Sunday, September 18, 2011

Virtual Tour of Mount Hope Cemetery

September 17, 2011 tour sponsored by Maine Old Cemetery Association hearing the history of the nation's first Civil War monument honoring the Union dead, dedicated June 16, 1864.

In June 2011, I was asked to give a walking tour of Mount Hope Cemetery for members of the Association of Gravestone Studies attending the 34th annual conference in Waterville, Maine. Since then, I've given a couple more walking tours, each one expanding as people ask questions, spurring me to research the cemetery and its residents in greater and greater depth.

Comments from friends living at a distance have spurred me to move my tour content to a Virtual Tour available through my On a Grave Subject blog. Due to the scope of information, I will start with an historic overview and expand as I have opportunity. For more information about the history of Bangor, Maine please visit the Bangor Museum and Center for History website. The Maine Memory Network also provides access to rare historical resources.

Historic Overview of the City of Bangor, Maine

View of Mount Hope Cemetery, the second oldest garden cemetery in the United States consecrated July 21, 1836.

The City of Bangor, situated on the West bank of the Penobscot River and bisected by the Kenduskeag Stream, was first settled in 1769 by Jacob Buswell (Bussell), along with his pioneering wife and eight children. By 1772, the settlement of Kenduskeag Plantation boasted 12 families: Buswell, Howard, Crosby, Dennet, Smart, Treat, Rowell, Webb, Webster and Hathorn

In Memory of Sarah Crosby, wife of Simon Crosby died June 1st 1810. AE. 79. She was an honour to her family, and a bright example of the Christian Religion. Sarah and a half-dozen of her descendants were relocated by the Crosby family from the "Crosbyville" plot on Thatcher Street to Mount Hope Cemetery, thus avoiding the fate of many small family burial grounds obliterated by urban development.

Bangor's earliest public proceedings were dated 1789, when community members established a place of public worship. The act of incorporation was obtained February 25, 1791, 22 years after the Buswell family settled on the banks of the Penobscot. By this time, the village included 567 members. The good Reverend S.L. Pomroy was selected to file the official papers for Kenduskeag Plantation's formal incorporation.

In Memory of Francis Elliott, son of Daniel & Issabella Lambert Died Jan 7, 1827. Slate willow and urn style stone in the old Bangor City Cemetery.

As he entered the clerk's office, Rev. Pomroy was humming his favorite hymn entitled, "Bangor." When the registry clerk requested the name of the new community, Pomroy misunderstood and gave the clerk the title of the hymn. From that moment forward, Kenduskeag Plantation was known as Bangor.

In 1834, a city charter, council and mayor were established and the city, riding a surge of timber harvesting, log drives and ship building, grew rapidly in population and wealth. Following major floods of the city in 1846 and 1849, epidemic Cholera outbreaks resulted in significant numbers of deaths.

Historic Overview of Bangor's Public Burial Grounds

View of Bangor's old City Cemetery. The position of stones relocated from Bangor's oldest burial grounds indicate that bodies did not accompany the markers. The earliest marker is a slate marker dated 1791.

Though small, family burial plots were scattered across the Bangor landscape and have long-since disappeared under urban growth, the earliest communal burial ground was located on Thomas Hill, near the present day junction of Highland Avenue and Highland Street. As the town's population increased, the grounds located on this steep slope were quickly abandoned and two new burial grounds were established on opposite sides of the Kenduskeag Stream around 1807.

One burial ground was located on the lot now occupied by the YMCA building at the southerly end of Court Street. The second lot was located between Oak Street and the Penobscot River.

In 1834 as the city's charter was adopted, "the prevailing sentiments of its citizens strongly favored the selection of new cemetery grounds." Discussion regarding the location of the new burial grounds grew heated and the Bangor Horticultural Society was formed to purchase 50-acres on the outskirts of the city and hire Charles G. Bryant, a noted local architect, to design a "landscape" or "garden" cemetery. Consecrated on July 21, 1836, Mount Hope Cemetery was second only to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge Massachusetts to reflect the mid-19th Century American disenchantment with urban centers and a desire to provide a romanticized rural atmosphere within reach of the city dweller.

The relocated gravestone of Tolman Cary, the son of Ezra Cary and Cynthia Tolman was born July 17, 1796, Sterling, Mass. He graduated from Bowdoin College and was a practicing physician in Sangerville, Maine. He died in Bangor, June 28, 1830. Source: General catalogue of Bowdoin College, 1794-1916.

According to Albert W. Paine, counselor at Law, in his History of Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor, Maine, written in 1907, around 1837, the extension of Court Street to Hammond Street was completed. As today, the court house was adjacent to a steep hill leading into a deep valley. In order to finish Court Street, it was deemed necessary to dump the hill into the valley.

Unfortunately, the selected resource included one of the two cemeteries established in 1807. Having been active for the previous 30 years, there were still living relatives of the dead residing in the city. One evening, during a stroll, a local citizen recognized a coffin protruding from the fill area, as well as human remains. There was an immediate outcry and what remains could be located and secured were removed and re-buried at the second 1807 cemetery, located near Oak Street.

Thirteen years later, in 1850, the City Council closed the Oak Street cemetery and in December of that year, conveyed the property to Maine Central Railroad. Burials from the cemetery were relocated to what is now the old section of Bangor City Cemetery, which lies directly adjacent to Mount Hope Cemetery. Bangor City Cemetery, though a separate entity, is under management of the Mount Hope Cemetery Corporation.

Management and maintenance of Mount Hope and Bangor City Cemeteries are undertaken by Superintendent Stephen Burrill.

For more information about Mount Hope Cemetery, a cemetery map, and access to interment records, please visit the Mount Hope Cemetery website.

Stay tuned for the next stop on my Virtual Tour of Mount Hope Cemetery and an opportunity to meet Bangor's first European victim of murder at the hands of another European.

Next stop on the virtual tour, The Merchant of Bangor: