Charles H. Corey, John Bracy, and Some Wild Thoughts on Goffstown Back Road

Amoskeag Cemetery with Charles H. Corey’s headstone in the foreground.

Today, I decided to check out Charles Harry Corey’s gravesite at Amoskeag Cemetery in Manchester, NH. After Joseph Carraway (who is interred in Goffstown’s Westlawn Cemetery, just a couple of block from my house), Corey is the 5th New Hampshire veteran buried closest to my home. Although my kids didn’t have anything to do and looked oppressed by the tedium of the stay-at-home order, nobody felt like joining my expedition. So I went alone to Amoskeag Cemetery.

Sunday afternoon found me driving on Goffstown Back Road wondering if this thoroughfare has more cemeteries than any other stretch of pavement of similar length. Driving eastward, one first encounters Hillside Cemetery in Grasmere where the original settlement of Goffstown took place back in the mid-18th century (and it is a hilly cemetery). A couple of miles farther down the road, there’s Holy Trinity Polish National Cemetery which appears on both sides of Goffstown Back Road, first on the right, then on the left. And after one clears the last big hill before Manchester, Mount Calvary Cemetery presents its sweeping vistas. This burial ground is enormous and not even close to being filled. Having passed this impressive spectacle on your left, you may be forgiven for failing to notice shortly thereafter an old, tall iron gate between two houses on your right. This is one of the entrances to Amoskeag Cemetery.

Amoskeag Cemetery is more commonly approached from its south side, on Fieldcrest Road. The word “commonly,” though, is perhaps misleading. Aside from the fact that the City of Manchester apparently sends somebody to mow the grass, this cemetery is otherwise forgotten. A flag never tops the flagpole. Several of the headstones have fallen down. No one leaves flowers or candles. One finds none of the old GAR or American Legion markers that are so prominent at Westlawn Cemetery in Goffstown. The waist-high iron fence around the cemetery is very old and very rusty. It is a small, sad place surrounded on three sides by a middle-class neighborhood.

The oldest headstones I found there date back to just before the mid-19th century (the Dow family’s memorials are especially prominent). The cemetery’s heyday appears to have been the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are several headstones that date from the 1980s or 1990s, but these seem really out of place.

I was surprised at how quickly I found Corey’s marker; it took only a couple of minutes. It helped that he had a government-issued headstone.

Chas. H. Corey, Co. C., 5 N.H. Inf.

The headstone does not look as clean as the image that appears on Find A Grave. Considering the general state of the cemetery, I wasn’t surprised.

Corey had an undistinguished Civil War career with the 5th New Hampshire. Born in Plainfield, NH, in 1837, he was still living there and working as a farm laborer when he enlisted in Company C. This company, led by James B. Perry, was recruited mainly in Grafton County (e.g. Lebanon, Orford, and Hanover) although Plainfield, NH, in Sullivan County, contributed 7 men. Corey spent less than 8 months with the regiment; he was discharged disabled on June 6, 1862 from Washington, DC, presumably after a stay in a hospital. Since there was no record of his being wounded, Corey was probably part of that huge efflux of soldiers who had fallen ill during the Peninsula campaign (malaria, fly-borne diseases, poor diet, and lack of clean drinking water proved a potent combination).[i]

Corey’s post-war career was hard for me to track. I could find no information about him before 1880. According to the census of that year, Corey was living in Manchester with his wife and son and working as a machinist.[ii] Towards the end of his life, he became a janitor at Amoskeag School.[iii] On November 23, 1911, while walking home from work, the elderly Corey was crossing Elm Street near the intersection with Penacook when he was struck by a car. The accident must have been gruesome; according to his death certificate, Corey suffered from a “rupture of [the] right lung & heart.” He was later laid to rest in Amoskeag Cemetery.[iv]

Amoskeag School, Corey’s last place of employment is only half a mile from Amoskeag Cemetery. After I visited Corey’s gravesite, I drove to the school and took this photo. Sitting as it does next to Amoskeag Circle, which handles a great deal of traffic, the school is a minor landmark due to the giant pencil that cuts through one corner of the building. For some years, the school housed an education consultancy and at some point during this period somebody got the bright idea of hanging the pencil on the building. The consultancy is gone and now an accounting agency occupies the old school.

As I walked around the cemetery, which was about 30 yards by 70 yards (at most), I saw a number of government-issued headstones for Civil War veterans. The headstone below caught my attention because it was leaning forward at a crazy angle.

