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 archive@gpl.lib.me.us).

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Have you tried one of our Time Machines?

Gardiner was a robust printing center throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, producing, in addition to books and pamphlets, several newspapers over the decades.  From the Eastern Chronicle (1824-1826) and Cold Water Fountain (1844-1848) to the Gardiner Home Journal (1858-1892) and Reporter Journal (1893-1913) (and many others in between and after), Gardiner steadily chronicled local goings on and kept up with the news of the state and nation.
We are incredibly lucky to have the majority of Gardiner’s historic periodicals preserved on over 100 reels of microfilm here in the library’s Community Archives Room and available for research.  We also have two microfilm readers, including a new digital unit.  Just this past week, some middle school students were enthralled by the older machine and, especially, the opportunity to read the old papers.  They promptly declared it a Time Machine and jockeyed for turns to travel through history!
In addition to our physical portals to the past, we also have a new and exciting third option.  We are delighted to introduce you to our digital newspaper collection!  Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to digitize 25 reels of our historic newspapers earlier this year and they are now available to anyone, from anywhere, and at any time.  The selected papers, the Gardiner Home Journal and Reporter Journal, cover the years 1858 to 1904.  Without further ado, here is a brief tutorial on how to access and use this magnificent time machine:
Head to our website: www.gpl.lib.me.us and click on the Historic Newspapers tab at the top:
The link will bring you to this search page:
From here, you have a few options.  You can type in a term or name to search (either search box will work) or you can browse individual titles or dates.
A search for the word library returns over 2,700 results:
From the results list, you can click on a selection to see the original page from the newspaper and the searched word(s) will be highlighted:
The control bar at the top allows you to zoom in or out, select a portion of the image to save, download the entire image as a PDF, move about the page or navigate to other pages of the selected issue, or return to the home/search page:
Searching for names works similarly:
The software will search for the names side-by-side:
Hint: You can also do the same with other words you would like to find together:
If you were to search for the words FIRE and DEPARTMENT in the keyword box, the results will include far more variety:
Another way to narrow results and search for specific phrases is to use quotation marks around the exact phrase you want:
Narrowing the search can be helpful, but sometimes keeping it broad may bring you even more successful hits (even if you have to sift through some weeds):
And, of course, you can always narrow your results by selecting specific years in which to focus:

 

There is much more that could be said about this wonderful addition to our historic collection, but I hope this brief introduction will entice you to step back in time and start exploring right away.  I’m happy to answer questions, show additional tips, or work one-on-one with folks any time.  We will offer a workshop later this fall on how to use this resource to its full potential – stay tuned for the date! Eventually, we hope to be able to digitize the rest of our microfilm reels.  In the meantime, enjoy these at your leisure and stop by or contact the library for access to the remaining 75+ reels and, of course, our other time machines!

Do you recognize any of these faces?

Woman, unknown year, Gardiner, Maine.
October is American Archives Month, so it couldn’t be more exciting or appropriate that we finally completed renovations of our Community Archives Room and moved back in last week!  We’re still shuffling some things around, settling into the space, and waiting for some furnishings – so, stay tuned for more!
In the meantime, some things never change.  As thorough as we try to be with documenting and recording information about historic items and photographs, mysteries will always exist. We have many unidentified portrait photographs in our collection and most offer very few clues as to who the subject is.
Children photographed by S.C. Stinson, a Gardiner Photographer who worked with the ambrotype process in the 1860s.
Most photographs, such as the cartes de visite and cabinet cards included here, include the name of the photographer and location of his or her studio.  These photographs were all taken (or reproduced) here in Gardiner, each by a different photographer. Although Gardiner had many photography studios over the years, we can identify a time frame in which images were produced by knowing when the photographers worked in town.  Newspapers and directory listings have helped us build such a timeline, but some photographers left and came back, others worked steadily for decades, and still more names keep coming out of the woodwork (like Hamlin, above).
Man, “Photographed by Clark,” 1860s.
Man, 1880; “Photographic Studio of Mrs. J.K. Barker.”
Fashions of clothing or hair, styles of furniture and set pieces, and also the format and design of the photograph itself provide additional clues.  Women’s hairstyles and men’s facial hair followed distinct trends through the years and clothing and props can indicate time frames, ethnicity, wealth, career, interests and more. 
 
Woman, early 1890s; J.S. Variel, photographer.
Child, early 1890s; A.W. Kimball, photographer.
Similarly, as photographic processing improved and changed, styles emerged to distinguish one print from another.  Colored borders became popular in the late 1880s and fancy edges emerged in the 1890s. Even the thickness of card stock can help determine the age of a photograph, as materials changed and advanced over the years. Coupling these details with our timeline of photographers working in Gardiner really helps in narrowing down years.  
 
Pup, 1890s; G.F. McIntosh, photographer.
 
Some photo albums or batches of images provide contextual clues, such as family resemblances or classmate connections. Unfortunately, without any contextual clues, we’re left only with facial recognition.  So, unless someone out there sees someone they “know” from the past, these folks and four-legged friends will remain mysteries for the ages.  
 
We hope you’ll tell us if you happen to recognize anyone above — and we have many more where these came from!  But the moral of the story is: be a part of history,
Label Your Photos (in pencilNO pens, post-its, or adhesives) Today!  
Happy American Archives Month!