Stones with Stories

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  • 04 Jan 2016 5:53 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    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.

    Inscriptions include:

    • 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.

  • 13 Dec 2015 3:40 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    A 2010 inquiry on the Trapdoor Collector Discussion Board first brought Lieut. James E. Porter to our attention. Cathy Long was asking for information on a commemorative rifle in her possession. According to Long it was for "1st Lieut. James E. Porter I Co. 7th US Cavalry.  On the other side of the barrel is Born in Strong, Maine 1847 and Commissioned, 2nd, Lieut, 7th, Cav. June 1869 Underneath by the trigger says Missing in Action with Indians., June 25, 1876 Little Big Horn River MT". 

    A bit of online research revealed more of the story of 1st Lieutenant James Ezekiel Porter.

    A biography posted on GENI.COM reads: 

    James Ezekiel Porter (February 2, 1847-June 25, 1876) was one of General Custer's officers killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand. 

    James E. Porter was born in Strong, Maine, in 1846. He attended Bates College (called the Maine State Seminary until 1863) from 1862–1863 and then Norwich University from 1863-1864. Porter was then appointed to West Point and graduated in 1869. He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment upon graduation. In 1872, Porter became a 1st lieutenant and was assigned to Troop I. He participated in 'The Plains' Indian warfare from 1869 to 1876. On June 25, 1876, James Porter was killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn under Brevet General Custer.

    This, in turn, led us to a entry for James Porter (7th Cavalry) which provides further details about his family, military career, and death at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

    It is believed that Porter's unidentified remains were buried where they had been found on the battlefield.

    Since it was not known precisely where he had died, there was originally no marker with his name on it. In 1910 a marker with Porter's name was shipped to the battlefield. The placement of that marker was near where most of the bodies of his company (Company I) had been found. A Find a Grave Memorial commemorates his death.

    In addition to his marker at Little Bighorn Battlefield, Lieut. James E. Porter has a cenotaph on the end of the gravestone of his parents - Jeremy Wyman Porter (9 Nov. 1820-26 Apr. 1904) and Rachel Hunter Porter (09 Jan. 1827-01 Apr. 1890). 

    His cenotaph reads Lieut., James E. Porter, Jan. 12, 1847., Killed Custer Massacre, June 25, 1876.

  • 11 Sep 2015 3:11 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    On 15 January 1875 Avaline A. Lord of Lowell, ME and Frank A. Kirkland of New York City were married by S. Besse. [1]  Avaline was the daughter of lumberman Daniel W. and Mary Dustin Page Lord and in the 1870 federal census Avaline's occupation was listed as “teaching school”. [2] Daniel and Mary died in Bangor, Penobscot Co., ME. [3] 

    No place of death has been located for Ava, however the grave markers for these three individuals and for Ava's younger sister Clara, are enclosed in a white picket fence in Tannery Cemetery in East Lowell, ME.

    In describing this cemetery Dick Shaw, writing for the 9 October 1976 Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section, wrote that, “as one turns east onto a quiet country road by the [East Lowell] town hall he soon finds himself at a small graveyard occupied by a near-life-sized statute of the deceased [Ava Lord Kirkland] who for 100 years has stood vigil from her granite cubicle, also occupied by two headstones and several pieces of wrought iron furniture.” [4]

    On a 10 August 2015 visit to this cemetery there was no wrought iron furniture and within the white picket fence enclosure there were three grave markers in addition to the statue. The tallest marker is TO THE, MEMORY, OF, AVA A. LORD, Beloved Wife, of, FRANK A. KIRKLAND, OF NEW YORK, Died Dec, 26, 1876, Aged 32 Years. Her epitaph reads “A faithful loving wife, A dutiful daughter, A devoted sister, A true and tried friend”.  A small brick-shaped marble marker is in place for Clara Lord Hawley (1850-1940), and there is a joint stone for “Father” Daniel Lord (4 April 1817–7 January 1897) and “Mother” Mary D. Lord (20 June 1820–3 March 1909).  Also within the fence, atop a large granite block onto which is carved LORD, is a sculpture of a young woman.  

    Shaw writes that the statute, a life-like sculpture of a marble barefooted maiden, was created in France and shipped to ME to be placed in the Tannery Cemetery in East Lowell.

    [1] Ruth Gray, editor, Marriage Returns of Penobscot County, Maine Prior to 1892 (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1994), 626.

    [2] Year: 1870; Census Place: Lowell, Penobscot, Maine; Roll: M593_554; Page: 194A; Image: 392; Family History Library Film: 552053

    [3] Maine, Death Records, 1617-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. 

    [4] “Unusual Gravestones Are Found in Maine”, Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section, October 9, 1976, p. 4A, microfilm Maine State Library.

  • 05 Dec 2014 7:56 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    In 1977, Thomas C. Bardwell of Richmond, Maine, set out to bring well-deserved recognition to Robert Browne Hall.  According to Bardwell, R.B. Hall was “the best writer of concert and parade band music America ever produced.” 

    R.B. Hall Biography

    Robert Browne Hall was a cornet virtuoso, bandmaster and composer of marches. The son of Nathaniel W. and Virginia L. [Browne] Hall, he was born into a musical family on June 30, 1858 in Bowdoinham, ME. His father played E flat cornet in a local band and was his son's first cornet instructor.

    At age 19, R.B. Hall was director of the Richmond Cornet Band. His first three marches written for that band were simply known as RCB1, RCB2, and RCB3.

    In 1878 Hall auditioned for J.T. Baldwin's First Corps of Cadets Band in Boston and shared the solo cornet chair with Allesando Liberati for four years. Passing up other tempting offers, R. B. Hall accepted a call to rebuild the Bangor Band. He did the job so well that a week of tribute to him in 1884 culminated with the presentation of a gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet by the grateful citizens of the city. Hall responded by writing the march “Greeting to Bangor”.

    Hall was associated with several other bands including the Bangor Band, Waterville Military Band (later known as R.B. Hall's Military Band), Chandler's Band, Cherryfield Band, Olympia Band of Augusta, and the Colby College Band. During this period he took time to rebuild the "musically bankrupt" Tenth Regiment Band of Albany, NY. Hall left the Albany assignment to return to his former position in Waterville as director of Waterville Military Band. While in Waterville several of his finest marches were written. He also enjoyed great popularity throughout New England as a cornet soloist.

    Besides dedicating his compositions to people and places, dedications include local characters (Uncle Dooley's Delight), newspapers (Richmond Bee, The Sentinel), and Fraternal Orders (Demolay Commandery for Knight Templars, The Redman's March for Improved Order of Redmen, Exalted Ruler for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Independentia for Independent Order of Odd Fellows).

    Having suffered a stroke in 1902 from which he never recovered, Robert Browne Hall died in poverty in Portland as a result of nephritis five years later and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, Maine [Find a Grave Memorial #51909306]. He left over a hundred marches and other compositions.

    R. B. Hall Day Proclaimed by the Governor of the State of Maine

    Official recognition of Hall and his contribution to the American music culture culminated with the proclamation of R.B. Hall Day in 1981. 

    L.D. 1920 - An act to establish an R.B. Hall Day to honor and commemorate a great Maine composer as approved by the Governor, May 11, 1981

    Since 1981, numerous events commemorating R.B. Hall Day have been celebrated throughout the State of Maine and continue to honor the musical genius of Maine's own Robert Browne Hall.

  • 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. Maine, Marriages, 1892-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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. U.S. Federal Census; 1940; Census Place: Gray, Cumberland, Maine; Roll: T627_1474; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 3-29. Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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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