It marks the grave of Corporal John E. Gerry of Company G, 4th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Gerry was a resident of Manchester, NH, who joined the 4th New Hampshire in August 1861. He re-enlisted in February 1864 and was afterwards appointed Corporal. His entry in Ayling’s Revised Register states that he was killed on January 16, 1865 in the “explosion of magazine, Ft. Fisher, N.C.”[v] This laconic comment piqued my interest. After a brief investigation on the internet, I discovered that the day after Federal troops famously captured Fort Fisher (which guarded Wilmington, NC, the Confederacy’s last major port), the main magazine blew up, killing several hundred Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners. How did this horrible accident come to pass? Wikipedia has helpfully posted the findings of the court of inquiry that ensued.

FINDINGS.

After mature deliberation upon the foregoing evidence the court finds that the following are the main facts, viz:

Immediately after the capture of the fort General Ames gave orders to Lieut. Samuel M. Zent, Thirteenth Indiana Volunteers, through Capt. George W. Huckins, Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general, Third Brigade, Second Division, to place guards on all the magazines and bombproofs. Lieutenant-Colonel Zent commenced on the northwest corner of the fort next [to] the river, following the traverses round, and placed guards on thirty-one entrances under the traverses. The main magazine which afterward exploded, being in the rear of the traverses, escaped his notice, and consequently had no guards from his regiment or any other. That soldiers, sailors and marines were running about with lights in the fort, entering bombproofs with these lights, intoxicated and discharging firearms. That personas were seen with lights searching for plunder in the main magazine some ten of fifteen minutes previous to the explosion. The court do not [sic] attach any importance to the report that a magnetic wire connected this work [fort] with some work on the opposite side of the Cape Fear River.

OPINION.

The opinion of the court, therefore, is that the explosion was the result of carelessness on the part of persons to them unknown. The court then adjourned sine die

— JOSEPH C. ABBOTT,
Brevet Brigadier-General, U.S. Volunteers, President of Court.

— GEORGE F. TOWLE,
Captain Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, Acting Assistant Inspector-General and Recorder.[vi]

In other words, it was a bunch of drunken, careless men who blew their comrades (and possibly themselves) sky-high.

I also found the barely legible headstone of Quartermaster Sergeant James A. Hills (above). Born in Antrim, NH, Hills was working as a farm laborer in Manchester, NH, when he volunteered for the 7th New Hampshire (October 1861) and was mustered in as a private.[vii] He re-enlisted in February 1864 and in December of that year was appointed Quartermaster Sergeant—the second-highest non-commissioned rank in the regiment. I have no idea what accounted for this dramatic elevation. The official history of the regiment simply states that once the men who had not re-enlisted had mustered out at the end of their three years’ service, “arrangements regarding promotions began at once to be made, in order to fill the vacancies which had been caused by muster-out.” And thus was Hills promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant. He must have done something very special.[viii]

Hills returned to Manchester after the war to become a clerk in a hotel owned by Daniel O. Webster.[ix] It appears that the war had transformed the young farm laborer into a man of business. In 1875, he married Ellen J. Blood, and on paper, it certainly seemed as if things were looking up for Hills. Unfortunately, the end was nigh; in 1877, Hills died of consumption. He was only 35 year old.[x] Just over a year later, his young widow died of the same illness.[xi]

The order for James A. Hills’ headstone—the self-same one I saw in Amoskeag Cemetery.

I spotted a several other government-issued headstones for Civil War veterans, but these were so badly eroded that I could not read them.

Ironically, the best-preserved government-issued headstone in the cemetery belonged to a man who had not fought in a New Hampshire regiment and had not even been born in the United States. John Bracy first saw the light of day in Stanstead, Canada in 1835. An English-speaking Canadian, he moved to Malone, NY (which is about as far upstate as one can get). It was here that he enlisted in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry on September 6, 1862. He didn’t last long in the army since he was discharged disabled on February 5, 1863.[xii]

Bracy moved back to Malone after the war.[xiii] According to one website, Bracy was still living in Malone at the time of the 1890 Veterans Census.[xiv] For whatever reason, though, he and his family appear to have moved to Manchester at some point in the early 1890s; in 1892, Bracy’s daughter, Annie, married John H. Miller (an English-speaking Canadian who had emigrated to the United States in 1881) in the Queen City.[xv] Miller perhaps got more than he bargained for—along with Annie, he also took in his new in-laws. The 1900 Census has all of them living together in the same rented house on Walnut Street, only a few blocks away from Corey’s last residence.[xvi] Miller did well for himself, becoming an overseer in one of the city’s many cotton mills. He took his extended family out of the city center and moved to a property on Goffstown Back Road that currently abuts the eastern edge of Mount Calvary Cemetery.[xvii] In all likelihood, the Millers’ oldest children—John and Marion (13 and 6, respectively, in 1910)—attended Amoskeag School while Corey worked there.[xviii] On November 27, 1912, a year and four days after Corey was killed by an automobile, Bracy died in the Miller household of a stroke.[xix]

