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  • 02 May 2022 5:07 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Eastern Cemetery in Portland, one of the earliest burying grounds in Maine (established 1668), is the only cemetery in the state that offers daily guided tours in season. Initially tours were offered only on weekends but in 2013, noted cemetery historian Ron Romano began improving and developing the tours and interest grew steadily. Today, tours are given every day from June through October.

    Tour guide training and scripts improved every year, leading to being named one of the top five cemetery tours in New England by Yankee Magazine. By 2019, about 1,200 visitors were greeted each season and the team of trained guides increased to a dozen volunteers.

    During the pandemic all historic sites in the city suspended guided tours and the gates of Eastern Cemetery were locked. But Spirits Alive offered to take on “gate duty” and designed a self-guided walk for those who wished to tour the cemetery on their own. In 2021, the tours returned and their popularity rose as the guided cemetery walks offered an outdoor, socially-distanced activity suitable for all ages.

    Because the tours of Eastern Cemetery were so popular, Ron Romano has since designed tours of Oceanview Cemetery in Wells for the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit, as well as the landscaped garden-type Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco for the Old Orchard Beach/Saco Adult & Community Education program. Tickets to both tours sold out quickly, proving that interest in cemetery tours is increasing.

    This year Ron will be rerunning the Laurel Hill tours and in June he will lead a tour to discover the early slate gravestones and “billboard monuments” in the churchyard of the Old Baptist Cemetery for the Yarmouth History Center. He has also designed two new cemetery tours: Dunstan Cemetery in Scarborough and Greenwood Cemetery in Biddeford. All of these sites are local treasures with lots to offer those who would like to join a guided tour.     

    Tours, each running 60 to 90 minutes, will run in May and June and are posted on the MOCA events calendar at More information and tickets are available through the host organizations. Email Ron Romano at with any questions.

  • 04 Sep 2021 7:33 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Our member Ron Romano kicks off Buried in Time, a new podcast show certain to please the discriminating taphophile. In their very first episode, Ron delves into the story of stonecutter Bartlett Adams:

    "The year is 1800 and at just 24 years of age, Bartlett Adams, a young stone cutter from Kingston Massachusetts, arrives in the bustling seaside town of Portland Maine. He’s single, talented and has a bit of money in his pocketbook when he sets foot on Maine soil. Many families had already settled in the well established area over the last 150 years, with access to much of everything they could need, everything except gravestones. On that September day, Adams probably had little inkling that he would become such an important fixture in the local funerary business but considering mortality rates during this era was nearly one death every three days, it is no surprise that his first stone-cutting shop would be in extremely high demand."

    Podcast hosts Anna Adams and Allison Dewitt invite you to join them as they unravel the mysterious past of New England residents and visit the vessels that keep them; untangled folklore of the famous and the unknown; and put names to faces & share stories lost to time.

    This episode is available on every podcast platform, but you can also listen to it on the Buried in Time website.

    Listen Today!

  • 10 Aug 2021 7:41 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Portland, Maine - The non-profit group Spirits Alive will again be offering their popular "Walk Among the Shadows"  event this October in Eastern Cemetery. This year's theme is "The Secret History of the Eastern Cemetery - Movers and Shakers in the Old Burial Ground" Seven Spirits will rise from their graves to tell stories of their time in the Old Burial Ground: true tales of new stones, old stones, overcrowding, unexpected relocations, and more.

    Audience members will be led through Eastern Cemetery by specters, encountering each story at a different location within the graveyard. The event occurs live at Eastern Cemetery on October 21-23 and 28-30, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will also be a twilight performance on Sundays, Oct. 24 and 31 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Audience groups will enter from the 224 Congress Street gate every 20 minutes during the event on a first-come, first-served basis. Each Walk Among the Shadows performance lasts about 40 minutes. The audience is cautioned to dress for outdoor evening weather and slightly uneven terrain.

