When Brunswick’s Director of Planning and Development, Anna Breinich, recently packed to move to the new town offices on Union Street she came across an unusual item: an eight-by-twelve inch tombstone engraved with the name Frances. A note on the bottom of the marker indicates it was found at the Stowe House in 1979. There’s a chip on the bottom right hand corner, the chiseled shoulders at the top of the stone are not quite symmetrical, and there is a large crack on the back.
And so the mystery begins. Who was Frances? When did she die? Where is she buried? Why was her marker in the Stowe House? Was it stolen and hidden away or was it replaced with a new one? Did she or her survivors live at 63 Federal St? Or was there a burying ground in that area sometime in the past?
Who was Frances? A search of the Historic Preservation Survey cards at Pejepscot Historical Society for 63 Federal St., site of the Stowe House, yielded the names of two previous owners and a handful of occupants. There was one Fanny, a nickname for Frances. She was Fanny (Davis) Hall, who married William Hall in 1808. The Wheeler brothers’ 1878 history of Brunswick lists four William Halls. A more thorough deed search might reveal other families with a Frances.
When did Frances die? Ancestry.com yielded no results for Fanny Hall, our only current possiblity. Where is she buried? She wasn’t listed in online records for First Parish, Maquoit, Growstown, and Pine Grove Cemeteries.
Was Frances’s stone replaced by her family, perhaps because of the crack on the back or the imperfection of the original carving, the old stone being relegated to the barn? There is precedence. Years ago when a damaged stone of a young woman buried in nearby Pine Grove Cemetery was replaced, the discarded stone was used as a paver in the walkway in another yard on Federal St.
Perhaps Frances hadn’t lived at 63 Federal St. but had instead been buried in the area. A March 27, 1901, Brunswick Telegraph account of local funeral and burial customs in the early 1800s states: Many people who did not own lots in the cemetery (First Parish Cemetery) were buried on the brow of the hill, where Stetson St. is now located.
Stetson St. connects to Jordan Ave. (formerly Pearl St.) at the brow of a hill. It is possible there was an ancient burying ground in the vicinity.
How will we solve the mystery of Frances and return her tombstone to its proper place? This month, instead of posting only on the first Saturday, I’ll post updates each of the following three Saturdays. These will include:
- The complete Brunswick Telegraph article on early funeral services and burials
- Analysis of site studies performed for Stowe House owner, Bowdoin College
- Deed research
- Suggestions from our readers
So, dear Reader, please leave your comments and suggestions on the blog or Facebook pages. Frances is waiting.
- Thompson Street is now known as School Street (with thanks to Priscilla Davis)
- Jordan Avenue was formerly known as Pearl Street
- Ancient Burying Ground is a legal term meaning a private cemetery established before 1880
- Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
- The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A., http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/index.html, 2014
- Historic Preservation Survey. Goff, John, et al. Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta, Maine, circa 1980
- Maine Revised Statutes, Title 13, Chapter 83: Cemetery Corporations, 1101-A. Definition. http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/13/title13ch83sec0.html
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878