I have to admit–I hesitated to write this story. We probably will never know the entire truth behind Samuel Joy’s “spite” tombstone, and that bothers me.
If a spite tombstone is new to you, know it is a cemetery monument placed to annoy, hurt or offend someone still living, or to make an eternal statement. Usually the grievousness takes the form of the words carved into the stone, as it does in this case. You don’t see many of these revenge markers as public cemeteries often have rules against allowing such monuments to be placed.
The Samuel Joy spite tombstone is unusual but it’s not the only one in New Hampshire. A very different spite stone was placed on Caroline Cutter’s grave in Milford, New Hampshire in 1838. Her husband, Dr. Calvin Cutter had it carved as his way of censuring a local church. Perhaps there are other grievances carved in New Hampshire stone, but I leave it to my readers to let me know about them.
I would like to thank Cyndy Davis for braving the elements to take photographs of the Joy Family Burial Ground; Janet Mackie, historian of Durham, NH who helped me to better understand the Joy-Fisler lawsuit; and Andrea Bodo, Vice Chair of the Durham Historic District and Heritage Commission who put me in touch with Janet Mackie.
In order to present this story fairly, I will be specific about what is known, what is conjecture and what is obvious falsehood. My involvement began when I discovered a newspaper article in the Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts) of 24 May 1922.
When the newspaper story was written, all those with primary roles in the event were long dead–Sarah E. (Joy) Griffiths the creator of the will (died 1887) and the executors to her will, sister Nancy S. (Joy) Fesler (died 1894) and brother Samuel (died 1901).
One has to wonder why was this story dredged up two decades after those most interested in it had died. The answer to this question is the greatest mystery. Not all the “facts” in this newspaper story are true, but some of them are. One of the glaring problems with the following newspaper story, that Janet Mackie pointed out, was that the value of Sarah’s estate was at least $10,000, not $4,000. This means that “the controversy concerning the gravestone involved less than one third of the value of her estate.” Also Sarah gave generous cash bequests and personal items to both Samuel and Nancy as shown in her will [see a copy of Sarah Joy Griffiths will here]. I will start my story with the newspaper story that set me on a journey to investigate it. Please read it keeping in mind that someone tweaked the details, perhaps to suit themselves. [BEGINNING OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLE:]
Newspaper photograph caption (on right): Large monument to left marks grave of Sarah E. (Joy) Griffiths, in the Joy Family lot at Packers Falls, N.H. and is one on which most of her $4000 estate was spent. In the foreground, at the right, is the rough granite block set up by Samuel Joy, her brother, as a protest against use of the money for the large monument. It bears the inscription, “A SUITABLE MONUMENT, AND FIT UP THE LOT”
BOULDER KEEPS OLD FEUD ALIVE
Burial Lot in Durham, N.H. Has Only Spite
Monument in Existence
IT’S A LONG STORY;
GOES BACK TO 1846
[Special Dispatch to the Herald] DURHAM, N.H., May 23–Spite fences are not unusual, and there is the tradition of cutting off the nose to spite the face, but what is probably the only spite monument in existence stands in the little burial lot of the Joy Family at Packer’s Falls in this town. The outcome of years of family disagreements and controversies, a rough stone, bearing a quotation from the will of Sarah H. (Joy) Griffiths and erected as a reproach to her memory by her brother, Samuel Joy, still stands today in the little burial lot which has been owned by the Joy family since 1780, and the reason for its existence is almost forgotten.
A hand chiseled on the rough stone, which is of native New Hampshire granite and about 4×5 in dimension, points to the handsome marble monument towering 15 feet above the ground and bearing the name of David F. and Sarah E. Griffiths. Beside the hand is the inscription in large capitals: “A Suitable Monument and Fit Up the Lot.” It was the manner in which this provision in the will of his sister, Sarah, was carried out that angered Samuel and caused him to take such a novel means of perpetuating the memory of a fancied injustice.
Cousin Nominated James G. Blaine
The story begins with the marriage of Sarah E. Joy to David F. Griffiths on Feb. 11, 1846. Descended from Samuel Joy who was born at Salisbury, Mass. in 1706 and was drowned in the Exeter river in 1752, Sarah was the daughter of Ebenezer Joy. She had several brothers and sisters, among them Nancy S. and Samuel, who were later named as the administrators of her will. She was also a cousin of James F. Joy who nominated James G. Blaine for the presidency at the Chicago convention of 1880 when Blaine and Grant were deadlocked for seven days and James A. Garfield was finally nominated as a compromise candidate and subsequently elected.
