Saying good bye to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park was difficult, but it was time to head back to Portland to catch our flight back to Atlanta.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try to hit at least one more cemetery on the way to the airport. I chose the Old Burial Ground in Ellsworth for my final hop and it didn’t disappoint.
Situated on the Union River that feeds into Union River Bay, Ellsworth is one of those picturesque New England towns that typify the area. Lots of historic homes, places to grab a lobster roll or chowder, a quaint bridge. It’s a tourist’s dream.
Finding the Old Burial Ground was easy, they’re close to the bustling main artery that runs through town. You can find it behind the very handsome looking First Congregational United Church of Christ, organized in 1812. The current Greek Revival building was constructed in 1846, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Old Burial Ground, according to Find a Grave, has about 155 graves. Eighty percent of those have been photographed. It starts out level but then goes down a gradual hillside that ends in a parking lot for the Department of Motor Vehicles, of all things. More on that later!
Near the front of the cemetery, you can see two sets of three markers. In both cases, two parents are buried with an unmarried daughter between them. And in both cases, the wife died a few months after her husband.
Born in Litchfield, Maine in July 1801, Thomas Robinson was the ninth child of William and Mary Stinson Robinson’s 10 children. He attended what was then Waterville College (later to became Colby College, of which he would become a trustee) and graduated in 1827. He moved to Ellsworth after that and studied law with the Hon. John Deane. At some point, he married Elizabeth Chamberlain. They would have five children over the course of their marriage.
Thomas served at least one term in the Maine State Senate in 1838 and may have served in other capacities. In 1844, he was president of the Maine State Whig Convention. When Thomas died in 1856 at the age of 57, his obituary noted that “He was a man of quiet but earnest character, and had gathered to himself many warm personal friends, who mourn his loss.”
Elizabeth died in 1849 at the age of 40. Thomas’ will indicates he remarried at some point to a woman named Margaret and they had two children, to whom half his estate was bequeathed. He left his only unwed daughter, Frances, $500. I was impressed at the detail of his will but since he was a skilled lawyer, he wanted his final affairs to be as orderly as possible.
Frances, who is buried between her parents, died at the age of 23 in 1864. She never married.
Buried behind the Robinsons are three members of the Chamberlain family, their plot surrounded by an iron fence. Judge John Chamberlain, his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Caroline are buried there.
Born in 1781, John Chamberlain was the son of John and Mary Jackson Chamberlain. He married Mary Hopkins, daughter of James Hopkins, one of the first settlers of what is now Ellsworth.
A judge, John Chamberlain served as a justice of the peace, merchant, businessman, and farmer. He was also a Selectman and county commissioner during his life. He died in 1839 at the age of 59. Wife Mary died just a few months later.
It’s unknown how many children he and Mary had. But daughter Caroline is buried between them. She never married and died at the age of 29.
Judge Chamberlain built a Federal-style home that became known as the Chamberlain House. It was later purchased and used as a dentist’s office, known by many as the Whitney House. The building now serves as the site off the Ellsworth Historical Society and is being restored to its original glory.
Across the path, a much older slate stone marks the grave of Melatiah Jordan, the man for whom the church and the burial ground owe their existence.
Born in 1753 to Samuel and Merry Bourne Jordan, Melatiah came from a distinguished family that included the Rev. Robert Jordan, who came to Maine in 1640 from England. Samuel, a graduate of Harvard, was a member of the general court and a Town Officer in Biddeford for many years.
Samuel and Melatiah operated a lumber business together near Franklin, Maine before Melatiah settled in Ellsworth. He married Elizabeth Jellison in 1776 and they would have a total of 13 children over the course of their marriage. She died in 1819, not long after her husband.
A Revolutionary War veteran, Melatiah was often referred to as “Colonel Jordan”. He was commissioned to be the first collector of customs of Frenchman’s Bay by President George Washington. This basically meant collecting the duties imposed by the government on any vessels coming through the area, depending on the ship’s tonnage and goods carried. He served from 1789 until his death in 1818.
Apparently, it was a good time to be a customs officer because of the amount of smuggling that took place. Melatiah and his fellow collectors benefited greatly by dividing the profits that came from the seizure of ships carrying contraband. It made Melathiah Jordan quite a wealthy man over the years.
The Federal-style house Melathiah built in 1817 for his son, Benjamin, was called the Jordan House. Today it serves as the Ellsworth Public Library.
Not long before his death, Melatiah donated the land for the Congregational Church and paid for construction of a meeting house on it. The building was not completed until after he died. He also donated the land for the old burial ground, in which he is now interred.
Buried near his parents is son Benjamin Jordan. He and his wife, Sarah Dutton Jordan, had at least six children. They lived in the Jordan House for several years until he sold it to shipbuilder Seth Tisdale. Benjamin lived to the ripe age of 79.
Next time, we’ll make our way down the hillside at the Ellsworth Old Burial Ground.
Richard W Burbank said:
Thanks for this great post! My wife is a niece of Thomas Robinson, many times removed. It is interesting to see his migration from Litchfield.
I’m thrilled to know someone related to Mr. Robinson read it! He fits the pattern for a young lawyer of that era by studying with a seasoned attorney. Ellsworth was a bustling town at that time, too. Thanks for your kind words.😊
I live up the hill from the Ellsworth Olde Cemetery and was looking to see if anyone had the names of people that I couldn’t read.
This year, for the first time in 48 years, I noticed the forsythia hedge behind the Robinson/ Chamberlain grave sites. I am a poet and an artist, and thought this view would be different from others who travel thru town and visit the cemetery.
Thank you for your interesting post.
Glad you enjoyed it! Beautiful cemetery in a town with so much history. I’m very happy that we stopped there that day.
Terri Weed Cormier said:
this is lovely, thank you. I have more information on the Chamberlain and Hopkins family as well as another interesting story of the wife of Moses Adams who was murdered and is buried there as well. email me at email@example.com Terri Weed Cormier, Ellsworth historical Society