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).

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Gardiner’s Farmers Market Family Fun Day

I was invited to come to the Farmer’s Market Family Fun Day this Wednesday and represent the Gardiner Public Library. It was a beautiful sunny day with plenty to do. Face painting, painting rocks, necklace making, wreath making from herbs, jenga, hula hoops and other things happened. Here are some photos from the wonderful afternoon spent within our area.

School Bus Book Bags

School bus book bags.

Have you ever been caught……READING ON A SCHOOL BUS?!!!! Students within the MSAD #11 School District have been caught reading as they enjoy the opportunity to read books on the bus to and from school!  The School Bus Book Bag project is the brilliant and creative idea of Mr. Don Sanders, a school bus driver for MSAD #75 in Topsham, Maine.  He shared books with the very youngest students on his bus from his own home library in an effort to help them learn to sit in their seats quietly as they traveled to and from school each day. He noticed there was less disruptive behaviors on the bus and an eagerness by the older students to read to the younger students. The project also helped share further literacy throughout the community!  

 

 

The idea has come home to the MSAD #11 school district through a collaborative effort of the Gardiner Public Library, the MSAD #11 Transportation Department, and the non-profit, Maine Educational Connections for Children and Adults. The project has already grown from six buses carrying the book bags to almost a dozen buses sharing books from the local library! The book bags are alternated between the buses on a regular basis to keep the topics interesting and engaging for the students. Reading on the bus has fostered more love for reading, built a stronger foundation for literacy, promoted more positive family enrichment, connected children and families to the opportunity for their own library cards. It also has promoted further bus safety and a mentoring between older and younger students on the bus. One bus driver, Frederica, has exclaimed, “My kids love the books and are doing well!” Overall, the further growth of our healthy communities and the success of our children’s education has come from further reading opportunities! What do you think? Want to get caught reading? We have!!!

Being Mrs. Claus for a day!

I was honored this year to be Mrs. Claus for the city of Gardiner in their Christmas Parade.  I was not sure what I was in for.  The fun began with co-workers and friends offering ideas for my costume.  Being a thrifty person, I looked for things that I had on hand to wear.  Thank goodness, I knew someone who works with theater students and had a perfect wig, apron and white gloves.  Oh, the endless blessing of friends.

Well I had my costume set until the day came and I started to try things on. I came out of the bedroom with a black skirt on and my hair pulled back.  My grandson looked at me and said “You look just like Mrs. Claus.”  I knew then that what I would wear would work.  Dressing in the truck before the parade was a challenge, but again how often do you do that.  Then it was sit and wait.

 

I checked in at the table for the parade.  Next I stood and waited to be told when the horse-drawn sleigh was ready.  There was a sleigh with tons of lights on a flatbed trailer that I was convinced would be our sleigh.  Later I realized that was not my ride because I had been told it would be a horse-drawn sleigh and there was no horse on that sleigh.  I looked further to the back of the parade and spotted a white horse trailer.  I realized that was where I should be, so I walked to the back of the parade to meet Santa.  Santa and the horse-drawn sleigh stopped to pick up Mrs. Claus.  Needless to say I was a bit nervous having never done this before.  Thank goodness Santa knew just what to do, waving and saying “Merry Christmas”.  I soon learned the ropes.

 

Riding a moving sleigh was a bit of a challenge that I also, got used to.  The crowds were small at first and then we came to the first set of lights for Water Street and the mass of people was unbelievable (which I did not expect).  It was nice to see so many people show up to see the parade and support the city of Gardiner.  It took your breath away and then you say “I will be okay, I can do this, just smile and say “Merry Christmas”.  The children’s and adult’s faces just light up when they see Santa.  It did not matter their belief or age.  Everyone was so excited.  Waving frantically at Santa, hoping to catch a wink of his eye.  It was just amazing to see this happen.  Seeing people I know brought tears to my eyes and I got very emotional at first.  I had fun blowing kisses to my dear friends and one time a friend still did not realize who I was until a family member told her who Mrs. Claus was.  The parade came to an end and I had had a blast.
Now it was on to reading Christmas stories in Lisa’s Legit Burritos to the children (which is something I am very comfortable with) while Santa was visiting with children in Johnson Hall.  And of course Mrs. Claus uses her local library to pick out her stories that she reads to the good little girls and boys.
One of the best comments I got after doing this event was from one of our regular storytime attendees: “Miss Ginni, how do you know Santa?”
I could not have done this event without the support of family, friends and co-workers so I say “Thank you for this opportunity to the whole city of Gardiner”.  The feeling was something I will never forget.  It makes you realize just how special the season of giving is.
 Ginni Nichols a.k.a. Mrs. Claus, YA Librarian

RiverFest Activities!

Waterfront Park at about 6:45 this morning – the food vendors have arrived, and continue to arrive and set up for the RiverFest.

You can see the stage being erected (blown up) on the right.

 

Assigned spaces waiting to be filled.

Some of the craft vendors setting up at around 8:00.

8:00ish – you can really see the stage now!

I think this will be a “Bounce House.”

A couple of spot filled now!

Setting up on Water Street.

More vendors displaying their wares.

One last picture – 10:00ish this time.  Folks are beginning to fill the streets, and AmaZinG aromas filling the air.

Hope you have/had a chance to visit Gardiner today!

Teacher Alert!!

Any full-time teacher or supporting staff in RSU # 11 and Litchfield schools may check out up to twenty-five books for classroom use for a four week period.

You may email (cwagner@gpl.lib.me.us) or call (582-6894) to have staff pre-select books to be ready for pick-up at your convenience.
A short contract form is available at the library for this service to teachers.
Class room visits may also be scheduled for any time except Tuesday mornings.  (Story-hour)
Teachers are encouraged to use this opportunity to supplement their school libraries for Common Core requirements.
We welcome your suggestions to foster cooperation and a good working relationship with area schools.