Sunday, October 2, 2016, proved to be a much better day than the earlier forecasts had predicted. Though it was relatively cool and cloudy, Mother Nature was good to the twenty-five or so 'Friends' that gathered to honor William Blake, a man born in 1774, two hundred and forty two years ago, who served in the most contentious and misunderstood War of 1812, where all through the State of Maine, many Veterans have been forgotten.
For me, it was an opportunity to continue the work of Samantha Allshouse and Kayla Theriault to "Unearth the Roots of the Back Cove and East Deering Communities" by bringing to light the story of this early citizen and patriot, and to bestow on him this simple recognition and honor for services rendered to his community and nation.
There were some poignant moments for me that answered the question I posed in a previous post: "What Does It Matter?" When our friend, Herb Adams who has been a constant help and support to this reclamation project from the beginning said," Today, William Blake, you are no longer forgotten." I was moved to tears.
|Herb Adams and Samantha Allshouse Unveil the Memorial Stone|
Samantha Allshouse, now a second year science and advanced placement biology teacher at Lisbon High School, spoke about how much has changed since she and Kayla took on this project, and, how terrified they were with the task at hand, when they committed to the work of bring back to life the all but forgotten and destitute cemetery. Sam also expressed her hope that other young people would continue to value and care for this small, but significant historic site.
A wonderful surprise for me, was when Larry Glatz, who had been away, appeared out of the blue, and was ready and willing to share his knowledge and understanding of the significance of the War of 1812 and its impact on Portland during this critical period. To say I am grateful, is an understatement.
I was particularly moved, when at the end of his speech, Larry reflected on the fact that only a small fraction of those who served in the War of 1812 ever received recognition in the form of military benefits. He stated:
So I am hoping today, we can give them a small amount of memory and recognition they deserve. Don't forget these fellows!
I asked Larry Glatz, retired teacher and historian of the War of 1812, for permission to publish his speech. I'm sure that readers will gain a new perspective of the events of the war and its significance to Portland's history. It is also a well researched testimony to the importance of the service given by William Blake, his fellow patriots interred here at the Grand Trunk Cemetery, and, to all those who protected the Port of Portland and the coast, who traveled from neighboring towns and villages throughout the district of Maine.
Here then, are photographs taken during the ceremony by Kristina Heng, one of my former Girl Scouts, and a member of our Troop which supported the reclamation project. She is just one of the many people who contributed to the success of the day, including all those who participated and contributed to the collection of daffodil bulbs to be planted on Sunday, October 16th in memory of William Blake and our other Veterans.
Special thanks to Portland Park Rangers Jill Mulkern and Kyle O'Neil, and to Portland Police Officers Poisson and Haley who represented the City of Portland, Mrs. Elaine Thurlow-Falconer, our song leader, The VFW Deering Memorial Post 6859, Honor Guard, Commander Joel Demers, Chaplain Christopher Chesley, CSM Joel W. Chapman (retired), Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Herbert Adams, Mr. Larry Glatz, and Ms. Samantha Allshouse, our speakers, Ms. Lingling Oum, hostess, at the refreshment table, Mr. Robert McMann, Mr. Chris Peterson and their crews from the City of Portland Cemeteries Division, Mrs. Elaine Spring and Mr. Joseph Dumais for their continued help and encouragement for the reclamation of the Grand Trunk Cemetery, and finally, to the "Friends of the Grand Trunk Cemetery' for their avid interest and care for this cemetery and those interred here.
A funny thing happened on the way to the mailbox; a mysterious poster was left by our door, by a yet, unknown neighbor or friend. It was from the Massachusetts Historical Society of the 1769 Chestnut Hill Meeting House showing the ancient graveyard, stones in remarkably good condition. More important to me is the caption.
"Don't Let Bygones Be Bygones"
I thought it was very appropriate to the occasion we had just celebrated, and quite obviously, so did the secret giver of the gift.
The opportunity to tell the story of these early pioneers and patriots is an honor, and admittedly, it is sometimes frustrating, but none-the-less, it is worth every effort. Picking up the threads of William Blake's life was sometimes difficult. However, on this day, October 2nd, 2016, we were able to restore a well deserved honor to him, a Veteran of the War of 1812, and, in my mind,( and perhaps in yours, dear reader,) also honor every Veteran who has served to defend and protect our Nation.