There were two children from the marriage, both of whom died in infancy, and David also died in 1855 at the age of 36 years and was buried in the lot of the Griffiths family in Durham. It is not clear whether there was any bad feeling between Sarah and her husband, but after his death she moved to Manchester, and in her will she requested that she be buried in the Joy family lot and not with her husband. The nephews of David F. Griffiths, Edward B. and Arioch W. Griffiths, who live in this town, are slightly reticent about the relations of the husband and wife, but declare that Sarah should have been buried with her husband in the Griffiths’ lot.
Sarah survived her husband by 32 years, dying in 1887. She left an estate of about $4000–and a will. Her immediate heirs were Nancy S. Fesler, her sister, and Samuel, her brother. Apparently Nancy was not avaricious, but the $4000 would have been of more gratification to Samuel had it not been for the will. The reason given by the Griffiths brothers and Samuel’s subsequent acts is his disappointment at not being named chief beneficiary, and the facts seem to bear out this contention.
Provision for Suitable Monument
The stumbling block in the will was the provision that a suitable monument be erected to the memory of Sarah and the burial lot fitted up. Nancy and Samuel, the administrators, differed as to how this provision should be construed, Nancy insisting that an imposing monument be erected, while Samuel held that a “suitable monument” meant merely a simple headstone such as had been erected at the graves of other members of the Joy family buried in the lot. Fitting up the lot, which meant building a fence around it, was Samuel’s main consideration, although it would seem that he wished to spend as little money as possible on the monument and lot in order that there might be more for division among the heirs.
Nancy, however, was firm for the “suitable monument” and insisted that her sister deserved a more imposing commemoration than a mere headstone. The fence, she thought, was a secondary consideration and could be built at small expense.
After this controversy over the suitableness of the monument had gone on for some time. Samuel became bitter. Deciding it was time to let the world know the follow of his sister, Sarah, in having such a well, he erected about her grave, which was still without a stone, a board fence on which he painted the words, “A $3000 Grave.”
Up to this point the nephews of David F. Griffiths, Edward and Arioch, had taken no part in the quarrel, feeling that the affairs of their uncle’s wife did not concern them. But at this overt act, Arioch decided that it was time for him to take a hand in the proceedings, and one dark night he removed the fence with its sarcastic legend and left the grave once more bare.
Samuel was not to be thwarted in his purpose, however, and his next move was to put up a small stone bearing the words, “I Am a Socialist.” What the significance of this declaration was is obscure, but it is probable that Samuel felt that to turn Socialist, would in some way symbolize his protest against the spending of good money for a monument, which in his opinion would be seen by few and be of benefit to none.
What became of the stone remains a mystery. However, the son of Nancy Fesler had taken sides with his mother and with the Griffiths brothers and its disappearance is credited to him.
Three or four years now passed since Sarah’s death and the terms of her will had not yet been carried out. It was a hopeless deadlock, and after many fruitless conferences between Nancy and Samuel, the case was finally taken to court. George W. Sanborn of Kingston was appointed to execute the will, which he did without delay. His action must have given gratification to Nancy, for he caused to be erected a huge monument costing $3500 and spent the remainder of the money on a fence to surround this lot.
Samuel, defeated on all sides, was still determined on revenge. Deprived of any participation in the estate of his sister and seeing his opponents victorious in the end, he hired a stone cutter to carve the hand and the words from the will on the block of granite and set it up from the burial lot about 20 feet from the marble shaft over which there had been such bitter feeling. That the granite block has not shared the fate of his first two attempts to discredit Sarah is due to the death of Nancy’s son who, with Arioch Griffiths, had planned to remove it. But the plan was never consummated and Samuel’s revenge, such as it is, is complete; the two monuments standing side by side, a curiosity to passers-by and a reminder of a bitterness to all concerned. [END OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLE]
Truth: There was indeed a lawsuit filed by Samuel Joy vs Nancy (Joy) Fisler his sister and co-executor of the will of their sister, Sarah (Joy) Griffiths. It was heard in the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The legal argument was regarding the amount of money that should be expended on the actual tombstone vs the fencing and other cemetery improvements such as adding land to the current cemetery.
