History can be gauged by how we preserve the most important monuments that we erect. In doing so we make known of what it took to persevere for the coming generations. Our cemeteries are monuments that will remind us of those that worked hard to start building for the future. As people come and go in this place we call our community, we must be vigilant of how we sustain the cemeteries we hold dear. One such Cemetery is Kinney Family cemetery located in Portsmouth. If you would drive north on Waller Street Hill and turn left on 24th Street you will see a sign noting that you are at the entrance to the old Kinney Cemetery or as in olden days called Family Burial Grounds. In those early times, there were quite a number of homes that stood wide apart and land was bought for a cheap price. Wealthy folks, especially those having large landed estates would have a private graveyard or “burying ground.” One of such places was the one established just north on Waller hill on what was known as the Henry Kinney lands in 1840. The grounds are located up a steep hill off 24th street; supposedly the steps from the sidewalk to the hill are the original steps. As you look up the hill toward the cemetery you have a sense of a profound feeling – of respect.
Aaron, Mary Kinney and four children came to Portsmouth from Pennsylvania in a four-horse wagon in 1804, discovered a spring (look for historical marker on corner of Kinney’s Lane & Waller;) and built the 1810 house on Waller Street just up the hill from the corner. Mr. Kinney also built a tannery and a log house just west of the 1810 house. The house still stands to this day and managed by the local historical society. In a deed dated October 18, 1839, Aaron and Mary Kinney left the land – later to become Kinney Cemetery – to their three sons, Washington, Peter and Eli, and their heirs for the sum of $1. Aaron specified his sons to apportion the land into “convenient burying lots, to place a fair reasonable valuation upon each of said lots, and grant the use to any of my descendants as a place of burial.”
It contains the graves not only of family members but of Uriah Barber, a Revolutionary War veteran and early County Coroner who was killed by Indians in 1846. Buried there also, are John Clingman, another Revolutionary War soldier; and Henry Hall and Samuel Ross, both veterans of the war with Mexico.
Kinney died April 11, 1857, and his wife August 21, 1849. Distinctive to the cemetery is a grave that dates back to 1814, although name is not distinguishable.
As time moved forward and the seasons came and went the old cemetery underwent some tough times. The lack of maintaining the grounds and vandalism has taken its toll over the past century. Tombstones have been damaged, removed and knocked over for sheer pleasure of vandals who have no respect – for hallowed ground. If you are ever up that way some moonlit night and look up the hill toward the cemetery; and you look real hard – you just might see shadows moving about – looking for their lost tombstones.
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org