Whistling in the cemeteries Visiting some of the last resting places in the area – Adventure
If you don’t spend enough time in cemeteries, you don’t live. Truly.
Of course, it’s a healthy way to deal with your own mortality – alas, poor Yorick, and all that – but there’s also a legitimate pleasure in mingling with the dead, and you can’t convince me otherwise. In light of the upcoming Halloween festivities, allowing us increased tolerance for the macabre, I offer you a glimpse of the most entertaining burial sites in the Bangor area, in no particular order.
Prepare for seriousness memory mori action, people.
Let’s start with the obvious: if you are a resident of the Bangor region, you know Mount Hope Cemetery (1048 State St, Bangor), the huge cemetery-garden overlooking the Penobscot river. Incorporated in 1834, the cemetery was modeled after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, which is also worth a visit when you’re down in Boston.
Mount Hope is painfully picturesque – a high hill with a steeple, gravestones dotted with ancient trees, duck ponds with territorial ducks. But you already knew all this. To unlock the secrets of the cemetery, I would recommend the periodic walking tour offered by the Bangor Historical Society; you will discover the tomb of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin himself and, if you are lucky, a peculiar tombstone decorated with braided human hair.
The large amount of stones at Mount Hope means it is a great place to search for epitaphs; there are real doozies here. I found one that just said, “She did what she could.” (Bumper sticker? Anyone?)
Mount Hope is indeed, but some of the finest cemetery experiences can be found in the rural cemeteries that populate the Bangor suburbs. To take Ruggles Cemetery (between 781 and 801 Hampden Rd, Carmel), a small family plot that dates from the years of Carmel’s foundation. The Ruggles were an accomplished group – look for the Reverend Paul Ruggles, one of the two men who first settled the town; The deputy. Hiram Ruggles; and Paul Ruggles, MD. Most of the stones are white marble, so their inscriptions remain legible and they look rather striking against the dense moss and small creeping ground covers. It is a good time of year to visit. The whole place smells of autumn leaves. (Please note that although the cemetery is on town property, neighboring owners graciously tolerate visitors; please respect their space.)
Go north to Bangor and you will find Evergreen Cemetery (Boynton Street, Bradley), cloistered behind high hedges and a wrought iron fence in a residential area. It is the resting place of many men and women who made Bradley a booming industrial town in the 19th century; they still bury people here. There is a secluded crypt at the main entrance and vase-shaped trees lining the road looping around the cemetery. It is worth leaving your car and walking around. With its sloping headstones and tall hedges, Evergreen looks like a graveyard in a picture book.
If you turn left onto Boynton Road and continue on Rt. 178 you will come across two ancient burial sites along the river, Knapp Cemetery in Bradley and Blackman Riverside Cemetery in Eddington. If you’re willing to dismiss passing motorists with a royal wave and a yes-I’m-suppose-to-be-there smile, you’ll have fun digging through gravestones; spending time reading dates and names and trying to figure out who is related to whom.
If the garden variety buried corpse isn’t scary enough for you, take a road trip to Buck Cemetery (Hinks Street, Bucksport) where you will find the grave of Jonathan Buck, founder of Bucksport. According to the Town’s Historical Society, there is a local legend (of questionable authenticity) that Buck, a devout Puritan, sentenced an alleged witch to execution. Just before the deed was done, the witch reportedly shouted at Buck, “Above your grave they will erect a stone … your cursed race has perished from the earth, will people everywhere know that you murdered?” a woman. Remember well, Jonathan Buck, remember well. ”
And yes, there is indeed the imprint of a foot on Buck’s gravestone, which defies all attempts to wash it. Above is the shape of a heart. Do whatever you want with it.