False: The newspaper article implies that residual funds might benefit beneficiaries. In fact after bequests were given, debts were paid, the monument built, the cemetery improved, and the town provided with funds to care for the cemetery, the will left all residual funds to the executors jointly, but specifically “to be expended by them on the family burial lot in Durham aforesaid, to improve the same.” Therefore the implication that money could be diverted to benefit the executors or any other beneficiaries is false.
Truth: Samuel Joy did, in fact, place stones as described in the newspaper article in the Joy Family Burial Ground, and both stones exist to this day, albeit in faded and almost decrepit condition. The “spite stone” is still in the exact location today as shown in the newspaper article though now it is greatly moss-covered and weather worn, making the spite wording almost illegible. This same stone does include a carved hand with a pointing finger, and the inscription, “A SUITABLE MONUMENT, AND FIT UP THE LOT.” There is a second also-faded stone with the words, “I am a Socialist” as described in the newspaper article (probably the burial place of Samuel Joy who died in 1901).
Truth: the names, relationships and minor details of the newspaper article are true, which leads me to believe that the newspaper reporter was in contact with some relative, or other person intimate with the lawsuit and specifics of the family. But who? And what did they hope to achieve by the story?
Truth: Family records show that the Joy Family siblings transferred their rights to the Joy Family Farm (across the street from the Joy Burying Ground) to Sarah (Joy) Griffith’s husband. When he died in 1855, Sarah inherited the deed. The newspapers show that she placed an advertisement in the Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics newspaper to auction the farm in September of 1866. She eventually deeded the farm to Alfred Timothy Joy, a cousin and child of her father’s brother. “Alfred Timothy Joy pulled down the old buildings and erected a large house. After his death in 1882 the place passed out of the family.” This homestead stands today, having passed through several people unrelated to the Joy family.
If you have a theory about who might have wanted this spite story to be made public, please leave a comment. If you have evidence of any kind to back up your theory, even better!
==PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF THE JOY FAMILY OF DURHAM, NH==
Deacon Samuel-5 JOY (Samuel-4, Samuel-3, Samuel-2, Thomas-1) was born 4 November 1738 in Durham NH and died 31 Oct 1824 in Durham NH. He inherited his father’s farm in the Packer’s Falls district, Durham NH. He was a deacon of the Congregational Church. He married 18 Jan 1767 to Hannah Meader of Wolfboro NH. She was b 22 June 1746 and d. 12 Aug 1822 [SEE book, “Thomas Joy and His Descendants”]
Children of Deacon Samuel & Hannah (Meader) Joy:
1 & 2: Samuel and Jacob (twins) b. 1767, d. 1767 Samuel lived three days, Jacob lived one day.
2. Samuel Joy, b. 18 Feb 1869 Durham NH, d. 15 Dec 1849 Durham NH. Farmer. He m. 21 Dec 1794 Hannah Edgerley. She was b. 25 Feb 1774 and d. 30 April 1838. Children: Hannah, Samuel, Joseph, Sally, Melinda, and Ebenezer.
3. Sally Joy, b. 10 Nov 1771 Durham NH, d. 7 July 1850 Durham NH. She m. January 1798 to Ebenezer Parsons of Durham NH. He was b. 6 March 1773 and d. 30 May 1865. Children [Parsons]: (1) Hannah Joy b 19 Jan 1779; m. Leonard Balch. She d. 1855; (2) Mary b 23 Nov 1800 ;m1) Edward Sherman of Lowell MA; m2d) Josiah P. Gilman of IL.
4. Susannah Joy b 5 Sep 1774; m. Ebenezer Doe; d. 1850
5. Elizabeth Joy, b 3 July 1777, d. 10 Nov 1779
6. Polly Joy, b 8 Oct 1780 Durham NH, d. 10 Oct 1810; m. 4 Jan 1804 “Judge” Valentine Smith of Durham NH (b 26 May 1774, d. 6 March 1869). Children [Smith]: Hamilton, Ebenezer, Thomas Miller.
7. Jacob Joy, b. 13 Sep 1783, d. 27 Nov 1783
8. + Ebenezer Joy, b. 30 May 1785 Durham NH [SEE] Father of the three JOY siblings who are primary players in this story.
9. Timothy Joy, b. 16 July 1789 Durham NH, d. 18 June 1813. Soldier of the War of 1812. He m. 1807 Mary French of Newmarket NH. Children: (1)*Alfred Timothy Joy, born 5 Sep 1808; m. 1831 Sarah F. Gardner of Portsmouth NH; d. 1883. He purchased the Joy Homestead from Sarah (Joy) Griffiths. (2) Mary Smith b 22 June 1811; m. — Badger. Died 1891 Newmarket NH. (3) Ebenezer, b. 30 Nov 1812; m. 1833 Mehitable M. Doe. He died in Newmarket NH in 1889.
