CONWAY, Mass. — Buried within nine cemeteries across Conway’s rolling hills and roaring brooks are hundreds of people and countless lives.
One Conway man, Peter Freisem, has volunteered to find out who these people are — whether they are fallen American Revolutionary War soldiers or small children plagued with 17th century diseases.
With approval from the Historic Commission, Freisem will inventory the nine cemeteries in town, starting with a list compiled in 1951 to 1952 by a Mrs. Max Lederer of Southampton. The 218-page list contains the information of people buried in Conway dating to the town’s incorporation in 1762 to 1952. However, it has not been maintained in the last 60 years.
Freisem, a history enthusiast, volunteered for the job of updating the town’s inventory.
“Whether it was because of a lack of funds or interest, no one volunteered up until now to go into the cemeteries and see what additional burials have been made since 1952,” Freisem said as he combed through the 60-year old list.
Freisem, the maker of Cricket Hill Jams sold at local farmers markets, will spend the next year walking through every cemetery, gathering the names of people engraved on gravestones and tracing their history. The nine cemeteries are Howland, Boyden, Cricket Hill, South Park, Polland, Maynard, Pumpkin Hollow, Pine Grove and North Shirkshire cemeteries.
In Howland Cemetery, standing above three small gravestones marking three young siblings who died within a week of each other, Freisem realizes the history beneath his feet.
“This is one of the interesting things about doing a project like this. I think about how the parents felt to lose three children in a week. That’s the kind of thing that makes it interesting to think about the lives the people had,” remarked Freisem.
As he examines the grave sites, Freisem plans to note whether a person is a veteran and the war he fought in.