The Dearborn Monument

Hampton High Street Cemetery

By John M. Holman
Contributing Writer

Joseph F. Dearborn

Joseph Frederic Dearborn

HAMPTON .... Is it the Washington Monument? ...... No!
Is it the Bunker Hill Monument ...... No!

It's the Dearborn Monument in the middle of the Hampton High Street Cemetery and named after its benefactor, Joseph Frederic Dearborn, born May 14, 1817. On January 1, 1871, he married Adelle C. M. Kiersten, a German girl from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He died in Melrose, Massachusetts, March 15, 1889, at the age of 71 years.

Mr. Dearborn was the oldest son of Jonathan and Sarah Dearborn, and grew up in Hampton, attended Hampton Academy and excelled in classical and mathematical courses. At eighteen, he enrolled at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, passed all courses with honor and graduated in 1839, the third in his class of sixty-one members. From college, he went to Harvard Law School, upon graduation, entered the law offices of Colby and Clifford in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

After passing the bar, he opened a law office for himself in New Bedford, continuing his law career for twenty-five years. During this time, he amassed a great fortune in whaling and real estate.

He retired from business and spent considerable time traveling abroad. In Germany, he met the lady who would become his wife, Adelle C. M. Kiersten and they made their home in Medford, Massachusetts.

In 1889, he died suddenly from pneumonia after only a few days illness. "He lived honorably and died peacefully."

Quoting from Joseph Dow's "HISTORY OF HAMPTON (1638 - 1892)":

"About the year 1860, Mr. Dearborn bought four continuous lots in the new cemetery in Hampton, comprising 1,196 square feet, in the most elevated part of the enclosure. After his death, the use to which it was to be put was revealed by a provision in his will, that ten thousand dollars be expended for an enduring monument upon the spot, in memory of GODFREY DEARBORN, his first American ancestor. The long cherished plan was energetically carried forward by Mrs. Dearborn, who has since become Mrs. J. Merrill Currier, and still resides in Melrose Highlands [Massachusetts]. Mr. Currier superintended the erection of the monument, which was gratefully appreciated by his wife.

Dearborn Monument

The Dearborn Monument
High Street Cemetery

"The obelisk, which is Barre, Vermont, granite, was manufactured in that town, and shipped to Hampton in October, 1890. In the spring of 1891, it was placed in position upon the rock foundation prepared for it. The first base is ten feet square and one foot deep; second base, eight feet square and one foot deep; third base, six feet square and fifteen inches deep with finely moulded edge. On this rests the die, which is four feet square and six feet high, its faces and the round pillars at the corners being highly polished. Surmounting this is the cap, projecting over the die about six inches. This and the plinth above it are at once graceful in design and finish, and sufficiently massive to receive the main shaft, which is three feet two inches square at the bottom, and twenty inches square near the top, from which it tapers to a point, and towers thirty-one feet above the plinth. The whole structure stands forty-six feet high.

"The inscriptions are as follows: On the west face of the second base is "DEARBORN", in heavy raised letters; on the north face of the die, 'Ancestor of the Dearborn family in America, who emigrated from Exeter, England, to Exeter, N.H., in 1639, settled in Hampton in 1650, and died in 1686'; on the west face of the die, 'Erected 1890, by Joseph Frederic Dearborn, son of Jonathan and Sarah Towle Dearborn, in memory of Godfrey Dearborn'; on the south face,, "Joseph Frederic Dearborn, born May 14th, 1817; died March 15th 1889'.

On the four sides of the lower margin of the cap are the mottoes: 'FIRST THE USEFUL, THEN THE ORNAMENTAL'; 'TRUST FEW, DECEIVE NONE'; 'BE RESOLUTE AND PERSEVERE'; 'DO RIGHT AND FEAR NOT'. On the four sides of the plinth are the words, 'TEMPERANCE', 'ECONOMY', 'TRUTH', 'INDUSTRY'.

"The solid memorial of the sturdy forefather of a numerous posterity, scattered throughout the United States, was unveiled with appropriate ceremonies, on the 20th of June, 1891. After dinner at the [Whittier] Hotel, given to a large number of invited guests, by Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Currier, the ceremonies at the monument were placed in the hands of Mr. G. H. Dearborn, of Melrose [Massachusetts]. Very appropriately, the act of unveiling was performed by Mrs. Currier, in that supreme moment when she saw the purpose of years accomplished, in the stately monument towering high above the assembled throng and overlooking the village and cultivated fields, beautiful in their June freshness, that could have had no being but for the brave daring and self denying toil of those early years commemorated.

"The president, Mr. G. H. Dearborn, sketched the lives of Godfrey Dearborn, the ancestor, and Joseph F. Dearborn, the donor of the monument. Addresses were made also by Dr. J. W. Dearborn, of Parsonsfield, ME., Hon. Sylvestor Dana of Concord, Hon. N. C. Berry of Boston and Charles M. Lamprey, Esq., of Hampton. And the elements of prayer and song carried all hearts heaven-ward, whither the tall shaft silently points."

See also these related stories,"High Street Cemetery" and "The Tomb".