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Whistling through the graveyards: Visiting some of the area’s final resting places

October 27, 2021
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Ruggles Cemetery in Carmel. Ruggles Cemetery in Carmel. (edge photo by Neily Raymond)

If you don’t spend enough time in cemeteries, you aren’t living. Really. 

Sure, it’s a healthy way to face down your own mortality—alas, poor Yorick, and all that—but there’s also legitimate fun to be had in mingling with the dead, and you can’t convince me otherwise. In light of the upcoming Halloween festivities, allowing us a heightened tolerance for the macabre, I’m gifting you a rundown of the most entertaining burial sites in the Bangor area, in no particular order.

Prepare yourself for some serious memento mori action, folks. 

Let’s begin with the obvious—if you’re a denizen of the Bangor area, you’re familiar with Mount Hope Cemetery (1048 State St, Bangor), the enormous garden cemetery overlooking the Penobscot River. Incorporated in 1834, the cemetery was modeled after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, which is also well worth a visit when you’re down Boston-way. 

Mount Hope is painfully picturesque—a high hill with a bell tower, headstones interspersed with old-growth trees, duck ponds with territorial ducks. But you knew all this already. To parse out the secrets of the cemetery, I’d recommend the walking tour periodically offered by the Bangor Historical Society; you’ll be introduced to the grave of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin himself, and, if you’re lucky, to a particular headstone decorated with woven human hair.

The sheer quantity of stones at Mount Hope means that it’s an ideal spot for epitaph-scouting; there are some real doozies here. I found one that simply read, “She hath done what she could.” (Bumper sticker? Anyone?)

Mount Hope is well and good, but some of the finest cemetery-going experiences are to be found in the rural cemeteries that populate the skirts of Bangor. Take Ruggles Cemetery (between 781 and 801 Hampden Rd, Carmel), a small family plot that dates from the founding years of Carmel. The Ruggleses were an accomplished group—look for Rev. Paul Ruggles, one of two men to first settle the town; the Hon. Hiram Ruggles; and Paul Ruggles, MD. Many of the stones are white marble, so their inscriptions remain readable, and they look rather striking against the dense moss and little creeping ground-covers. It’s a good time of year to visit. The whole place smells like fall leaves. (Please note that although the cemetery is on town property, the nearby homeowners graciously tolerate visitors; please be respectful of their space.)

Go north of Bangor and you’ll find Evergreen Cemetery (Boynton St, Bradley), cloistered behind high hedges and a wrought-iron fence in a residential neighborhood. This is the resting place of many of the men and women who established Bradley as a booming mill town in the nineteenth century; they’re still burying folks here. There’s a lone crypt at the front entrance and vase-shaped trees lining the loop road around the cemetery. It’s worth leaving your car and walking around. With its canted headstones and high hedges, Evergreen feels like a graveyard in a picture book.

If you turn left out of Boynton Road and continue down Rt. 178, you’ll come across two erstwhile burial sites alongside 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-am-supposed-to-be-here smile, you’ll enjoy poking around the headstones; spend some time reading dates and names and trying to figure out who is related to whom. 

If the garden-variety buried corpse isn’t spooky enough for you, take a road trip to Buck Cemetery (Hinks St, Bucksport) where you’ll find the grave of Jonathan Buck, founder of Bucksport. According to the town’s Historical Society, local legend (of dubious authenticity) tells that Buck, a devout Puritan, sentenced an alleged witch to execution. Just before the deed was done, the witch is said to have shouted to Buck, “Over your grave they will erect a stone … But listen, upon that stone the imprint of my feet will appear, and for all time, long after you and you accursed race have perished from the earth, will the people from far and wide 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 off. Above it is the shape of a heart. Make of that what you will. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 October 2021 07:48
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