A small cemetery that almost disappeared into the woods behind Presumpscot Elementary School has been put back on the map of the city’s dozen historic burial grounds.

The Grand Trunk Cemetery, also known as the East Deering Cemetery and Presumpscot Street Cemetery, was the burial ground for early settlers around the eastern Back Cove area known as East Deering Village between 1793 and 1898. By 2010, it had becoming a dumping ground for old appliances and vehicles and a playground for vandals, until Portland Girl Scouts Samantha Allshouse and Kayla Theriault decided to take it on as a Girl Scout Gold Aware Project.

After four years of reclamation efforts, the cemetery was ready Sunday for an official re-dedication and the unveiling of a new monument in memory of the 197 people buried there. About 60 people gathered to appreciate the transformation and listen to speeches by local historians. A group of local Girl Scouts scattered flower petals on the graves.

“For us, it has been a milestone. Nothing about this project has been easy,” said Marianne Chapman, the Girl Scout leader who has coordinated the effort to reclaim the cemetery.

Today, seven new gravestones for buried military veterans, many of them from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, have been installed. The Friends of the Grand Trunk Cemetery have managed to identify 47 of the people buried there, largely farmers and mariners with last names such as Blake, Lunt, Graves and Merrill.

An informational sign has been erected. The grounds once strewn with garbage have been cleared. Flower beds have been planted.

The cemetery friends are continuing research and working on a new effort to map the graves at the Grand Trunk Cemetery, which was named for the Grand Trunk Railway that used to run by it, Chapman said.

Five descendants of Anthony Sawyer, who was buried in the Grand Trunk Cemetery in 1804, were on hand for Sunday’s ceremony.

“He guarded the British governor during the French and Indian War,” said Susan Cobb Szewczyk of Saratoga Springs, New York, a Sawyer descendant.

Maine historian William David Barry said the cemetery project allows people to connect to a bygone era.

“Things hang on threads. I am so happy it has been restored,” Barry said.

Maine historian Herb Adams recalled the life of Crispus Graves, a bachelor farmer who was buried in the Grand Trunk Cemetery in 1879. Graves was known for some eccentricities – he and his bachelor brother, Ebenezer, kept their financial accounts on the interior walls of their house, where they occupied a single room. Graves left his life’s savings of $15,000, a small fortune at the time of his death, to Portland school children.

Adams said it would have pleased Graves that the cemetery where he is buried is now the backyard to an elementary school.

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