10-year-old embarks on Granite State ‘sign quest’ (NH Union Leader – 10.05.15)

BELMONT — Emma Lacey leafs through a scrapbook, telling the stories behind the pictures on each page and describing what she calls her “sign quest.”

The photos show Emma, 10, at historic markers in the state. Sometimes she’s standing with her sister, Mary. In some, she’s standing with her aunt and uncle, Robin and Mike Moyer.

Below each photo, she has scribbled notes about the markers and the stories behind them, “Nathanial Berry, Civil War governor,” she says, pointing to a photo of her and Berry’s marker in Hebron. “It’s an interesting story.”

The Moyers look on with great interest. Since Emma became infatuated with historic signs last spring, the couple has been taking her on day and weekend trips to sign locations all over the state.

Emma opens a second scrapbook, and reads on. “The Hannah Dustin memorial,” she says, pointing at a photo of herself at the Dustin marker in Boscawen.

Mike Moyer nods.

“We’re learning, too,” he said. “I had no idea there were so many signs, and I didn’t know all the stories, obviously.”

“We’re all learning,” Emma said, smiling.

“Franklin Pierce,” she said, pointing at a photo of herself and a marker in Concord for the former president from New Hampshire.

“And what president was he?” Robin Moyer asks.

“The 14th,” Emma said proudly.

Emma began her “sign quest” in May after she became interested in the town’s Belmont Mill historic marker. She began Googling historic markers, and found that the state has a network of 268 markers, part of the New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker Program that began in 1958.

She found the website for the program, which is jointly managed by the state’s Division of Historical Resources and the state Department of Transportation. The site has in-depth descriptions of each marker, and a map showing their locations.

The Moyers took Emma to see a few signs one weekend in June, “and we had a ball,” Mike Moyer said.

Since then, they’ve been taking trips together, and they’ve now seen about 100 of the state’s markers, he said. They’ve been to the far north of the state, and to the far eastern areas so far.

Emma’s parents, Jen and Larry Lacey, have been working on weekends, but have given their blessing to the sign quest.

“It’s been great. We don’t have any children of our own, so we enjoy taking Emma places and learning about these markers,” Moyer said.

Emma has also taken on a cause for her mission. She read about John Bradley Thompson, a Gilford boy who died from a brain tumor in April, and has started an Internet fund-gathering page to help raise money for a cancer cure. Her donation page is called “Emma’s Quest For 268 N.H. Signs.” The trio hopes to continue the sign quest. They’ve got a map and plans to “get more of them soon,” Emma said.

“We’ll see them all,” she said. “I love going to each town, finding things I didn’t know existed.”