President’s Message – Tenney Times, Fall 2009
“We were blessed with cooler than expected temperatures and beautiful weather for our reunion in Haverhill, Massachusetts in August. I am sure that all in attendance were favorably impressed with the new headstone that was placed to honor Thomas Tenney! Our common progenitor’s grave has now been suitably honored by all of us in his family. The work does not stop here, however. It is the association’s intent to insure that the grave and cemetery continue to be maintained in the manner they were for the reunion. We by no means intend to bear this burden alone however. We must keep the Mayor and the city actively involved in maintaining the treasure they have in Haverhill. We must continue to work with allied family groups toward this goal as well.
Barron and his reunion committee deserve our heartiest thanks and congratulations in this endeavor and the successful conclusion of this project”. – Roger
Ceremony Speeches (reprinted with permission)
Good morning my cousins and friends. I would like to welcome you to the City of Haverhill, the section of Bradford, and the Old Bradford Burial Ground. It is truly a glorious morning that God has given us this day.
I was originally asked to make a speech about the TFA Cemetery Project. I accepted the challenge of executing the project but I declined making the speech. I recommended that someone else on the Project Team do that. Well, unfortunately, our chosen person had to perform a more important activity this day. Although not a great speechmaker, I knew I just had to fill the gap. So, bear with me as I struggle through these few words I am about to say.
And now, maybe we can help Joe and his family today. I would like to ask all of you, my Tenney cousins and friends, to join me in the Lord’s Prayer.
And God, please bless Joe and his family and keep them safe.
And Lord, please bless this gathering of Tenney cousins and their friends.
Thank you. And now for the speech.
I will try to make this speech short. Like pastoral sermons those are the best.
It was back in early 2007 when President Roger and the TFA put out a request in the Tenney Times, our quarterly newsletter, for someone to take the lead in this cemetery project. When I read it I just knew it had to be me. I looked on this venture as a labor of love, love for the ancestors that preceded me, love for my family, and love for my Tenney cousins and all the wonderful people in my world.
Fortunately, the TFA and President Roger assigned a Project Team.
We had our first project meeting on a cold November day in 2007. It was held in Haverhill. After we outlined what we were going to, in the project, it was suggested that we adjourn to the Bradford Burial Ground for a little “exploration”. You see, the reason we are here today is because we cannot locate the headstone of our progenitor, Ensign Thomas Tenney in the burial ground. Records indicate his black Slate headstone was here in 1890, but there is no mention of it in 1894. So, it sort of went missing during those years and had never been found.
Well, to make a short story shorter, we brought our “implements of destruction”, shovel, rake, etc, with the intent of exploring and finding that headstone. After a little “exploring”, we noticed some visitors coming over the brow of the hill back there. They were the Haverhill Police Department and they were responding to a report from a neighbor of people digging up bodies in the burial ground.
This was before we knew Chris, neighbor to OBBG. Unfortunately, Chris could not be here today, but those attending the banquet will see him tonight. Well, even though Chris won’t admit it, we think he was performing his neighborly duty by keeping a weathered eye on OBBG. We now call him the OBBG Ambassador.
Well, back to the story.
We knew we were in trouble, as the police officer explained to us that digging up bodies was a felony. Felony? Holy Mackerel! What did we get ourselves into? The police were very nice and after we explained ourselves and our intentions (and after Debby sidled up to and smoozed the officer (she’s so cute), they decided to let us go, recommending that we proceed with this project by going through the Mayor’s office. And we did it right after that.
After obtaining permission from the Haverhill City Counsel, we proceeded. Now, if you could have seen OBBG in 2007, you would be amazed at the difference today. Back then, it was a literal jungle with bushes, fallen tree limbs, un-mowed grass and tall brush.
Without going into all the boring detail of how it got to its present condition, suffice it to say that we had a lot of help by a lot of good people to get this historical gem in its present condition.
I would like to mention a few of them.
First of all, our Angel, Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy’s progenitor is suspected of being buried here at OBBG and he decided that it would be a good thing to help clean OBBG and locate Thomas Hardy’s headstone. Mr. Hardy, our angel, decided to apply resources to the project. TFA had been trying to obtain funding for this project from the get-go, and we did a pretty good job, but we were no Mr. Hardy. He arranged to have a landscaper come in for the clean-up. He also arranged to have Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) performed to locate headstones. Although we have located many potential headstone hits and many actual gravesites, we never located Thomas Hardy or Thomas Tenney’s headstones, but we gave it a good effort.
Mr. Hardy, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your help. We could never have done this without you.
Secondly, the folks that Mr. Hardy hired to help us.
Peterson Landscaping. Mr. Peterson not only took this paying gig, but, due to his love of rocks and old things, he donated his and his company’s time to make OBBG as it appears today. Thank you Mr. Peterson.
Thirdly, Bob, owner of Topographix, GPR guy. He also did a lot of gratis work. Thank you Bob.
And, of course Ambassador Chris.
And Ms. Hodge.
The Mayor and Andrew, Chief of Staff, who, by the way, gave all their help on their own time.
Peter, Haverhill DPW Foreman, along with the Essex County Sheriff’s Cousin’s Department and all their guests.
Thomas, Theresa and Bill of the Pentucket Cemetery Restoration and Preservation Group.
Robert, the round up man.
The Tenney Family Association and its Cemetery Project Team – Debby, Joe, Melanie, Roger P., Paul and of course President Roger who orchestrated the project from afar.
Rick who worked with us to design and locate the headstone.
The First Church of Christ, Bradford and all my brothers and sisters there who have been very supportive both physically and spiritually.
And lastly, my wonderful family Jeannie for her patience and understanding (not to mention her anthropologic skills), Rachel (who designed and executed the Headstone Dedication coins you will see later) and Thomas (whose assistance these last few days I could not have done without).
And many, many more too numerous to mention.
Thank you one and all
- And now it is time to close.
There are a couple things that I want you all to take away from today’s dedication.
The first is that the OBBG is cleaned up pretty well right now. However, this is not going to last forever. In a few weeks Mother Nature will begin to take over again and in another year it will be back to jungle.
There needs to be perpetual care. The City I know will do what it can, but we are in tough economic times. We need all of us to think about what we can do to keep this historical gem in the proper condition.
Secondly, I want everyone to really understand what this burial ground represents.
This area was settled 352 years ago by people who sought religious freedom. They experienced daily hardships that we only dream and read about today, and yet they not only survived, but prospered. The people from this area migrated west and eventually, after many struggles, became the United States of America. You can look around you today and see the results of that. All this from people who are buried in this hallowed ground and many others like it. If not for these people, who in their small way, one day at a time, observing the right values ad making the right decisions, making daily sacrifices, even sacrificing their lives for their beliefs in freedom and Liberty, America would not be what it is today, the sought after and powerful nation of peoples in the world. As modern day Americans, we need to continue our fight for Freedom and Liberty.
The granite of this headstone we are about to dedicate was quarried as a rough block. It was then cut and polished and its reflective surface now commemorates our ancestry.
Let us use this monument as a touchstone to test the commitment of present and future generations as we face the challenges to the principals that past generations held dear.
Thank you for this opportunity. Barron