DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Opinion

April 16, 2008

Rick Holmes: A Loyalist's grave

Close to the entrance to the Forest Hill Cemetery in Derry is a most remarkable gravestone. To find it, walk 50 paces along the cemetery road then turn left at the tall marble gravestones marked Thom and covered with bright yellow lichen. Walk 25 paces into the cemetery, keeping the pine tree on your left and, as sure as Bob's your uncle, you've found it.

It stands about 5 feet tall and is made of a very dark, fine slate. The top face is expertly carved with a variety of designs including a moon and sun with human faces, seven stars, various stone workers' tools, a coffin, a shoe, a book and three candles. Below this design is the phrase "Virtue and silence." This motif would indicate that whoever is buried under this stone was a member of a Masonic lodge. It is certainly the most elaborate monument within the entire cemetery.

The name on the gravestone is Dr. Philip Godfried Kast. His name is followed by a lengthy inscription: "He was a gentleman of extensive acquaintance and his benevolence was no less confined. His hospitality was without ostentation ... he was a benefit to mankind. In his last illness his pain was extreme which he endured with a true philosophic spirit." The inscription goes on to further praise his character and mentions that he leaves behind "an inconsolable widow and five small children." He died on "September 6, 17—" Mysteriously there is no year of death given.

A search of the Derry/Londonderry town records reveals no mention of Dr. Kast. Recently I found a probate record indicating he died in Derry/Londonderry in 1781. With that added information I was able to craft the following brief biography.

He was born around 1740, the son of Sir Philip Godfried Kast, a prominent Boston physician. Because father and son shared both name and profession, it is frequently impossible to figure out who is who in the old records. To add to the confusion, they both apparently had wives with the same first name. Thomas Kast, another son of Sir Philip, was also a local doctor. All three are often referred to in the old documents as simply "Doctor Kast."

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