Following Clues to Restore an Historic Cemetery (more clues still needed!)

Have you recently noticed a “new” cemetery emerging on Dresden Avenue across from the Common?

What you are actually witnessing is the re-emergence of the oldest identifiable burial ground in Gardiner.  With stones dating back to 1791, the “Old Churchyard” actually takes us back to the days when Gardinerston was known as Pittston, Robert Hallowell Gardiner was just a boy, and Revolutionary War General Henry Dearborn lived where the library now stands.

St. Ann’s Church, between Christ Church and the Gardiner Lyceum, c. 1830. The burial ground contains stones dating back to 1791.

The churchyard was originally consecrated for those who worshiped at St. Ann’s, an Episcopal church established at the behest of Sylvester Gardiner and the first church built in the region.  The history of St. Ann’s, itself, is a colorful story…. including fires, a madman, and various re-buildings and alterations (stop by the Community Archives Room for a full account!)  Many of Gardiner’s earliest and most influential citizens had close ties to the church, as well as with it’s successor, Christ Church (built in 1820) — and many of them (and their loved ones) were laid to rest in the old churchyard.

The known graves in the churchyard span from 1791 to 1892, with most dating from about 1800 to the 1850s. By the end of the century, however, the old churchyard seemed largely forgotten; in 1890, the Gardiner Home Journal noted “One stone was so sunken that the only part visible was the top bearing an urn and weeping willow with the name “Capt. David Lincoln.”  By the turn of the following century, fewer than 10 stones were still standing.

Thanks to a few hardy volunteers (as well as hundreds of hours of labor and a fair amount of research), the churchyard is looking much different today.  Bill King, of Bath, had once photographed a row of his ancestors’ stones on a visit to Gardiner, but when he returned years later, he found stones downed, broken, and moved from their proper locations.  Thanks to only two photographs known to exist, he and Hank McIntyre have been able to re-place about two dozen stones to date.  A few more will be ready to return to their known spaces by next summer.

St. Ann's Churchyard and O.C. Woodman School, c. 1990
This is one of only two known photographs of the the churchyard before restoration. If you know of any others, please contact Dawn in the Community Archives Room!

However, many more stones remain and their proper locations are unknown.  In August, Ground Penetrating Radar identified 40 “anomalies,” or likely grave locations for which no stone was standing.  That number aligned with the list of graves known to exist in the early 1900s.  The exploration even turned up a long-buried (and perfectly preserved) headstone and footstone from 1814.

Ground-Pentrating Radar, summer 2017.
Ground-Penetrating Radar identified 40 “anomalies” in the churchyard.

A trove of over two dozen broken headstones (plus a dozen footstones) still await repair and eventual re-placement, but physical challenges are only part of the concern.

Some of the stones are in many pieces


Still others are incomplete

The greatest challenge remains linking the remaining stones to their proper locations.  Researching historical and genealogical records has helped to identify many family connections and relationships among the buried, but without any photographic clues it is difficult to know which stone belongs where.

The “planting” season is over for now and this winter will be busy with stone repair and research.  In the meantime, we still hope that someone, somewhere, might find an old photograph of the Old Churchyard (even if it’s in the background) before next summer.  After all, Maine winters are long and perfect for sifting through old photographs — and any clue might help!  If you do find something (or have questions), please contact Dawn at the library (582-6890 or








Mystery in the Archives!

My name is Brian Files and I’m grateful to be asked to be a guest blogger on the Gardiner Public Library’s website.


Last weekend, the 23rd of April, I got the chance to perform a mystery show at the Library. I’ve performed all over this state in Mysteries and Improv shows. Some in small venues to small crowds, others were large venues with over 200 plus people in attendance. But this show was something special. Not only was it at a location that I cherish in my hometown, but I also wrote the script and produced the show. And it was a blast!




The whole process started over a year ago when my wife, Deb Files, asked if a show at the library was something I thought possible. Time went by and I forgot all about it until she brought it up again during the winter. “Sure” I said, “sounds like fun.” And it was, but it was also a lot of time and work by not just myself, but all those involved.


