Wednesday, November 11, 2015


    It's been well over a month since the Dedication ceremony honoring Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Lunt and I have been asked the question at least a half dozen times by various interested persons; "what's next' for the remnant that is the Grand Trunk Cemetery?"

     I ask myself that question each time I visit the site.  While a great deal has been done over the last five years to preserve the integrity of the small ancient burial place of the early settlers of East Deering village,  and some progress has been made to restore a small part of the historical record, the fact remains that there are approximately 150 souls interred here whose names we may never know.  The WPA grave forms which could give us valuable information about the identity, dates of birth and death are missing, lost somewhere in the vaults of City Hall or elsewhere.  In the scheme of today's events and concerns, some might ask if expending this much energy to preserve such a small piece of historical real estate is insignificant.   Is it important to the Portland community?

     Fortunately, there are a number of us, crazy people,  who view cemeteries as a treasure trove for discovery, i.e.;  the stories of people, events and places.  Some cemeteries are replete with art and culture.  All are sacred , in my opinion,  final resting places for men, women and children who lived and died and made their mark in the place in which they lived, no matter how small or great.  

     Historians, genealogists, story tellers and local groups like the Maine Old Cemetery Association, Spirits Alive and Friends of Evergreen Cemetery remind us of the importance of preserving and maintaining our ancient cemeteries. I am grateful for all of their efforts.

     Now, getting back to the original question:  "where do we go from here" or the better question: "what plans are for the future of the Grand Trunk Cemetery?"

     *I will continue to add to the historical record as I find additional bits of information about the souls whose names we do have.  Friend and historian, Herb Adams,  recently loaned me a copy of Grandpa's Scrapbook, written by Leonard Bond Chapman and re-formatted and indexed by Thomas Shaw Henley.  I'm amazed at some of the information I've found including a wonderful article about Timothy Galvin, teacher, mathematician and so much more.  I'll share this in future posts.  

     I have also found a few more bits of information about the Blakes; Samuel and William to share later.  Unfortunately,  the relationship between  Samuel and William still remains a mystery.  However,  I did find William on the same militia role and in the same unit as Samuel.  The hard part is finding enough information about William whose date of birth and death  is in question since they were taken from an old tombstone and may not have been recorded accurately.  I may have identified William's two wives maiden names, but still needs further research.

*    I've begun conversations with Sam Heck, Director of Development at Victoria Mansion and Jessica Reid , President of the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery to consider looking into potential grants to contribute to the betterment of the Grand Trunk Cemetery.  Since City money and resources are limited, grant money might allow us to accomplish the following:
     * Have designed two street signs indicating the locale of Ancient Cemetery.  
     * Replace the old fencing and repair the walkways.  The front portion was replaced in 2014.  
     * Map the graves.  The city engineers are to re-measure the boundaries  within 2016, so that the WPA charts  and the remaining  stumps of markers can be used to identify the location of the 197 graves.  If possible, secure someone to use ground penetrating radar to help with this process. 
     * Informational sign containing historical information about the East Deering Village and the cemetery.
     *Partner with community organizations to maintain the walking paths through the cemetery.
     *Restore the cemetery archway/gate  with a sign.

    We appreciate the encouragement of the Portland community and our informal 'Friends of the Grand Trunk Cemetery' who have supported this reclamation project over the last five years since its inception as a Girl Scout Gold Award  project.  Portland Girl Scouts continue the legacy of Samantha Allshouse and Kayla Theriault by participating in the annual Fall and Spring Planting Parties and maintaining the gardens.

  Our Fall party was a success and we planted over five hundred daffodil bulbs with the additional help and donations from  Skillins Greenhouses, Sawyer family members and two lovely Daughters of the American Revolution, Elizabeth Wadsworth Chapter, and other volunteers.  Here are some photos of that event.


     This past Monday, I was joined by Portland Girl Scout Troop 1094 to prepare the gardens for winter.  The girls and their leaders cut back the spent flowers and raked oak leaves to cover the beds.  They also spent a great deal of effort cutting away the vines and brush from the fence.  It's wonderful to have these young people take such an active role in maintaining the  beauty of this little cemetery.  Hopefully, they will be the caretakers of the future.

     Finally, (for now), I want to end by remembering the Veterans interred at the Grand Trunk Cemetery.  Although Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day at the end of the so-called Great War, it is now officially the day for honoring all Veterans from the foundation of our Nation to the present. 
     Although it was cold and damp in downtown Portland this morning, the parade and ceremony to follow,  was well attended.  The weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants.  The men and women of our Armed Forces today face many challenges,  difficult to endure, not unlike our fore fathers and mothers.  We remember and thank them for their service.  Senator Angus King spoke and his words were significant for me.  He referenced our National Anthem in its final stanza:
          O say does that star spangled Banner yet wave,
          O're the land of the Free, and
          The home of the brave?

     It is a question, and the answer lies within, he said.  We are the land of the 'free' because many were 'brave'.

Francis Smith, War of 1812 and Simon Davis, Revolutionary War

Crispus Graves, John Sawyer, Jr., Joseph Lunt, Revolutionary War
Samuel Blake, John Sawyer, Jr., William Sawyer, Joseph Sawyer, Joseph Merrill, Andrew Graves, War of 1812
James Moseley, Civil War