Stones with Stories

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  • 13 Sep 2014 4:54 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Debi Curry

    While strolling through Gray Village Cemetery to provide photo documentation of burials for the Find a Grave website, a I recently came across this simple marker for a Mr. & Mrs. Stanton Bannister who died on the same day in early December, 1948.  Curiosity required additional research... and resulted with this "Stones with Stories" post.

    Stanton Dorey Bannister was born on 1 Jul 1910 in Weybridge, Addison, Vermont to George O. and Mary E. [Bullock] Bannister.  He married Lillian Irene Morin in Maine on 19 Jun 1930. 

    The couple settled in Portland.  City directories reveal a number of residence addresses, suggesting that the couple rented as opposed to owned.  Interestingly, Lillian Irene is not listed with Stanton in the early 1940’s Portland City directories. 

    • 1930 – Stanton D. (driver 30 A ) & Lillian I., 21 Chestnut
    • 1931 – No listing, Portland
    • 1932 – Stanton D. (driver) & Lillian I., 241 Congress
    • 1933 – Stanton D. (salesman) & Lillian I. 25 Myrtle
    • 1934 – Stanton D. (assembler at 70 Free) & Lillian I. 11 Henry
    • 1935 – No listing, Portland
    • 1935 – No listing, Portland
    • 1936 – No listing, Portland
    • 1937 – Stanton (Irene) chauffeur 11 Royce Rd. Allston (Boston), MA
    • 1938 – Stanton (Irene) chauffeur 11 Royce Rd. Allston (Boston), MA
    • 1939 – No listing, Boston; no listing, Portland
    • 1941 – Stanton D. (driver 353 Cumberland Av); residence at Gray
    • 1942 – Stanton D. Bannister (laborer TBI) residence at Gray
    • 1944 – Stanton D. (driver 155 High Street); res. 49 Walnut
    • 1947 – Stanton (driver) 151 High, 87 Pleasant
    • 1947 – Stanton (janitor) & Lillian I., 610 Congress, Apt 4

    A quick peek at the 1940 Gray, Cumberland, ME U.S. Census shows Stanton D. Bannister living in the home of Mae E. Atwood with a relationship of “son”.  He reports as “married”, but the M is stricken, perhaps indicating a separation or other circumstance.

    At any rate, we again find Stanton and Lillian Irene together in Portland in 1947, shortly before their untimely deaths in early December 1948. 

    The front page of the December 4, 1948 Portland Press Herald reported two bodies found in a Portland flat on Grant Street under “puzzling” circumstances.  Detective Captain Edward Kochian identified the man as Stanton D. Bannister, 38 and a woman who was presumably his wife, Lillian Irene, also 38.

    The two were found to have no marks on their bodies and had apparently been dead for several days.  Mr. Bannister was absent from his usual work at Town Taxi since the previous Tuesday. 

    Police reported windows in the apartment were open and a dog was running through the rooms.  An unidentified white powder and two empty beer glasses were taken for analysis.

    As the story unfolds in the Portland Press Herald over the following days, police were “baffled” by several aspects of these mysterious deaths.  Early analysis pointed to the likelihood that the couple were overcome with gas poisoning.  However, none of the jets in the apartment’s gas stove were open and the kitchen window allowed fresh air into the unit.  The obvious question: If the couple died by inhaling gas, who turned the gas jets on and off?  Other questions such as “How did the kitchen window get open?” and “Why was the couple’s dog, Skippy, not affected?” remained unanswered.  Some speculated that the dog was closer to the floor and may have had comparatively fresh air at that level.

    Questioning those closest to the couple revealed that Stanton Bannister had been “brooding” over the loss of a half-sister who had committed suicide the previous summer.  Neighbors reported hearing a “thud” on the floor the Thursday prior to discovery of the bodies.  Police later established that the couple had been dead about 48 hours when their bodies were found.

    A final Portland Press Herald headline declares, “Evidence Indicates Gas Jet Accident” and offers the following explanation of the odd circumstances surrounding the deaths:

    • Some time early Thursday morning, December 2, Mr. Bannister put on a pot of water with tea leaves on the stove, turned on the gas, but forgot to light it.  The stove had no pilot light. An open gas jet can fill an apartment with gas in just a few minutes.
    • After putting on the tea, he likely went into the bathroom, where he was overcome by the fumes and fell to the floor, where his body was later found.
    • Mrs. Bannister was likely in bed and noticed the smell of gas, put on a bathrobe and immediately went to the kitchen to shut off the gas and open the kitchen window.  Her body was found just a few feet from the window, so she apparently collapsed shortly after opening the window.  The medical examiner, Dr. Porter, speculated that cold, clear air from the opened window may have been the final death blow for Mrs. Bannister, as gas utility workers are sometimes knocked unconscious by clear air after coming away from work in a gas-filled area.
    • The dog probably lived because it was closer to the door and would have inhaled less.