As I drove home, I ruminated on the fact that the thousands of people buried alongside Goffstown Back Road were tied together by family, work, and friendship. This web of relationships has left the barest of traces, and now we can form only the haziest sense of their substance through the documents they left behind. Did Bracy’s grandchildren, John and Marion Miller, know Corey, the old janitor at their school? Did Bracy himself know Corey? Who knows? What is interesting is that this great tangled knot of people is not so distant from out time as we might think. Marion died in Manchester in the 1980s. In other words, had I lived in the Queen City while attending high school, I could have spoken to someone who knew a Civil War veteran intimately.

Something tells me that Bracy’s descendants are still living in the Manchester area. Clearly, somebody has remembered John Bracy and tried to maintain that link between our time and his. When I was at his plot, I noticed that his marker was very clean and well preserved. And a small but brand-new flag was placed next to his stone—the only sign that anybody had visited Amoskeag Cemetery in weeks.


[i] Ayling’s Revised Register, 225.

[ii] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHRN-ZH5 : 12 August 2017), Charles H Corey, 1880; citing enumeration district ED 122, sheet 25A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d), roll 0763; FHL microfilm 1,254,763.

[iii] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLZ7-195 : accessed 13 February 2019), Charles H Corey in household of Eliza M Hoskings, Manchester Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 125, sheet 5A, family 76, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 862; FHL microfilm 1,374,875.

[iv] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSVZ-MPR : 10 March 2018), Charles H. Corey, 23 Nov 1911; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,078,970.

[v] Ayling’s Revised Register, 173.

[vi] According to Wikipedia, this is the citation for the findings: United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. (Series I, Vol. 46, Reports, pp. 430–431).

[vii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WY-RG1 : 19 March 2020), James A Hills in entry for James Emerson, 1860.

[viii] The regiment had originally mustered in December 1861 for three years, so these arrangements took place in December 1864. Henry F. W. Little, The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers of the War of the Rebellion (Concord, NH: Ira C. Evans, 1896), 351-352.

[ix] “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH5N-DDW : 19 March 2020), James A Hills in entry for David O Webster, 1870.

[x] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FS2H-G42 : 10 March 2018), James A Hill, 19 Feb 1877; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,083.

[xi] “New Hampshire Deaths and Burials, 1784-1949”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDV8-LPR : 18 January 2020), James A. Hills in entry for Ellen J. Hills, 1878.

[xii] https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/16th_
Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf

[xiii] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ87-Q6X : 17 August 2017), John Bracey, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 91, sheet 665B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,834. According to his wife’s death certificate, Bracy was a fireman on a locomotive. “New Hampshire Deaths and Burials, 1784-1949”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FD24-HPD : 18 January 2020), John Bracy in entry for Annie Elizabeth Miller, 1939. However, the 1870 Census, the 1875 New York Census and the 1880 Census all refer to him as a “laborer.” See “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M8X6-NTG : 18 March 2020), John Bracey, 1870; “New York State Census, 1875,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VT8R-K5G : 3 April 2020), John Bracy, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing p. 17, line 21, State Library, Albany; FHL microfilm 878,021; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ87-Q6X : 17 August 2017), John Bracey, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 91, sheet 665B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,834.

[xiv] http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ny/county/franklin1/civilwar/1890.html

[xv] “New Hampshire, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1636-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L99K-H4MG?cc=1987741&wc=M6CK-J68%3A265835901%2C265948201%2C266070201 : 29 November 2018), Hillsborough > Manchester > Marriages 1892 > image 687 of 691; New Hampshire Bureau of Vital Records and Statistics, Concord.

[xvi] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3Y4-KXK : accessed 20 April 2020), John Bracey in household of John H Miller, Manchester city Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 93, sheet 24B, family 576, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.).

[xvii] FHL microfilm 1,240,947; “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLZ7-TPL : accessed 20 April 2020), John Bracey in household of John H Miller, Manchester Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 124, sheet 18A, family 41, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 862; FHL microfilm 1,374,875. When Bracy died, he was living at 309 Goffstown Road, Manchester, NH. See “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSK9-5D3 : 11 March 2018), John Bracey, 27 Nov 1912; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,070,934.

[xviii] Amoskeag School served those students who lived in that area on the west side of the Merrimack River. It was about three-quarters of a mile away from the Millers lived.

[xix] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSK9-5D3 : 11 March 2018), John Bracey, 27 Nov 1912; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,070,934.

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