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Joyce Endee

Skull found in horse cemetery from male aged 25 to 45

State officials close case from last summer based on anthropologist's findings

January 18, 2012
LITTLETON — Who he was and the complete series of events that led to a piece of his skull being buried by a Littleton resident and then discovered in a local horse cemetery last summer may never be known. However, a few pieces of a puzzle have come to light and are enough to close the case for New Hampshire's Attorney General.

On July 8, state and local police combed the area in and around the Eli Wallace Horse Cemetery off Mount Eustis Road after someone reported uncovering what appeared to be a skull. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Concord later determined that the bone was indeed a portion of a human cranium and came from a male.

The State Police excavated the area where the bone was discovered and used a cadaver dog to confirm that no additional human remains were buried in the immediate area. Then the nearly complete cranium was sent to Maine's medical and forensic anthropologist Dr. Marcella Sorg, who has been a consultant for Maine and other states since 1977.

Likely of African-American descent — though a mixture of ancestry couldn't be ruled out — the man was between the ages of 25 and 45 when he died, according to Sorg. There was no sign of trauma inflicted at the time of his death.

Sorg said last Thursday that the bone was impossible to date as it had been cleaned well and was free of things that would cause decay.

"You can't get there from here," said Sorg. While the bone doesn't look "ancient," there is no way to prove that it is or isn't.

Based on how well it was cleaned and therefore preserved, Sorg hypothesizes that the piece of cranium was a medical specimen.

While there may not be a scientific way to discover when the cranium was part of a living man, it may be safe to say that he died at least a few decades ago.

According to the Attorney General's press release, the State Police followed leads that brought them to Littleton resident Bonnie Stinchfield.

Stinchfield said her husband, who passed away in November 2010, had been in possession of the skull since at least 1988 and that he had received the bone from another man who was moving and didn't want it anymore. That man also had kept the bone for sometime, but that was all Stinchfield knew about the source or the history of the bone, according to the press release.

After her husband died, Stinchfield didn't know what to do with the bone so she buried it in the horse cemetery. Now the bone will be kept at Sorg's laboratory in Maine, and "based on the information known to date, this matter will be closed and no further action will be taken," said the press release.

A number listed for Stinchfield in the phone book was disconnected, and she couldn't be reached for further comment last week.

The Eli Wallace Horse Cemetery is the final resting place for Maude, Mollie and Maggie — three beloved horses owned by Eli Wallace in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Wallace had purchased Maude and Mollie, a matched pair of bay Morgan horses, for his wife, Myra, on her 29th birthday in 1889. They were a familiar sight in Littleton as the couple used them to pull their buggy around town. In 1919 the horses were put to rest and soon after, Myra passed away, according to a plaque at the cemetery. The local butcher then gave Wallace his horse, Maggie, who had pulled the wagon for Central Market. She died shortly after Wallace's death in 1929.

Wallace made provisions in his will for the upkeep of the cemetery after his death, and in the 1970s the course of Interstate 93 was altered slightly so as to not disturb it.

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