LINCOLN, Maine — A project that local leaders had been discussing for nearly 20 years is finally finished thanks to the diligence of teacher Curt Ring’s service learning class at Mattanawcook Academy, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.
For two years, Ring’s classes have logged all the gravestones in the town’s graveyards, with the final mapping exhibition coming on the last day seniors attended class, June 10, at the West Broadway cemetery, Ring said.
“There were literally thousands of gravestones,” Ring said Friday. “I wish I had kept the number.
” I am really proud of them. They did a great job,” Ring said of the students, usually seniors who did the community service project for credit in his class. “They worked hard, were very patient, asked lots of questions and were very serious about getting the task done.”
Goodwin complimented the students for their efforts, saying that the town needed an accurate mapping of the grave locations and probably would never have been able to do the job without them.
“It’s really nice to have it done,” Goodwin said. “We have been talking about doing it for nearly 20 years. We just didn’t have the resources to get it done.”
Since September 2009, the students have been carefully mapping the names, dates of birth and death, and siting of gravestones in the West Broadway, Park Street and South and North Lincoln cemeteries. Aside from the sharp memory of Hervey Clay of Clay Funeral Home in Lincoln, the town had an incomplete record of who is buried where in its four cemeteries, said Ron Weatherbee, the town’s cemetery, parks and recreation director.
What might seem like drudgery actually provided great historical insight into Lincoln, Ring said. The students found the grave sites of one Mexican War veteran and dozens of Civil War veterans, as well as some of the more famous names in the town’s history.
The cemetery also provided clues as to how difficult life once was in the Lincoln Lakes region.
“It was interesting to see the infant mortality rates in Lincoln,” said Ring, who is also a Town Council member. “Sometimes you would see that two or three children had died on the same day and you would figure that some sort of [disaster] had befallen them, like a fire or something.”
Most importantly, the students got the tangible satisfaction of having done a community service project and thereby have seen the benefits of helping others, something Ring hopes they will continue to do, he said.