Russell Bucknam’s grave at Gray Village Cemetery is marked by a slate headstone with accompanying footstone. The headstone is extraordinary for its size and decoration. These were produced in the Portland shop of Bartlett Adams. Given the handwriting and decorative elements, I tentatively attribute this stone to Alpheus Cary, Jr., a talented carver who was working in Adams’ shop in the middle of the 1800-1810 decade.
The shape is unusual for Adams’ shop undefined over 80% of the stones he produced have shoulders, but the Bucknam stone has a simple upside down letter “U” shape. More typical to Adams is the shallowness of the carving; it’s difficult to read the Bucknam stone unless in ideal lighting.
The headstone is heavily decorated with masonic symbols and inscriptions. There is central urn with the initials R. B. which oddly sits on 3 long legs (like a camera on a tripod). Unusual enough as this is, the footed urn is on a cabinet adorned with a pair of skulls & crossbones.
This is only the second known stone from the Adams shop to have the skull & crossbones motif. Architectural columns decorate the side borders. A personified rising sun, a tiny winged face, and willows all add to the complexity of the design.
The date of death, 1806, is expressed in the Masonic’s Blue Lodge calendar (which adds 4000 years to the Christian calendar), thus it is 5806.
- “Lux in Tenebris” which translates from Latin to “Light in Darkness”
- The initials “RAM” for the Royal Arch Masons
- “Holiness to the Lord”
- Encircled letters “H T W S S T K S” for “Hiram, the Widow’s Son, Sent to King Solomon” [Hiram was king of Tyre, a city in Lebanon, and was the Grand Master of the Masons. He was slain just before the completion of King Solomon’s temple (Solomon being the king of Israel)]
Finally, the epitaph on the stone is as follows:
Stay thoughtful mourner hither led
To weep, and mingle with the dead:
Bemoan the Mason who sleeps here,
And pay the tributary tear.
Thy feet must wander far to find
A better brother, husband kind,
A heart with sweeter passions warm'd;
A life with nobler acts perform'd;
A death with deeper sighs confess'd:
A memory, more belov'd and bless'd.
Ron Romano presents original research exploring the life and times of Portland's first stonecutter, Bartlett Adams (1776-1828), and revealing the scope and impact of his work throughout Cumberland County. Ron shared these notes on this extraordinary headstone at Gray Village Cemetery with MOCA.
For more information about Bartlett Adams and his stonecutting shop, contact Ron Romano.