A walk through any cemetery can be an educational experience. You can learn a lot about people at their final resting place. The tributes engraved in stone can elicit emotions as well: sadness at their fate, pride in their roles as community members, or patriotism in their service to the country.
These very visible memorials come in all shapes and sizes, depending on customs at the time and the remaining relatives’ financial circumstances. Here are a few I hope you’ll enjoy reading about.
A most unusual cemetery exists in China, Maine, testifying to the existence of free African Americans living in the state before and after the Civil War. It’s called the Seco-Sewall (or the Sewall-Seco) Cemetery.
It’s on the east side of Pleasant Ridge Road, off an old logging road, in the middle of a clearing. Despite good directions, I could not find it. (I did discover a cemetery for the Hussey family in the woods, however.)
In any event, the inhabitants are listed both in Maine Old Cemetery Association records and the website Find A Grave: Almira and William Seco, and Ambrose and Mary Sewall, with their son, Griffin.
Dates of demise range from 1849 to 1879, and there are at least a dozen unmarked stones. These folks are designated as either “negro” or “free colored person.”
The male Sewalls and Secos were listed in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses primarily as farmers, and one a blacksmith (Hiram Sewall, 1850).
These were not the only black families in the area. Abraham Talbot owned a brickyard in the same part of China. There is a small Talbot cemetery one road away from the Sewalls and Secos. They came north for land to work and freedom, something we take for granted today.
For more information, have a chat with Kelly Grotton of the China Town Office, and be sure to get a copy of Anja Sturies’ history essay she wrote while a student at Waterville High School in 2005.
Maple Grove Cemetery in Randolph has a variety of interesting stones. One of the most striking is the monument honoring the life of Captain Frederick Meady of Farmingdale.
Born in 1823, he spent a lifetime sailing the seas and periodically took his wife Eliza with him.
Dawn Thistle of Gardiner Public Library forwarded this item from the Kennebec Reporter of Nov 13, 1875: “Capt. F. Meady of Farmingdale, arrived home on Thursday of last week, after an absence at sea and elsewhere of nine years. Gardiner has undergone some changes since his absence, and his own mansion had been so reconstructed as to raise doubts in his mind on seeing it as to who lived there.”
Following his death in 1879, Eliza had an impressive monument erected with a life-size depiction of the captain towering over his neighbors in Maple Grove. The epitaph reads: “At last the storms of life are over and I survive the final gale, my barque has reached the heavenly shore, my anchor’s safe within the veil.”
The base is deeply carved with images of other family members and an anchor.
Visitors to the Glidden Cemetery on River Road in Newcastle will find a touching scene at the gravesite of Carrie Dodge Wyman (1866-1942) and her husband Manfred Wyman (1859-1926). Watching over them is a likeness of the dog known as Prince.
Legend has it that Carrie was sickly as a child, so her parents got her a dog in similar condition. When one ate, so would the other, according to the doctor. This worked out well for both patients, and Prince became a treasured family member.
The statue, carved from Italian marble, is Carrie’s tribute to him. There is another story that claims the dog was Manfred’s, but the former seems more likely. For many years caretakers would place a box over the statue during the winter.
My thanks for the information to Kathleen Maclachlan of Skidompha Library in Damariscotta and Edmee Dejean at the Newcastle Historical Society.
One of the most descriptive gravestones erected in modern times may be found in Whitefield, in the majestic Kings Mills Cemetery on the Wiscasset Road (also called Route 218). It depicts the full life of Rundlette Kensell Palmer (1925-2011), a local author and career service man.
The stone carver had much to write and several illustrations to incorporate, giving a chronology of military service, and adding that Palmer was also an inventor. His book titles are portrayed, as well as images of himself, a guitar and flower baskets. Perhaps the last was added so that he would always have a memorial tribute to enjoy!
Lore has it that this stone was set prior to Palmer’s death and according to his instructions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our brief tour of a few of Maine’s more intriguing memorials. Before the ground is covered with snow, take some time to see more for yourself. Those who have passed on still have a lot to say.
Emily A. Schroeder is staff genealogist at the Maine State Library.