November 18, 2012

REPORTING ASIDE: Pine Grove Cemetery a repository of Waterville's history

Morning Sentinel Staff

Trudy Lovely knows Pine Grove Cemetery like the back of her hand and can point to all the graves of prominent people buried there.

"Maine Governor William T. Haines is over there," she said, pointing to the southeast corner of the cemetery off Grove Street in Waterville. "Governor Clinton Clauson is there."

We wandered among the stones on this beautifully clear, crisp November morning with Lovely's dog, Chloe, and City Planner Ann Beverage.

Lovely has been the cemetery's superintendent for 30 years. Beverage is working on projects to help promote the city's rich history.

Soon Thanksgiving will be here, and Beverage notes Waterville's connection to the Pilgrims who traveled to Plymouth Rock from England aboard the Mayflower in 1620.

In the cemetery are graves of the Alden family, for instance, who descended from Mayflower voyager John Alden. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish," tells the story of Alden's marriage to Priscilla Mullins. As the story goes, Miles Standish sought Mullins' hand in marriage and asked Alden to be the go-between. Alas for Standish, Mullins and Alden got together and tied the knot instead.

The cemetery also bears memorials of notables such as Asa Redington, a Revolutionary War soldier whose body originally was buried in a cemetery at the corner of Park and Elm streets. His body is believed to have been moved to Pine Grove when other soldiers' graves were moved there many years ago, Beverage said.

City streets are named for the Redington and other prominent families buried in the cemetery, including those of Boutelle, Getchell, Gilman, Alden and Moor.

Beverage has a city map from 1853 showing that the Moor family owned much of the land along Water Street in the South End. For the past dozen years, she has been focusing on the history of the city's South End and is involved in an effort to create a heritage tour that would not only educate people about that history, but also help boost the economy through tourism.

"We have people coming to City Hall and the library and genealogical society constantly for death and birth certificates," she said. "They want to track down their family members. Every time they come, they stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. It's economic development."

We find the grave of Charles "Hod" Nelson, a Civil War veteran who died in 1915 and had a trotting park on the site, as well as a horse named Nelson that was a world champion.

Arthur Jeremiah Roberts, the 14th president of Colby College, died in 1927 and is buried there. Lovely said the cemetery, established in 1852, is 35 acres and has about 35,000 graves, including those of about 500 veterans from as far back as the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

"Big city docents take on tours of cemeteries," Beverage said. "It teaches you about the history of the city through people buried there. And Pine Grove is a beautiful place to walk, especially in the fall, with fall foliage."

Lovely, who plans to retire next year, is developing an index for the city's website, www.waterville-me.gov, that would help people find where their ancestors are buried. An updated map of the cemetery already is on the site.

Beverage says she'd like to see a Franco American museum, recreational trails and an extended walking tour of historic sites in the South End. She also envisions future development of a nonprofit land trust that would buy old houses, fix them up and sell them to people for less money than one would normally pay because they would not buy the land -- just the home. The land would stay with the trust, and that trust would have first refusal if a home is put on the market. Home ownership helps to add stability to an area, she said.

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