Ebenezer-6 JOY (Deacon Samuel-5, Samuel-4, Samuel-3, Samuel-2, Thomas-1) b Durham NH 30 May 1785; d. 8 Aug 1827. Farmer, Durham NH married 16 Jan 1815 Nancy Watson of Durham NH. She was b Jan 14, 1795 and died 1 Oct 1827.
Children of Ebenezer & Nancy (Watson) Joy:
1. John Joy, b April 30, 1817; m 1839 Mary A. Demeritt of Notthingham NH; d. Manchester NH 1875. They had one child, Josephine who was born in 1842 and married Edwin Butterfield. Josephine & Edward lived in Manchester New Hampshire and had one child, a son who died at age 2.
2. *+Nancy S. Joy, b May 31, 1819 [see below]
3. *Sarah Joy, b. July 23, 1821 Durham NH, died 6 Oct 1887 Manchester NH ; She m. 1844 David F. Griffiths. He died 5 Feb 1855 in Durham NH. They owned and lived on Joy Homestead in Packer’s Falls, Durham NH. 2 daughters who died in infancy, one being Martha Frances Griffiths, b. 1847, died 11 Sep 1849, aged 2. [She arranged in her will for a monument to be placed on her grave. According to Janet Mackie, historian of Durham NH, “The trust fund left by Sarah Joy Griffiths for the maintenance of the Joy Family Burial Ground was the first cemetery trust fund accepted by the voters of Durham.”
4. +*Samuel Joy, b April 30, 1824, Durham NH [see below]
5. +Henry born Apr 20, 1826, d 2 May 1868 Manchester NH.
Nancy S. Joy, daughter of Ebenezer & Nancy (Watson) Joy was born May 31, 1819 in Newmarket NH, and died 17 November 1894 in Lowell MA. She married 10 Jun 1855 in Wayne Michigan to Jonathan/Frank B. Fesler. He was born in New Jersey and died before 1866.
Child of Jonathan/Frank B. & Nancy S. (Joy) Fesler:
1. Frank Joy Fesler b Jan 2 1856 in Philadelphia PA, died February 1901 at Lowell General Hospital in Lowell MA. He m. 10 July 1893 at Congregational House in Boston MA to Annie Jane Wellington daughter of Sumner & Mary B. (McKenney) Wellington. She was born 26 May 1859 in Madison, Maine. He was a dentist, residing in Lowell MA. After his death Annie J. married 2d) 25 October 1909 in Medford MA to Frank E. Dorrothy, son of Isaac C. & Sarah J. (Dearborn) Dorrothy. [both 2nd marriage (he divorced, she widow) Frank E. Dorrothy was an insurance man, born Skowhegan Maine. Annie (Wellington) Fesler Dorrothy died 1949 in Haverhill MA. Following his death the newspapers were full of sensational stories of his will with headlines like “FESLER’S WILL CUT WIFE OFF” and “Wife Gets $1.” Dr. Frank Joy Fesler had bequeathed $1 to his wife and donated the rest of his estate to his young dental assistant, Bertha Jewett Davis, who was then attending dental school. The girl’s father William was listed as his executor. In April of 1901 the newspapers printed that Dr. Fesler’s wife’s objections were withdrawn to the will, due to some apparent agreement with all parties. In the ensuing months there were a series of property transactions for $1.
Samuel Joy, son of Ebenezer & Nancy (Watson) Joy was born April 30, 1824 in Durham NH and died 23 March 1901 in Newmarket NH. He married 2 March 1857 to Susan D. Davis of Lee, NH. She was born Dec 31, 1824. Samuel Joy was a farmer of Newmarket Junction NH. He is buried in Joy Cemetery, Packers Falls NH.
Children of Samuel & Susan D. (Davis) Joy:
1. +Adin Phillips Joy born 28 Nov 1859, m. 1894 Mary Johnson of Strafford NH.
2. Samuel Sumner Joy born June 3, 1861 Newmarket NH. He died 8 April 1941 in Newmarket NH aged 79. He was a single farmer working his father’s estate on Ash Swamp Road. His death certificate says he was buried in Griffiths Cemetery, Durham NH, however he has a tombstone in Joy Family Burying Ground, Durham NH (and this is probably where he rests).