To give you an idea of the challenge we were up against: when I work for Mystery for Hire, we perform in convention halls, banquet rooms, large restaurants, and other places set up for large crowds and entertainment. This event was to be in a multiple storied building with multiple rooms…and I wanted to use them all. I also usually work with a group of professionals that have been in the business for quite some time. This time around, I was holding auditions, looking for local talent that could fill out the cast.


Those I chose to cast were great! They were willing to go along with a show concept that was completely different to them.  And they trusted that the show would work, although some scenes were in different rooms and some were performed simultaneously in different locations! We met once a week for a month leading up to the day of the show. On the day of the show, we met 3 hours before the doors open to go over how the whole event would take place. They all performed beyond my wildest dreams!




These type of events are not about perfection in lines or character development. It’s all about having fun. The audience tends to let things go, if the actors just keep rolling along. The more fun we tend to have, the more fun the audience has. Don’t ask me why, it just seems to happen that way.


I have to thank all those that made this possible. Dawn Thistle for her immense knowledge of the history of the library (which I used for the basis of the show), Anne Davis for allowing me to display items and for letting me run rampant around a building she cares deeply for. The staff at the library for all their hard work on the night of the event. The Gardiner Library Association fundraising committee for giving me the go ahead in the first place. And to the cast- Cheryl Clark, Jonathan Price, Richard Becker, Julie Poulin, and Amanda Kinsey. They brought this show to life.


I also need to congratulate our winner of the Super Sleuth, Mary Ann Johnson! Her answer was spot on! The answer that made us laugh the most went to Representative Gay Grant, her idea of punishment for the crime was awesome (unless you’re Cheryl and Richard who would have to wear their costumes all the time AND clean the library)!


A special thanks goes to a person that couldn’t even be at the event. Robert LeBlanc made the aged documents that were on display for over a month. He also formatted all the paperwork. I wish he could have been there!


Finally, let me just say that getting to see something that you worked so hard at come to life was a thrill. I am so happy that those in attendance had a great time. It meant so much to have this event succeed. And to those that asked, Yes, we will be doing this again. I’m already working on the script.




Photo Credit to Griffin Files, age 14

What’s Going On?!?!?!


Over the next couple of weeks, we have several irons in the fire.
National Library Week is celebrated from April 10 – 16 this year.  We have a display of “library” related books for your perusal.
The ALA (American Library Association) theme for the week is “Libraries Transform Lives”.  As part of the promotional campaign, we have blank “speech bubbles” available for folks to let us know how a library may have transformed your life!  Next time you’re in the library, pick up one at the desk, and we’ll add it to our on-going display!
School Vacation week is fast approaching, and we have a couple of programs planned.  On Tuesday, the 19th of April, the L.C. Bates Museum is doing their “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” program in the Children’s Room. The program begins at 2:00, so please plan on joining us then!


On Thursday, the 21st, a local Origami enthusiast will present a workshop – “Fold A Fish”.  This workshop is geared toward those ages 5 and up.  If you’re like me, I would need the 5 year-old to help me understand the directions, though, perhaps your 5-year-old might need your assistance as well.  Join us in the Children’s Room at 10:30, and learn to “Fold A Fish”.
The Gardiner Library Association’s annual meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26th, from 6:30 – 8:00.  My understanding is that there will be a brief business meeting, followed by a slide presentation by our Archivist, Dawn Thistle.  Dawn will highlight some of the library’s impressive Gardiner resources.  This meeting is open to all.
Last to mention, but certainly not the least – on Saturday, April 23rd we will host a “Mystery In The Archives”.  Perhaps you have noticed the display table in the Young Adult section of the library?  We have obtained two historic documents, perhaps a will? And ??? Or ???  These interesting artifacts are available for you to decipher, and learn a bit before the 23rd.  Take a few minutes the next time you’re here to look them over, and perhaps purchase a ticket for this fun and exciting evening!  Tickets are available at the Adult Circulation Desk at a cost of $30 per person.  Light refreshments will be available.  All proceeds from this event to benefit the Community Archives Room.
Oh, one more thing!  This isn’t an event with a specific day and time, but we are now the proud hosts of a “Coloring Station”.  Sometimes we all need a little time to sit quietly and color, so feel free to use the station in the Hazzard Reading Room.  Crayons, markers and colored pencils are available, as well as a variety of coloring pages.
Looking forward to seeing you at some of these great events!
Ann Russell, Technology Librarian