Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sharing the Project

Unearthing the Roots of the East Deering and Backcove Communities

This is the title given to the Girl Scout Gold Award project by Samantha Allshouse and Kayla Theriault when they undertook this reclamation of the Grand Trunk Cemetery.  After three years, it seems all the more appropriate.  If you have visited this cemetery, what did you go out to see? In all probability, not bare ground with the skeletal remains of broken and worn stones.  That is what touched the hearts of Kayla and Sam when they first viewed the ancient place.  Today, those remains are rather intriguing and mysterious, allowing visitors to imagine what it might have been like in the late 1700's when there was the City of Deering and the Village of East Deering.  Who are these souls who died long ago who lived and contributed to the growth of this village. We have learned that some were farmers, laborers, land owners, a teacher, Militiamen, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons.  I'm going to divert from this point until later.
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The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest honor that a girl may receive .  With it comes recognition and the understanding that it will challenge her to reach beyond herself to create a project with significant impact in the community.  
(This photo was taken during the Tour of August 2011.  The white numbered stones were added to show where there are graves.)
Without a doubt, Kayla and Samantha's project has impacted the Portland community because it brought  attention and a degree of consistent caring for this small but significant piece of history.  The city of Portland Cemeteries Division has been diligent in keeping the site mowed and have been a great support in finally putting in signs to remind visitors that it is a cemetery, not a place for dumping trash or using the area for parties and drinking.  The remaining stones have been cleaned of graffiti, and the addition of the new Grand Trunk Veterans Memorial has added dignity and beauty to a cemetery that was perhaps the most neglected and forgotten. 

 Over the years, many efforts were made to prevent the total loss of the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery by citizens, descendants, teachers and students.  Some like Theodore Sawyer, David Millard, Councilor Cheryl Leeman and others like Leonard Bond Chapman expended great energy to keep reminding us that the care we show for those who came before us is a reflection of who we are.  
"Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead. 
 I will measure exactly the sympathies of its people,
their respect for the laws of the land,
and their loyalty to high ideals."
William Ewart  Gladestone

I had hoped to add a video that Samantha produced in preparation for a talk to the DAR in January, but that will come later.  I will add some photos taken at the beginning of the reclamation project in 2010.  You'll no doubt recognize that this is not called a 'restoration' project.  Sadly, there are not enough remnants of the stones to repair. At a later date, I will tell you about plans to restore the archway into the cemetery and possibly add an informational sign.  For now, I'll add these to spark your interest in the mysteries of the Grand Trunk Cemetery and its significance .

These photos show the condition of the stones and the work to cleanup the site once it had been cut and mowed by the city.  The young girls in the photos were members of the Girl Scout Troop from Presumpscot School where I was the Leader and Sam, my assistant.

Samantha and Kayla hard at work.

The graffiti is nearly gone!