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.
An effort is under way to preserve the Pine Grove Chapel across Grove Street from the cemetery. Built in 1907 and once used for funerals, it has fallen in disrepair, but the City Council voted recently to spend $50,000 to start fixing it up.
Beverage and Lovely imagine the building as a combination funeral chapel and museum that would have historical exhibits on the walls.
City Council Chairman Fred Stubbert is all for touting Waterville’s history. Stubbert has researched his ancestry in detail and says he is descended from both Alden and Standish.
“I’ve been championing the chapel since I’ve been on the council,” he said. “We’ve been looking for grants.”
A history buff, Stubbert points out that Standish and three other Pilgrims came up the Kennebec River in 1625 and established trading posts at what is now Augusta and Waterville, where they traded items with the Indians for beaver pelts. The pelts were sent to England where they made a fortune and netted the Pilgrims rights to land 15 miles deep on either side of the Kennebec River from North Anson to Merrymeeting Bay.
“The land where Waterville is now was owned by the Pilgrims,” Stubbert said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and very few people realize the connection that we have with the Pilgrims — very few. It’s been overlooked, what Waterville’s history really is. There are a lot of people in Waterville who can trace their ancestry back to the Pilgrims.”
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column runs Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]