Eastern Cemetery: 224 Congress Street
Located on a height of land at the base of Munjoy Hill, this cemetery provides nearly six acres of open space to the City. Filled with beautifully carved stones and monuments, it offers an outstanding views of the Casco Bay Islands, Bug Light, and Portland's harbor, waterfront and downtown business district. Eastern Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and has been designated a historic cemetery by the City of Portland. Pedestrian access is via paved sidewalks; vehicle access is via Congress St and Washington Ave. There is pedestrian access only beyond the cemetery gate and the ground is uneven.
Established in 1668
The resting place of Portland's earliest settlers, Eastern Cemetery was declared a public "burying ground" in 1668 and remained active until the 1860's. Current estimates number nearly 7,000 people buried with about 3,500 monuments and markers remaining. The City constructed the granite Receiving Tomb in 1849 and by 1870 had built the "Dead House" to protect its entrance and to provide storage. The present case iron fence along Congress St was erected in 1918, salvaged from the original Portland High School.
Religious, civic and business leaders who shaped the social, cultural and economic development of the City are buried here. Soldiers who fought in the earliest colonial wars to those who served in the Civil War can be found. The commanders of the American ship "Enterprise" and British ship "Boxer" are buried side-by-side, receiving mention in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem My Lost Youth. Tabitha and Stephen Longfellow, the poet's great-grandparents, are buried here, as is his uncle, Lieutenant Henry Wadsworth, who died in Tripoli during the Barbary War. Portland's first resident stone carver, Bartlett Adams, is here as are his three young children, under the beautifully carved stones he made for them.
Spirits Alive, Friends of Eastern CemeterySpirits Alive, a volunteer nonprofit organization formed in 2006, is dedicated to the protection and preservation of Eastern Cemetery through education and conservation. The group funded the Master Plan for Easter Cemetery, adopted by Portland's City Council in 2012. Installation of a water line by the City in 2014 significantly improved the group's ability to clean, conserve and repair gravestones and monuments. Repairs of the Congress St. fencing and renovation of the Dead House were completed in 2015-2016. Walking tours are offered several days each week in the summer and fall.
Western Cemetery: 2 Vaughan Street
This historic cemetery, dating from the late 1700s, is Portland’s second oldest cemetery. The land which became Western Cemetery was purchased by the city in 1829. In 1841. more land was added, bringing the total land area of the cemetery to its present 12 acres. Western Cemetery was Portland’s primary burial ground from 1829 until 1852 (when Evergreen Cemetery was established). It remained active until 1910.
Open & Wooded Space
Western Cemetery is a significant element of the Western Promenade open space. Adjacent to the southern end of the Promenade, it slopes gently down from north to south, overlooking the Fore River Basin and the western horizon. While the Western Promenade offers a majestic view of surrounding areas and distant mountain tops, the Western Cemetery provides an enclosed wooded space.
Stroudwater CemeteryThis cemetery was established in 1739 and has 1.55 acres of land.
The Grand Trunk CemeteryAlso referred to as the Presumpscot Cemetery at Back Cove or the East Deering Village Cemetery, Grand Trunk is but a remnant of what it once was; it’s the final resting place of those who came to settle on farms along the rim of today’s Ocean Avenue during the rebuilding of ancient Falmouth, now Portland, after 1718. Located in a wooded area behind the Presumpscot School, across the soccer field off Washington Ave, the Cemetery stands as a reminder of the long-term effects of misuse and vandalism, and a testament to the determination of concerned citizens to preserve history and to honor the dead.
The Grand Trunk Cemetery was established c. 1740 by the first families who migrated from Cape Ann when Maine was a colony within the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Isaac Sawyer Sr. and his sons & daughters settled in 1728. It is believed that the first three generations of Sawyers to come to Portland are interred here, beginning with Isaac Sawyer, Jr. who died in 1749. Other notable families: Joseph Noyce and James Lunt and Jasper Blake settled on farms between 1730 and 1740. These were the new Proprietors of the town that would become the Portland of today. A number of their descendants are interred at the cemetery.
The Sawyer family is the largest family group interred here along with fourteen other families whose names have survived: Barbour, Boothby, Davis, Frank, Galvin, Graves, Johnson, Lunt, Merrill, Moseley, Small, Smith and Wilcox. While merely 47 names of the deceased survived in city records, a survey conducted in 1936 by the WPA counted 197 marked graves of those buried at the cemetery from 1749 to 1894 when the Grand Trunk Cemetery became one of Portland’s inactive cemeteries. Over the years, perhaps because of its remote location, the cemetery was devastated by age, weather, and vandalism. All but eight monuments, mostly broken, remain of the original stones.
Over the last seven years, great effort has been expended by volunteers; local citizens and staff from the city of Portland, thanks to a Girl Scout Gold Award project entitled "Unearthing the Roots of the Back Cove and East Deering Communities" to recover dignity to the ancient burial site. In 2012, after extensive research and determination, The Grand Trunk Veterans Memorial was established and six replacement monuments for veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 were dedicated. Three more stones were obtained from the Veterans Administration and placed in the enclosure along with the memorial stone for James Moseley, a veteran of the Civil War who came from Rhode Island and settled here.
In October 2014, the Grand Trunk Cemetery was re-dedicated to the memory of the 197 souls interred here from c. 1740 – 1894 with the placement of a memorial stone which is inscribed as follows: "Sacred to The Memory of the Settlers of East Deering Village, Est. C.1740 - 1894". Today there are lovely gardens, a product of annual planting parties, two benches for enjoying the peace and tranquility of the site, and walking trails and the old tracks from the Grand Trunk Railroad. A kiosk with a graphic depiction holds a map and the surviving names of the souls interred.
1812 Cemetery: Eastern Promenade
Located on the Eastern Promenade at the foot of Quebec Street, this little-known mass grave is marked by a boulder which commemorates the communal graves of 21 POW's from the War of 1812.
From a 1987 memo by John DiPaolo:
"The story of the mass grave goes back to December 23, 1812 when the British warship, HMS Regulus, en route from Quebec to Boston with American soldiers taken prisoner at the battle of Queenstown, put into the Port of Portland under flag of truce and anchored. Their leader was Lt. Colonel Winfield Scott, later known as "Old Fuss and Feathers" in the US Army. Many of the prisoners aboard were sick with fever, malnutrition and dysentery. The 24 most severely ill were landed and housed in the Town Hospital on the Eastern Promenade on December 29th according to the old records. Within a month, 21 of these prisoners had died. They were buried in a mass grave at the foot of Quebec Street. The bronze plaque affixed to the boulder that marked the site was imprinted with the names of the soldiers buried there in 1887."