    Tickets are available on Eventbrite or at the gate. Suggested donation for admission is $10 ($5 for under 12). Spirits Alive is a non-profit organization formed in 2006, and dedicated to the preservation of Eastern Cemetery. "Walk Among the Shadows" is their largest fundraiser. Eastern Cemetery, 224 Congress Street, is Portland's oldest graveyard, founded in 1668. It is on the list of National Historic Landmarks. All proceeds from this event go to Spirits Alive to help accomplish their twin missions of education and preservation. More info at    

    This presentation is Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Other generous event sponsors include: Coffee By Design, Norway Savings Bank, Townsquare Media, UpPortland, Murray Plumb and Murray, Otto Pizza, Osher Map library, Carlson & Turner Bookstore, The Maine Celtics and Learning Works.                            

    Walk Among the Shadows, "The Secret History of the Eastern Cemetery - Movers and Shakers in the Old Burial Ground" October 21-23 & 28-30, 2021 from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Sunday, October 24 and 30, 2021 from 5:30 to 6:30pm. Eastern Cemetery at 224 Congress Street, Portland, Maine. $10 adults, $5 children under 12 years, suggested donation.

  • 20 Nov 2020 2:04 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Legislative Update and Cemetery Laws
    Helen A. Shaw
    October 15, 2020 

    With autumn comes the urge to clean up cemeteries and gravestones before winter sets in. It is great that so many people are willing and able to do the work, but before starting such projects, please make sure to obtain permission from the cemetery’s owner.

    Who owns the cemetery and who can give permission can be difficult to determine and sometimes no one knows who owns a particular cemetery. In the case of Ancient Burying Grounds, it is often the municipality where it is located that can give permission, simply because descendants of the family(ies) that established the cemetery are no longer in the area or cannot be identified or located. Under Title 30‐A, Section 3104, these Ancient Burying Grounds are considered Abandoned Cemeteries: “a cemetery in which no burial has been made in the previous 40 years and the lots or grave sites of which have not been maintained within the previous 10 years, except for maintenance rendered by the municipality in which the cemetery is located.” Under this statute an abandoned cemetery may be formally acquired by a municipality, but many are reluctant to do this due to legal and financial obligations.

    Regarding Ancient Burying Grounds, municipalities are only obligated by state law (Title 13, Section 1101) to care for veterans’ graves and that care only extends to mowing the grass and keeping the graves free of debris, weeds, vines, and fallen trees and branches. Flags must also be placed on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day. Under the same statute municipalities MAY also care for non‐veteran graves, again only mowing and trimming brush and weeds and only from May 1 to September 30.

    Under Title 13, Section 1101, a municipality may appoint a caretaker to take care of both veterans’ and non‐veterans’ graves. The best way to make sure you can take care of an Ancient Burying Ground is to have a municipality appoint you the caretaker for one or more specified burying grounds. A person who owns land surrounding an Ancient Burying Ground may refuse the municipality or designated caretaker access to the burying ground to care for veterans’ graves. In that case, the property owner is obligated to care for any veterans’ graves in the burying ground, but must allow the municipality or designated caretaker access to the Burying Ground to determine if the veterans’ graves are being cared for properly (Title 13, Section 1101‐B, part 2). Access to Ancient Burying Grounds surrounded by private property continues to be a problem and is being worked on. 

    A bill passed by the state legislature in January 2020 and signed in to law by the governor in February amended sections of Title 13, clarifying the definition of, and documentation for the existence of, Ancient Burying Grounds. It also requires a municipality to designate caretakers in writing. A very important part of the revised law addresses the issue of boundaries of an Ancient Burying Ground, which has come up when property owners claim there is no burying ground because there are no fences or gravestones.

    Click to read the new law [PDF]

    NOTE: The revised statute is not yet in the online published statutes so those who want to become a designated caretaker may need to take a copy of the pdf to the municipality when applying.

    Gravestones belong to the family of the person(s) commemorated on them. Unless the stones are modern, it can be difficult to identify living family members to obtain permission to work on the gravestone(s). However, this may not be possible regarding stones in Ancient Burying Grounds. Title 13, Section 1371 outlines who may repair, maintain, or remove “...any tomb, monument, gravestone, marker, or other structure placed or designated as a memorial to the dead, or any portion or fragment of any such memorial or any fence, curb or other enclosure for the burial of the dead...” 

