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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

On September 3, 1810, Enoch Hayes Place, a twenty-four year old Freewill Baptist Minister, set out for Vermont from southeastern New Hampshire to preach the word of the Lord. On that same day, he began a daily journal that he would keep for fifty-five years. Place had begun preaching three years earlier, a mere month after being converted, having been caught up in the sweeping religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. A farmer, teacher, and strong advocate for education and the anti-slavery and temperance movements, Place remained, for most of his life, a minister in and around Strafford, New Hampshire.

Less than two days into his journey to spread the gospel, Place witnessed a “melincolly sight . . . as I never Saw before,” as he recorded in his journal. In his entry for September 4th, he writes about visiting, with Parson Georges, a brother Dennitts who was down with consumption. He was asked by Esquire Hodgdon and others to “attend the takeing up the remains of Janey D. Denitt, who had been dead over two years, (she died with the Consumption AE 21. She was the daughter of the beforementioned Sick brother—The people had a desire to see if any thing had grown upon her Stomach—Accordingly I attended. this morning wednesday Sep 5th a little after the breake of day with Br George, and a number of the neighbors. They opened the grave and it was a Solemn Sight indeed. A young Brother by the name of Adams examined the mouldy Specticle, but found nothing as they Supposed they Should. . . .There was but a little left except bones and part of the Vitals.”

I was happy to see that Reverend Place’s description of the exhumation included the actual names of the people involved. I thought this trail might not be the dead end that so many others had been. When I set about researching Janey Denitt’s exhumation, I had no idea that I would still be following this trail ten years later.

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