‘Feet to the East’ a tradition in New England cemeteries

Posted Oct. 25, 2009, at 4:17 p.m.

I didn’t remember the New England tradition of orienting graves so that the bodies are interred with their feet to the east, head to the west.

(Yes, I’m going to visit some of the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried and see how their graves are situated.)

I was reminded of this tradition in the excellent fall issue of the Corinth Historical Society Newsletter, which begins with an exclusive excerpt of the “History of the Town of Corinth” to be published for the Corinth Bicentennial in 2011.

The author of the article “Burial and Funeral Customs,” and of the 2011 history, is James R. Wilson, professor of modern languages at Madison Area Technical College.

I can tell it’s going to be a wonderful book, one which will be of interest far beyond the borders of Corinth as it brings in material such as where area people bought coffins, caskets and services.

Wilson also reminds us that the diptheria epidemic of 1862 claimed children from the Sweet and Bragdon families in Corinth.

I promise to let you know when and how you can purchase the “History of the Town of Corinth” when that information is available.

There are two great ways to keep up with what the Corinth Historical Society is doing.

One is to attend the society’s meetings. They are set for:

· 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at the town office annex in Corinth.

· 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the town office annex.

The other is to join the Corinth Historical Society and get the newsletter. Dues are $10 individual, $15 family at one address, $5 individual under 18, free to emeritus members over 85, $25 benevolent donor, $100 lifetime member, $500 benefactor, and $20 for organizations with 50 to 250 members.

Send your check to Corinth Historical Society, PO Box 541, Corinth, ME 04427.

The fall issue of the newsletter includes “Dow Village Buildings Rehab Almost Done,” “July 2009 Museum Doll Show in Review,” “Jack Slasor — in Memoriam,” “Corinth’s Boston Post Cane Awarded to Ada P. Rockwell,” a poem by Ida A. McGraw, “What Is This?”, “No one identified the Fleam!”, a mystery photo and news that Dee Wexler won the society’s quilt raffle.

On reading the information about graves being “feet to the East,” I naturally asked my co-worker, By Hand columnist Ardeana Hamlin, if she knew how graves were laid out.

She did. A Bingham native and historical novelist, she went on to tell me that it was her dad, Floyd Hamlin, who had explained the tradition to her in his later years on a trip to a family cemetery.

—·—

Membership in a historical society is a wonderful holiday gift, with the newsletter as a nice surprise in a day’s mail.

Memberships to the Abbot Historical Society are $5 a year. Checks may be sent to AHS in care of Wayne Bennett, PO Box 173, Guilford, ME 04443.

If you were in Abbot this summer, you may know that the AHS building behind the Civil War monument was open only on Memorial Day and Abbot Day this year.

But the members have been busy. Colin Bickford built a tool shed, for which Pleasant River Lumber Co. donated the 2-by-4s. The Amoses and Bennetts took down the front windows and did many steps to repair and repaint them.

Carolyn Amos made drapes for the Knights of Pythias chapter room upstairs; electrician Jeff Moore did repairs in the office; and John Libera has been working on the screen door and a new storm door. The Rollinses and the Wentworths have worked with the Bennetts and the Amoses to remove bushes and small trees.

The small perennial garden has Martha Washington geraniums and sweet potato vines in a barrel bordered with bricks crafted at Crockett’s Brickyard in Abbot more than a century ago.

The newsletter also contains recipes for Millicent Tompkins’ Pottsfield Pickles and Pickle Relish.

The AHS turkey pie supper is set for Saturday, Nov. 14, and the society is again holding its Christmas Bonanza Raffle this year.

—·—

The Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society will meet Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 29 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth.

Social time will begin at 12:30 p.m., with the program and business meeting at 1 p.m.

Expanding on his recent talk about Scottish prisoners of war delivered to New England in the 1650s, Bruce Tucker will explain how the same “entrepreneurs” delivered cargoes of stolen Irish children and kidnapped West Africans to the New World.

Tucker, who is president of the Alfred Historical Society, will describe the insatiable demand for labor in America, which led to enslavement for some and huge profits for those who arranged for shipment of humans as a commodity.

Send queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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