    Click to read Title 13 Section 1371

    When family members or descendants cannot be located, permission for repairs and maintenance is the responsibility of the municipality in which the burying ground is located.

    While it does not explicitly address the issue, Title 13 Section 1371 also protects memorials to Confederate soldiers buried in Maine cemeteries. This would include any version of a Confederate flag placed on the grave of a Confederate soldier. Such flags would be protected just as the United States flag is protected when placed on the grave of a U.S. or Revolutionary War veteran. 

  • 26 Mar 2020 7:12 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    The cancellation of the spring program in Lubec has left us with space to fill in the MOCA Spring 2020 newsletter. I am encouraging all members and interested parties to submit essays, articles, poems, photos, illustrations, and any other information related to MOCA activities, old cemeteries, local history, burial and funeral rites and rituals, etc. for consideration to be included in the upcoming newsletter. If we get a lot of submissions, we will hold them to use in future issues.

    Please send written items as Word documents and photos/illustrations in the highest resolution jpg format, and make sure the author of the writing is clear and include identifying captions for photos/illustrations. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, March 31, and items should be sent to me via my online contact form.

    Our members always send fascinating items so I am excited to see what we get this time!

    Thank you,
    Perri Black, MOCA newsletter editor   

  • 05 Oct 2017 3:58 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    The History Press has just released Ron Romano’s second book, entitled Portland’s Historic Eastern Cemetery: A Field of Ancient Graves. This book celebrates Portland’s 350-year-old burial ground, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.  

    Many MOCA members visited the cemetery in July when the cemetery’s friends group, Spirits Alive, hosted the MOCA summer meeting.  Chapters include “Lost at Sea,” “The Dead House,” and “Five Men Hanged for Murder.”  The book also examines how the minority populations of African Americans, Quakers, and Catholics were treated by the town.  

    Romano is offering MOCA members free shipping on autographed copies of the book.  Contact him at for further details.

  • 07 Aug 2017 1:59 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    From Friday, September 8 through Monday, September 11 cemetery conservator Joe Ferrannni of Grave Stone Matters, based in Hoosick Falls, New York, will be working with the Ridge Association and a group of pre-registered participants at a workshop to preserve some of the stones in Ridge (aka South Parish) Cemetery in Martinsville.

    Ferranni will demonstrate a specific technique and then under his tutelage those participating in the workshop will have the opportunity to practice the technique as they work to preserve some of the gravestones in this cemetery.

    Depending on the condition of the stone various techniques may be required. Among the skills covered will be using correct materials and techniques to clean stones, straightening leaning stones, resetting stones in their current bases, making new bases as necessary, replacing rusted pins, repairing using epoxy and infill, and other preservation tasks as the workshop continues and specific needs are discovered.

    Documented direct descendants of any of the persons buried in Ridge (aka South Parish) Cemetery in Martinsville (St. George) Maine who do not want their ancestor’s stone preserved by this group should contact Joyce Davies by August 31, 2016. 

    The Ridge Association, which cares for this cemetery, has already authorized the work.

    Posted in the Knox Village Soup, 2 Aug 2017

    Also: The Courier Gazette, published by Courier Publications LLC, 91 Camden St., Rockland, ME 04841, page D3, Thursday, August 3, 2017

    Workshop Registration Opens 9 August 2017

  • 28 May 2017 9:41 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Jonathon Flaherty, a student at Cascade Brook School, discovered a potential error on a stone he was cleaning at Academy Corner Cemetery in Wilton. Deb Probert, right, a member of the Maine Old Cemetery Association, guided the stone-cleaning work.

    WILTON — Fifth-graders from Academy Hill School in Wilton and Cascade Brook School in Farmington cleaned stones in the Academy Corner Cemetery on Wednesday.

    But, it was more than just a lesson in cleaning.

    The project, called Stones with Stories, challenged their language arts, math and history skills. Their work will culminate in a map of the cemetery that plan to give to the town, teacher Sarah Reynolds said.

    The project resulted from the Maine Old Cemetery Association workshop at the Weld Road cemetery last summer, Deb Probert, association member, said.

