Last week, I introduced you to stonemason Bartlett Adams, who operated a shop in Portland, Maine for nearly 30 years. Much of his work can still be seen today at Portland’s Eastern Cemetery.
Among Adams’ signature accents was a simple rosette. You can see an example of this on the top of the marker for Margaret Newman, who died at the age of three in 1801.
As I noted earlier, Adams was also quite partial to urns. The markers for Benjamin and Sarah Larrabee are prime examples. The husband and wife died about 10 years apart but their markers are almost exactly the same, with a sweeping weeping willow frond hanging over an urn.
Born in 1734 in Falmouth, Mass. (which later became Portland, Maine), Benjamin married Sarah Weeks Brackett in 1763. He died in 1809 at the age of 75. Sarah died about 10 years later in 1819 at the age of 85 and is listed as Benjamin’s “relict” (another word for “widow”) on her marker.
On other occasions, he carved an urn by itself. Ann Hale’s marker is just one example. Beneath her name and death date are the Latin words “Hine lachrymis!” which means “Hence these tears. ” I didn’t find out until after my visit what exactly the inscription at the bottom said:
From death’s arrest could virtue save,
Or Love obtain a wish’d reprieve,
Thou, Anne, has’t scap’d a youthful grave
Nor had Heaven so soon to grieve.
Sometimes Adams combined several elements at the same time. He did this on the marker for Brigadier General Francis Osgood, who served in the Maine Militia during the War of 1812.
Adams goes to great lengths for this marker, including a portrait of the General supported by angel’s wings as part of an urn. Flowering vines climb up the sides. At the bottom, you can read three lines of the inscription before the rest is swallowed up by the ground.
O, ever honor’d, ever dear Adieu,
How many tender names are lost in you,
Keep safe, O Tomb, thy precious trust.
Adams had an affection for certain images and the rising (or setting sun) was one you can find on two markers at Eastern. The motif can mean both the beginning and end of life, or the journey to Heaven. The marker for Lucy Pierce, wife of Eli Pierce, is probably the best example.
If you look closely at the horizon of the sunburst, it almost looks as if the sun is peeking over the edge. At the bottom of the marker is an inscription that was quite popular at the time.
Remember me as you pass by
For as you are so once was I
And as I am so you must be.
Adams married Charlotte Neal in 1803. They had seven children but six of them would predecease their parents. He only lived to see one of his daughters marry and bear him a grandchild. This daughter died shortly after.
Three of Bartlett and Charlotte’s children have markers at Eastern. The most elaborate is the one he made for his firstborn son who was named after him, Bartlett Adams Jr. He was born in 1806 and lived about five months.
From what I’ve read, the image at the top of the marker is meant to reflect Adams’ interpretation of his family crest. It’s quite intricately carved with two spheres separated by a diagonal band with three birds on it. I have to wonder if he was also referring to the idea of little Bartlett’s spirit flying from one world to the next.
At the bottom of the marker is an inscription that seems to echo with the pain of a parent’s anguish.
Betwixt his birth & death, “HOW SHORT THE SPACE?”
Beyond working hard in his shop, Adams (according to Ron Romano) made a monetary pledge for construction of the First Parish Church in 1825. He also invested in the Portland Observatory and had a place on the board of the Charitable Mechanics Association. Clearly, he was involved in his community.
You might think that a man of Adams’ talents would have a grand monument of his own, but sadly he does not. He died in 1828 when he was 51. He and Charlotte are buried in an underground tomb. I am using Ron’s picture from Find a Grave because mine wasn’t as good. The original ledger stone that marked the top of the tomb is gone. The stone in the foreground marks the tomb’s entrance.
In Romano’s research on Adams, he discovered an estimated 1,800 markers made in the stonecutter’s shop in cemeteries throughout Maine in Gray, Harpswell and Buxton. He even found a number of them in a Nova Scotia cemetery.
In a Bangor Daily News article, Romano said it took two or three days to cut an average stone. Adams had two or three men working for him once he got established, and he was in business in Portland for nearly 30 years. That leaves thousands more stones to discover, Romano thinks.
“I know there’s way more out there that I haven’t seen yet,” he said.
Next week, I’ll finish my series on Eastern Cemetery by examining some other markers that feature the flying skulls and crossbones made popular during the Puritan era.
Pat M. said:
200 year old Inscriptions are so clear and sharp, must be the stone material. There was a period (at least in the Midwest) where a concrete looking stone was used and many of the inscriptions are illegible. I need to study tombstone material used, all I know is granite. I enjoy your work!!!