Thursday, June 18, 2015

Broken Threads of History Lost


Carthage Cemetery, June 8, 2015

Etna Cemetery, May 15, 2015

     Vandalism affects us all!   

     This was my thought, as I continued my quest to find threads of evidence for people who lived over two hundred years ago, and were part of the fabric of the tapestry that formed  the city of Portland, Maine.  At the start, only forty two names of the 197 souls buried at the Grand Trunk Cemetery remained in record.  However, happily, I have succeeded in finding four more individuals who were interred in the old burial ground since beginning this project. 

     Recent incidents of vandalism to other cemeteries in our state, served as a poignant reminder of just how much has been lost here, as I set about the task of writing  about the four remaining people on that list of souls.  

     "Unlike most histories, graveyards record the lives of all, signify past existences, and recognize one commonality of us all.  The history of the rich and poor, famous and infamous alike, is recorded here.  Histories of entire  towns may be present only here, and elements of local history may survive here as no where else.
     Graveyards are often the only record, the only artifacts remaining to tell of the lives - of individuals and communities - struggled for, well lived in the face of sometimes tremendous odds, and finally given up reluctantly, or 'with peaceful composure."
From The Graveyard Preservation Primer, by Lynette Strangstad


    Who was Nancy Morrill/Merrill?

     The only existing information about this young woman is an old death record taken from a tombstone, where her surname is recorded as Morrill.  In the city record, her name is listed as Merrill.  Nancy was born about 1801 and died on March 25th, 1824, at the age of 23 years. 

     I searched through several sources:  Ancestry, Maine Genealogical Family Search, census records, the Merrill Memorial, etc. in the hope of finding a connection to Merrill and Morrill families who lived during the period of her short life.

     Whose daughter was she?  Was Morrill or Merrill her given surname?  Could her last name be her married name?  She was twenty-three and could have been married at the time of her death.?   I even spent a great deal of time searching through marriage intentions and list of marriages for old Falmouth; to no avail. 

     The search for an obituary turned up nothing; no mortuary notice.  Why did she die at such a young age?  The city record indicates she was interred in section 3, row 2 of the Presumpscot/ East Deering/ Grand Trunk Cemetery.  Of course, there is so little remaining of how the cemetery was originally laid out;  it's nearly impossible to distinguish the actual sections and rows.  How sad! 

     Nancy died in March, 1824 and, as I discovered, so did, in the same month and year, another young soul: Warren Small.

Warren Small

     was the eldest child of James and Lydia Howard Small, born on April 21st, 1804 in Limerick, York County, Maine.  He died on March 1st, 1824.  According to his obituary, he was 18 years and ten months old.

          The city record indicates his age as 20 years?  I will include some of the records for your interest,  found from my search on Ancestry.  They raise a number of questions in the light of the obituaries.

Family Tree

Warren Father, James Small and his siblings.

     The 1820 Census record is interesting because Warren is not one of the children listed, although he would only have been about 14 or 15 at the time.   Was he mistakenly left off the list?  Was he living away?  Could he have been an apprentice; young boys often lived with their employers?  Where was he at this time? 

 Both  Nancy Morrill/Merrill and Warren Small died in the same month of March in 1824 prompting me to wonder what illnesses or maladies were predominate at this time.  I did find some evidence,  in Maine Historical Society documents,  that there was a rash of small pox outbreaks in the Portland area and in other parts of the state, resulting in the deaths of children and young people during the winter of 1824.  Was this the cause of death for these two young people? 

     Apparently, there were fewer cases after April of that year with the introduction of inoculations against the virus.  This was not without controversy, but none-the-less, effective, in lessening the outbreak of the virus and its deadly consequence on the communities.

     I began this post with "Broken Threads" because it was the underlying sentiment I felt, as I tried to recover bits and pieces of what little remains of the lives of two young souls interred at the Grand Trunk Cemetery. The title of this blog:  The Remnant, was purposely chosen since so little remains of the monuments to the early settlers who resided in East Deering Village; bits and pieces of slate and field-stone, white river rocks numbering the individual graves as they were found.  Vandalism affects us all! 

  I am including information from Maine Old Cemetery Association that I believe readers of this blog will appreciate and, is important to maintaining the health and welfare of Maine's cemeteries, as well as, to the preservation of historical memory, and the history of our state of Maine.