    Town Manager Rhonda Irish thought it would be good to involve schoolchildren in cleaning the stones.

    Students previously visited the cemetery on the opposite corner of Main and Depot streets.

    After cleaning each stone, they compiled information, including names, dates and inscriptions. Jonathon Flaherty, a student at Cascade Brook School, discovered a potential error on a stone. Prior to cleaning, the name appeared to be John Hay but the clean stone indicated the name was John Day who died in the 1800s.

    Probert assured him the name would be researched.

    The students' history, literacy and writing skills were stretched as they researched the person or family whose names were on the stones and wrote about them and the period in which they lived, Reynolds said.

    Lucinda Carroll, a student at Academy Hill, relished the research task and is creating a snapshot of the Morse family, Reynolds said.

    Four members of the family died within four months from typhoid fever, the result of contaminated water, Carroll said.

    Maxine Brown of the Wilton Historical Society said there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in 1816 followed by another in 1830.

    The cemetery dates back to 1816, maybe 1810, she said. The are 38 stones that are visible and some may be buried. The cemetery sign says Academy Hill Cemetery but it is actually Academy Corner Cemetery, she said.

    The school across the street was originally the Academy Freewill Baptist Church which was built in the mid-1800s. Many buried within the cemetery were likely members, she said.

    The large, open barn-type building later became Wilton Academy, which burned in 1980, she said. A photo of the original church is on display at the society's museum.

    There are three veterans buried in the cemetery, she said. Two are veterans from the War of 1812 and one is from the Revolutionary War.

    The Maine Old Cemetery Association wants to "foster interest in the discovery, restoration and maintenance of Maine cemeteries and to preserve records and historical information which relates to them," according to its website.

    Reprinted by permission of author, Ann Bryant Sun Journal
    Franklin | Saturday, May 20, 2017

    See original article/additional photos

  • 15 Aug 2016 1:57 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Each summer, the Maine Old Cemetery Association hires Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, to teach attendees the basics of stone cleaning and repair. The cemetery restoration expert hauls his business-on-wheels to Maine from upstate New York, carrying everything from rinse water to a tripod and chain haul to raise and lower stones weighing hundreds of pounds. The two cemetery workshops this year are in the Franklin County towns of Industry and Wilton. At the West Mills workshop in Industry, workshop leader Joe Ferrannini guided participant Albert Stehle, of Bowdoinham, in proper techniques to straighten veterans' stones after repairing damaged bases.

    Valerie Tucker, Special to the Sun Journal

    INDUSTRY — The rural West Mills cemetery has very few visitors, although it serves as the final resting place for many of the area's founding families.

    Each summer, the Maine Old Cemetery Association hires Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, to teach attendees the basics of stone cleaning and repair. The cemetery restoration expert hauls his business-on-wheels to Maine from upstate New York, carrying everything from rinse water to a tripod and chain haul to raise and lower stones weighing hundreds of pounds. The two cemetery workshops this year are in the Franklin County towns of Industry and Wilton. At the West Mills workshop in Industry, workshop leader Joe Ferrannini guided participant Albert Stehle, of Bowdoinham, in proper techniques to straighten veterans' stones after repairing damaged bases.

    For four days in August, all of that changed as their headstones were scrubbed and their bases straightened and repaired. The Maine Old Cemetery Association scheduled two cemetery restoration workshops in the state this year, both in Franklin County.

    The first group of two dozen attendees gathered on Friday morning at the Industry Fire Station for an orientation. Before getting to the historic West Mills cemetery on the Shaw Road, the downpour soaked them and their buckets of tools.

    Make a Donation to support future workshops

    Undeterred, MOCA representatives Cheryl Willis-Patten and Jessica Couture, along with restoration specialist Joe Ferrannini, owner of Grave Stone Matters, carried on with their plans. Participants learned how to clean the acid-rain darkened stones, repair a few of the damaged stones, and, as instructor Joe Ferrannini cautioned, "Do no harm."

    Joe, who lives in Hoosick Falls, New York, loves to come to Maine to teach these workshops. He considers this work a second career that suits his passion for history, genealogy and old cemeteries. With a college degree in mathematics and history, he spent 20 years with trucking companies, but decided to take a chance.