    Thus ends the story of Stanton D. and Lillian Irene Bannister, who now rest in Gray Village Cemetery.  Note that the marker on their burial plot lists the date of death as December 4, 1948.  However, according to the medical examiner reports, they died on Thursday, December 2, 1948.

    Source Information

    Vermont State Archives and Records Administration; Montpelier, Vermont; Vermont Birth Records, 1909-2008; User Box Number: PR-01560; Roll Number: S-30651; Archive Number: M-1953857.

    Ancestry.com. Maine, Marriages, 1892-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.  Original data: Maine State Archives. Maine Marriages 1892-1996 (except 1967 to 1976). Maine. Index obtained from Maine Department of the Secretary of State, Maine State Archives, http://www.state.me.us/sos/arc/files/dbinfo.htm

    Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.  Original data: Original sources vary according to directory. The title of the specific directory being viewed is listed at the top of the image viewer page. Check the directory title page image for full title and publication information.

    Ancestry.com U.S. Federal Census; 1940; Census Place: Gray, Cumberland, Maine; Roll: T627_1474; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 3-29.

    Ancestry.com. Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.  Original data: Portland Press Herald. Portland, ME, USA. Database created from microfilm copies of the newspaper.

  • 14 May 2014 2:14 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    John Langdon Jones was a farmer in Ripley, Maine and contrary to the mores of the time, he was an athiest. He summed it up pretty well when he wrote his own epitaph.

    Donna-Mae Bean came upon this gray granite gravestone ~ a die with a cap set on a base ~ and its interesting epitaph during a visit to the West Ripley Cemetery, Ripley, Somerset County and wanted to share it with MOCA readers!

    John L. Jones
    Feb 7, 1811
    Aug 11, 1875

    Betsey A., His Wife
    July 4, 1827
    _____, 1899

    I came without my own consent
    Liv'd a few years much discontent,
    At human errors grieving;
    I rul'd myself by reasons laws,
    But got contempt and not applause
    Because of disbelieving.

    For nothing e'er could me convert,
    To faith some people did assert,
    Alone would gain salvation;
    But now the grave does me enclose.
    The superstitious will suppose,
    I'm doomed to Hell's damnation.

    But as to that they do not know,
    Opinions oft from ignorance flow.
    Devoid of sure foundation;
    'T is easey men should be deceiv'd
    When any thing by them's believ'd
    Without a demonstration.

    Pay your respects to John & Betsey Jones on the Find a Grave website. His memorial is maintained by Susanne Brown.
  • 13 May 2014 8:07 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Story told by Carolyn Small, President Cumberland Historical Society

    Willie and Edith were the children of Eli and Amanda Augusta (Wilson) Russell. They died one day apart in Yarmouth, where the family lived at the time, of typhoid fever. They are buried in Cumberland at the Methodist Cemetery on Blackstrap Rd. We are not sure where Eli was from, probably the West Falmouth area. Augusta, as she preferred to be called, grew up on Mill Rd. in Cumberland, and her father was from what is now known as the Norton Farm on Blackstrap Rd. in Falmouth. Edith and Willie probably had a common grave marker for financial reasons. The question arises as to whether they had a common grave? Probably not. And where were the markers placed? Halfway between the (presumably) two graves? At any rate, somewhere down the road their markers were removed and replaced with one large monument. The larger monument also has the names, birth year and death year of their parents, two brothers and a sister. It is in section F of the cemetery.

    How the markers came to be here (at the Cumberland Historical Society) deserves to be told. In 2008 Nancy (Wilson) Latham was in the process of gathering information for a presentation at the Historical Society. As she was riding down Mill Rd. she noticed one of the residents of an historical farm outside. She stopped to inquire if he had done any research on the prior owners. As they were talking she thought the farm was built by a Wilson or a Morrison (both families she is a descendant of) and was quite sure Russell’s and Hawk’s had lived there at different times. He thought she might be interested in, and hopefully know what to do with, an artifact he had just recently dug up and he gave her the footstone. Working on the assumption it had something to do with the Russell’s,

    E.B. and W.W. is not much to go on, she eventually matched it up with the current monument. She then sort of remembered a story from a childhood friend by the last name of Doughty, and pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

    The Russell’s had indeed lived at 90 Mill Rd., and apparently brought these markers there when the new monument was installed. In a subsequent move to 124 Orchard Rd. the footstone was somehow left behind. The headstone remained at Orchard Rd., and either through death or abandonment wound up with the Doughty family, who owned the property in the 1970s. The Doughty girls and their friend found the stone in a shed, and periodically looked for the lost grave of the children. Decades later when the Doughty’s sold the property, the friend couldn’t bear abandoning the stone once again, and took it to her house. There it sat for several more years until Nancy connected the dots, and the two pieces were once again united.

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