and final resting place have been lost and should be restored.

For years, there has been a story about Caesar Wood, a slave in Stratham who, it is documented, served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. When he returned to Stratham it is also noted that he gained his freedom and continued to live in town. The end of this story is that he was buried near a family graveyard on what was the Brackett property by Great Bay.

Researching the history of the Brackett farm it was discovered that there was a gravesite near the family graveyard on the property which is on Tidewater Farms Road in Greenland. The gravesite was the final resting place of a slave named Caesar. There had been a stone marking the site but it had been knocked down decades ago. There were still folks in Greenland and Stratham who remembered seeing the stone and hearing the story of Caesar. But that story was not about Caesar Wood the soldier from Stratham. This was the story of another Caesar, a slave who had lived on the property and been handed down through two generations of Brackett landowners. When he died in 1785, this Caesar was buried near the family he had long served. When the property left the family in the mid 1800's, the poorly marked gravesite was soon lost. And the only record of this man was the oral history passed down through generations of residents in both towns. Over time the story of this Caesar became intertwined with the story of Caesar Wood.

And that's why this ghost in Greenland cannot rest. His true identity was uncovered after decades of being thought to be someone else. His gravesite must be marked again to remember correctly the man who is buried there. And It is possible that the exact location of the grave can be found using ground penetrating radar. With the help of Kathy Wheeler of Independent Archaeological Consulting, an expert in this field of study will attempt to find the gravesite this spring.

But the fieldwork will cost money and so far there is none. For this project to succeed, we will need support from throughout the seacoast community. The Brackett homestead, later the home of Robinsons and Littlefields, has long had strong ties to Stratham. But the Brackett house and graveyard, which are now part of a home in Tidewater Farms, are in Greenland and the property has played a large part in Greenland's history as well. Memorializing this gravesite is a small step in preserving the much ignored history of slaves in this area. We live in communities steeped in history and proud of the generations that lived here before us. Take this opportunity to share in that connection to our past. Please send contributions made payable to 'Stratham Heritage Fund' to Town of Stratham 10 Bunker Hill Avenue, Stratham NH 03885. For more information on the Caesar Project, contact Vicky Avery at 772-9376 or cavery76@comcast.net

UPDATES:  Uncovering past (Portsmouth Herald, July 30, 2005)

Search for slave’s grave finally comes to an end (Portsmouth Herald, August 13, 2005)

Slave’s grave will be marked (Portsmouth Herald, September 28, 2005)

 

 

 

 

Last Edited:  January 30, 2013             Email us at weekspl@comcast.net