Saturday, August 13, 2011

1812 Mass Grave, Portland, Maine

We're staying in Portland Maine for a wedding, and I had the morning to visit downtown Portland and then Matilda and I took a drive about. We stopped in a park overlooking the Atlantic (called the Eastern Promenade) and visited a site that was part monument, part memorial, part cemetery. The park is greatly elevated, and commands views both over the sea to the East and back over the port city to the West. It commemorates the mass burial of 21 American soldiers who were captured by the English in the War of 1812 (at the Battle of Queenston, Canada). They were unloaded at Portland by the British as they were too sick to complete the journey to Boston. 

It's difficult to find more on the topic, the most detail being in 'Portland in the Past' by William Goold (B. Thurston & company, 1886). Here it is related that in the winter of 1812-13 a cartel-ship carrying the flag of truce arrived from Quebec with American prisoners of war for exchange. The ship had docked at Portland due to sickness and a lack of winter clothing. About 25 American soldiers were landed at Portland, and The Argus for 7 Jan 1813 said:
"Dec 24 1812, Arrived cartel ship Regulus seven weeks from Quebec for Boston with 230 prisoners taken at the Battle of Queenstown. Col Scott's regiment, sickly, 26 were too sick to go to Boston in ship - were carried to the hospital on the hill.

The book also related that by Feb 4 (1813), thirteen soldiers had died. Apparently the Regulus waited in harbor for some long period of time before moving on to Boston.

General lay-out of the memorial, with a cobble-stone area marked out by posts (running north-south). At the two extreme ends, grave marker stones are placed for each dead American soldier (at least one was 'unknown'). American flags had been placed at each marker some time previous and remained unmolested. In the center of this area (dark spot) was a large marker boulder with an inscription (shown below).

Within this enclosure
were buried 21 soldiers
captured by the English
at the battle
of Queenston, Canada
in the War of 1812 
and died in hospital here
while on their way to
Boston for exchange 

Marker stones (Matilda at right for scale!). The stones are all legible, but require maintenance.

To the west of the boulder stands a flag-pole, flying the American flag at full-mast. Homes on the bordering Eastern Promenade can be seen in the distance.

It is a shame that biographies of the 21 American soldiers could not be easily unearthed. The site remains as the coastal land was set aside for recreational use some time afterwards.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A few days ago we visited Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire while driving north to Maine. There is a great deal of information available on this historical cemetery ( and and the headstones here are well covered in There is even a book that shows some of the headstones, 'Portsmouth Cemeteries', by Glenn A. Knoblock.

The cemetery sits at a head of land between houses and a public park, and is not attached as aprt of a church burying ground, but has apparently always acted as a stand-alone cemetery. The cemetery had a number of information boards at the entrance (through an old wrought-iron turnstile or kissing gate) pointing out a number of headstones of interest.

The cemetery is the oldest remaining in the historical town. According to information available it was '...established in 1671 on land deeded to the town by Capt. John Pickering. Located on Mechanic Street next to the Prescott Park planting beds and overlooking the Piscataqua River. No gravestones survived previous to 1682 because Capt. Pickering's cattle was (sic) allowed to continue grazing among the gravestones after the burying ground was established. It contains some of the finest examples of early gravestone artistry by many Massachusetts sculptors including Bostonians William Mumford, a Quaker; Nathaniel Emmes; John Homer; and the carver known only by his initials “JN” (possibly the silversmith John Noyes). Other carvers include brothers Caleb and Nathaniel Lamson and possibly their father and mentor, Joseph, of Charlestown; James Foster of Dorchester; and John Hartshorne and Joseph Mullicken of Haverhill."

While is is clear that over the years headstones have been lost, those standing were stunning in the clarity of the carvings after over 300 years. The headstones did not appear to contain the 'warnings' and 'tales' I've seen at the bottom of other New England headstones, but were simple in design and information.

Notes under each headstone photo and transcript were derived from the information boards on-site. Headstones are shown below in no particular order.

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
In Memory of John Libbey
Son of John & Mary Libbey
Died March 28th 1785
In ye 4th year of his ?

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
 Anne ye wife 
of George Jaffrey Esq.
Aged 18 years
Decd Decmb 6 1689 

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lyes ye body of Mr. RICHARD WEBBER
Aged 82 years
Decd May 25 17??
Here lyes ye body of Mrs. Lydia Webber
Wife to Mr. Richard Webber
Aged 69 years
who decd April 10th 1721

    Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
 Nehemiah Partridge
Died Febry ye 12 1709 in ye 46 year of his age
William Partridge
Died May ye 13 1718 in ye 47 year of his age 

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies the body of Samuel Griffeth
son of Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Abigail Griffeth
who died April 21st 1759 
aged 3 years 10 months & 21 ds
Here lies the body of Miles Ward Griffeth
son of Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Abigail Griffeth
who died April 25th 1759 
aged 2 years 3 months & 1 day

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried the body of Mrs Abigail Cario
wife of Mr. William Cario
who departed this life
Sepbr 17th 1767
in the 41st year of her age

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried the body of Mrs Agnis Shurburn
Aged 33 years
Decd Oct ? ??
Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lies buried ye body of Mrs Elizabeth Pike
ye wife of Dr Robert Pike
Aged 27 years who deceased ye 5 of February in ye year 1719 or 20

Note the natural detritus accentuating the winged skull:

 Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
In Memory of Cap. TOBIAS LEAR
obt. Nov 6th 1781
Aged 45
A wit's a feather & a Chief a Rod
An HONEST MAN'S the noblest work of GOD

Point of Head cemetery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Here lyeth buried ye body of William Button
of Jersey aged 37 years
Died ye 19 day of October 1693
Buried by Clement Lempriere 
en Tho Button