3. George F. Joy was born Aug 1, 1863. Single. In 1940 living with his brother Aiden Joy in Newmarket NH. He died 4 February 1949 in Exeter NH and is buried in the Joy Family Burying Ground.
Henry W/C Joy, son of Ebenezer & Nancy (Watson) Joy was born Apr 20, 1826 in Durham NH, and died 2 May 1868 in Manchester NH at the age of 41 of heart disease. His occupation was merchant and grocer [95 Manchester Street and 35 Central Street]. In 1864 Manchester NH had “Joy’s Block–Elm Street, near Merrimac Street.” In 1885 his widow had an octagon house constructed on Hanover Street and moved in in 1886. Henry married 31 March 1851 to Elizabeth More/Moore, daughter of John Giles & Fanny (Dow) Moore. She was born 8 May 1831 in Bedford NH and died 10 June 1927 in Manchester NH. He and his family are buried in Valley Cemetery, Manchester, NH.
Children of Henry & Elizabeth (Moore) Joy:
1. Imogen F. “Emogene” “Emma” Joy, b 24 February 1852 in Manchester NH, died 24 March 1940 in Manchester NH, aged 88 ; She married on June 23, 1896 in Manchester NH to William P. Farmer as his 2nd wife. She is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH.
2. Kate E. Joy b abt 1854 in Boston MA, and died 15 June 1922 in NH.
married 30 Dec 1874 in Boston MA to William E. Kenney, son of Henry F. & Ann (?) Kenney. He was born about 1851 in New Ipswich NH. He was the keeper of a Dining Saloon. In 1900 living with her mother and sisters at 481 Hanover Street, using her maiden name, occupation milliner, status widow.
3. Jefferson Davis “Jeff” Joy, born 12 May 1861, died 17 March 1864 (per tombstone)
4. Barbara Brand Joy, born 21 April 1865 Manchester NH; died 28 October 1955 in Manchester NH. Graduate of Wellesley College, Class of 1887. She was a school teacher., and 1903-1904 she was principal of the Wilson School in Manchester NH. She lived in the Octagon House at 481 Hanover Street in Manchester NH.
5. Maud “Fannie” Joy, b 13 November 1867 Manchester NH; died 10 October 1938 Manchester NH. In 1891 she graduated from the Massachusetts State Normal School in Worcester MA. Teacher in Manchester NH. In 1901 Teacher in Bennett School, Boston MA.
Adin Phillips Joy, son of Samuel & Susan D. (Davis) Joy, born 28 November 1859 in Newmarket NH, died 26 May 1940 at Exeter Hospital, Exeter NH. He married 1894 to Mary M. Johnson, daughter of Ivory & Martha U (Otts/Otis) Johnson. She was born Oct 1862 in Strafford NH, and died 2 May 1952 in Reading PA at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Robert Kreisinger. In 1900 Adin, his wife and two children were living with his parents in Newmarket NH. occupation machinist. In 1930 he lived in Newmarket NH on Ash Swamp Road. They are both buried in the Joy Family Burying Ground on Packers Falls Road in Durham NH [his grave] [her grave]. In 1970 UNH received a bequest from Lillian M. Johnson, Mary M. (Johnson) Joy’s sister of $275,000 to help worthy New Hampshire students and particularly those from Newmarket.
Children of Adin P. & Mary M. (Johnson) Joy:
1. Grace Joy, b. 28 Aug 1897 NH; died 4 December 1981. She was a 1920 graduate of UNH. She is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery, Chattanooga TN. She married August 1921 in Pennsylvania to Palmer B. Place, son of Alvah H. & Sarah “Lizzie” (Palmer) Place. He was born 15 Aug 1897 and died 26 Dec 1987, aged 90. He was a WWI veteran serving as a Commander in the U.S. Navy.
2. Frank Adin Joy b Nov 1899 Newmarket NH; died 21 June 1971; 1920 graduate of UNH; Professor Emeritus of engineering research at Pennsylvania State University and a teacher at State College PA.
3. Mildred Ann Joy, b abt 1903 in Newmarket NH. 1924 graduate of UNH. She m. 1 August 1936 in Manchester NH to Robert Henry Kreisinger, son of Henry & Ella M. (Zaloudek) Kreisinger. He was born abt 1905 in St. Louis MO. Resided in Wyomissing PA.