    "In the worst economy we've had for years, I decided to start my own business," he said with a laugh.

    He hasn't regretted that decision and has been able to travel the region and work with eager volunteers and municipalities who want to preserve their town's history.

    He suggested methods researched, tested and used by the experts in care of veterans' stones and markers. The National Park Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration oversee thousands of veterans' gravestones and markers and they offer helpful directions for those who care for gravestones. 

    Why would anyone want to clean a gravestone? The simple answer is to preserve the artifacts of the past. Many of those gravestones and monuments belong to veterans who fought and often died for their country over the past four centuries. 

    A headstone is intended to honor the deceased and should be treated with respect, Willis-Patten said. Over time, it takes on different meanings for those who visit, and reminds citizens of the many veteran's who have served their country.

    Ferrannini told attendees he adheres to a few strict rules for cleaning.

    "Never power wash, and never, ever use wire brushes, sanders or grinders to clean a stone's surface," he said.

    Marble, for example, is very porous, and when the surface is cleaned with abrasive tools and chemicals, the patina is damaged permanently. Grains start to loosen and wash away, and the surface develops a sugary coating and discolors more easily. Inscriptions will erode, making the headstone harder to read. Headstones in shady and damp areas may need to be cleaned more frequently than headstones in sunny areas.

    Stone cleaners should take a picture, if possible, to document the before-and-after cleaning results, and keep a record of the dates, locations and the information carved on each stone. Ferrannini also showed how to use a mirror to reflect the light across the face of the stone to make lettering easier to read.

    Albert Stehle, a mason from Bowdoinham, said he has gone to other MOCA workshops and said he's becoming more interested in following in Ferrannini's footsteps.

    "My Ridge Restoration business includes repairing old houses and chimneys, and I really like doing this," he said, as he dug the old mortar from a broken headstone base. "It's important to take care of these old stones."

    Ferrannini says he uses D/2 Biological Solution, the preferred cleaner for the National Park Service and Department of Veterans Affairs. In Maine, the cleaner is carried by A. H. Harris & Sons in their Augusta, Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, locations.

    "Marble cleaned with biocides can continue to lighten over the next few months, so be patient," he advised. "Don't expect stones to look new, since they are, in some cases, hundreds of years old."

    Attendees were advised to use gloves and eye protection and avoid splashing the cleaner during spray applications. A three-person team can clean many stones quickly and efficiently, with one wetting the stone and spraying the cleaner, one brushing or scrubbing the stone, and one rinsing the stone. The process requires a lot of clean water. If the cemetery does not have clean running water, bring plenty of extra water to the site.

    Ferrannini refers beginners to "A Graveyard Preservation Primer," written by Lynette Strangstad. The book is a valuable resource for methods of protection and preservation of historic graveyards. Much information found in the first 1980 publication has been updated to include technology and digital tools.

    See MOCA's Workshops for more information about cemetery education opportunities.

    Make a Donation to support future workshops

    *reprinted with permission

  • 10 Jul 2016 12:44 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Now Available!

    Early Gravestones in Southern Maine: The Genius of Bartlett Adams

    by Ron Romano

    Maine native, historian and MOCA member Ron Romano is pleased to present his new book on stone-cutter Bartlett Adams (1776 - 1828), whose shop produced nearly 2000 gravestones found today in 135 ancient cemeteries across southern Maine. This well-illustrated book includes many examples of Adams’ artistic flair, and highlights the other skilled carvers who worked in his Portland shop. Discover the grief that Adams poured into the stone markers for his own children, read the heart-wrenching story of the 16 souls lost on the wreck of the schooner Charles, and learn about the national recognition Bartlett achieved for his work on the memorial for a hero of the War of 1812.

    The book is available in bookstores, on-line at popular book-selling websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from the publisher (The History Press), and directly from Ron.

    SPECIAL OFFER for MOCA members

    Buy your copy directly from Ron (at $21.99), and he will autograph it and ship your book for free!  To take advantage of this special offer, email Ron at for an order form.

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