NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 23, 2009

Tiptoe through history; Port cemetery book makes lively reading

Port cemetery book makes lively reading

Like her father, Newburyport's Ghlee Woodworth enjoys bringing the dead back to life.

In 2006, Woodworth succeeded her late father, funeral director and local historian Todd Woodworth, as the guide for a walking tour through Newburyport's Oak Hill Cemetery known as "Tiptoe Through the Tombstones."

Todd Woodworth had begun guiding groups through the historic 1842 burying ground at State and Brown streets in 1988, pointing out the graves of prominent Newburyporters and giving capsule descriptions of their claims to fame in life.

After Todd Woodworth died in 2006, his daughter began researching the graves of Oak Hill. While Todd Woodworth's walking tours usually included stops at about 30 graves, Ghlee Woodworth's research identified as many as 140 to 150 interesting stories to tell. Too many for a two-hour walking tour, but not too many for a book.

The result is "Tiptoe Through the Tombstones: Oak Hill Cemetery, Volume 1," which contains about 80 stories of mostly 19th century Newburyporters who left their marks on the city's history.

"These aren't biographies, just a page or two," Woodworth said during a recent stroll along a cemetery pathway known as Highland Avenue.

The short sketches are collected in chapters arranged around themes — for example, a chapter on philanthropists is called "A Helping Hand," another on Newburyport mayors is "The Corner Office."

A variety of figures are profiled: merchants, abolitionists, warriors, captains of ships and industry, politicians, artists and writers. There is even a chapter devoted to newspapermen.

"Tiptoe" is illustrated with contemporary photos of the subjects' monuments and with archival photos and prints from the collections of the Historical Society of Old Newbury and Newburyport Public Library.

The volume includes a map of Oak Hill, drawn by local artist and cartoonist Gary Robinson. The map also divides the cemetery into three self-guided tours, so readers can walk at their own pace.

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