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Inspired by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., Bangor's Mount Hope Cemetery is the second-oldest garden cemetery in the United States. Nearly 30,000 people are buried on the cemetery's 264 acres, including the famous -- such as former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin -- and the infamous -- such as Public Enemy No. 1 Al Brady.

In spring 1834, the Bangor Horticultural Society formed to acquire 100 acres of land on the city's east side near Treat's Falls. Three years earlier, Mount Auburn Cemetery had become the first garden cemetery in the nation. With cities' populations increasing, land for cemeteries had become scarce within cities' limits. Small cemeteries were scattered throughout neighborhoods and business districts. Bangor had cemeteries on Thomas Hill, Oak Street and Hammond Street.

To provide a larger, more peaceful place to honor the dead, the Bangor Horticultural Society sought to follow Mount Auburn's lead in creating a cemetery that would not only pay homage to the dead but to the living, with trees, shrubs, plants and ponds laid out to provide a suitable, attractive and tranquil place for quiet reflection.

The Society folded in September 1834 after never formally meeting, however. Instead, a group of prominent residents established the Mount Hope Cemetery Corp. that month. The corporation convinced Joseph Treat to sell 100 acres of land below the falls that bear his name near the Bangor-Veazie town line for $3,050, with Treat getting another $700 in the corporation's shares.

Office Pond, near the main entrance to Mount Hope, is one of three ponds on the grounds.
Upon buying the land, the corporation hired architect Charles G. Bryant to design the cemetery with two sections: one for burials and the other for horticulture. The cemetery's board of trustees had reservations, though, of whether a section of land on the State Street side would be suitable for burials. The land in that area of the cemetery, at the foot of what would become known as Cemetery Hill, was swampy around a pond.

At first, the trustees tried to drain the pond, but their efforts failed. Today, Office Pond is one of the cemetery's natural attractions, an appropriate complement to the trustees' desire to create a special place in the city.

After two years of planning and landscaping, Mount Hope Cemetery was consecrated on July 21, 1836. The Rev. Frederick H. Hedge -- representing the Unitarian Church -- and the Revs. Swan L. Pomroy and John Maltby -- representing the Congregational Church -- presided, along with then-Mayor Edward Kent.

Samuel Call, who had died on July 9, 1836, was the first person buried in the cemetery, atop Cemetery Hill overlooking the Penobscot River. A 10-foot obelisk marks his grave. The first lots cost $30.

Over the years, the cemetery's trustees bought more land to accommodate the grounds' popularity.

"Mount Hope is greatly improving and will one day be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country," Bangor probate judge John Edward Godfrey wrote in his journal after attending a Memorial Day service at the cemetery in 1873.

In 1889, the trustees acquired land just beyond the Bangor-Veazie town line; Veazie allowed Bangor to annex the property.


Soldiers Monument is perhaps the oldest U.S. Civil War monument.
Mount Hope's long history has allowed it to acquire a number of notable monuments throughout its now 264-acre expanse. The cemetery may have the oldest Civil War monument in the country.

Native son Stephen Decatur Carpenter died in battle on Dec. 31, 1862, in Kentucky. After his body arrived in Bangor, area residents decided to erect a monument to honor Carpenter and others who would eventually die in the cause to keep the Union together.

On June 17, 1864, the cemetery dedicated Soldiers Monument, a 20-foot high obelisk near the main entrance, where Carpenter's body had been buried. Carpenter's body was moved to his family's plot in 1881 at his family's request.

Mount Hope is home to two other Civil War memorials. On Oct. 7, 1907, the Grand Army of the Republic fort and burial ground for Civil War veterans was dedicated when the Soldiers Monument lot filled up. And in the 1960s, a memorial to the 2nd Maine Regiment was dedicated near the cemetery's main entrance at the bequest of Luther Hills Peirce.

2nd Maine Regiment memorial.
Designed by Vernon Shaffer of Beloit, Wis., the 2nd Maine memorial features a bronze sculpture of a faceless angel carrying a wounded soldier set atop a marble slab that bears the inscription: "Not painlessly doth God recast and mold anew the nation." The line is from John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Em Feste Burg 1st Unser Gott," or "Luther's Hymn."

Born in 1837, Peirce graduated from Yale University in 1858 and served in the 2nd Maine from 1861 to the end of the war. He died in 1915.

The 2nd Maine fought in such battles as Bull Run and Fredericksburg. In addition to funding the 2nd Maine memorial, Peirce also bequeathed money to Bangor that the city used to acquire land in the Kenduskeag Stream for Norumbega Parkway and to erect a memorial to the city's rich forestry heritage -- the River Drivers memorial at Peirce Memorial Park, next to Bangor Public Library.

The most recent war memorial erected at Mount Hope is the Maine Korean War Memorial. On the cemetery's Mount Hope Avenue side, the Korean War Memorial was dedicated on July 29, 1995. It bears the names of all 233 Mainers killed or missing in what some have called the forgotten war. The memorial also features 21 flags representing the countries that fought in the war.

Notable grave sites

Hannibal Hamlin's grave site.
In addition to having some of the oldest and finest war memorials in the nation, Mount Hope is also the final resting place for some of Bangor's, the state's and even the nation's most famous and infamous characters.

Hannibal Hamlin, who served as Abraham Lincoln's first vice president, is buried in the Riverview Lawn section of the cemetery, on the grounds' State Street side. A Paris Hill, Maine, native and a lawyer for the town of Hampden, Hamlin served in the Maine Legislature, as Maine governor and as a Maine representative and senator in Congress. He would have become the first and only president from Maine if not for his party's choosing Andrew Johnson, from Tennessee, to serve as vice president during Lincoln's second term. The Republicans thought it best to choose a southerner to balance the ticket to ease tensions with the South after the Civil War.

Buried alongside Hamlin are his children Sara and Charles. They witnessed Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre in Washington on April 14, 1865.

Rufus Dwinel's grave site.
One-time Bangor mayor Rufus Dwinel may not be as well-remembered as Hamlin, but thousands of motorists along the State Street side of Mount Hope are familiar with his grave site. A lumber baron, Dwinel died in 1869 and was buried under a large sarcophagus raised above ground on four granite pillars. Most people who pass the cemetery think Dwinel's body is in the sarcophagus. But it is not. The sarcophagus is solid granite.

The most infamous character to claim Mount Hope as his final resting place is gangster Al Brady. After the FBI killed John Dillinger, Brady claimed the title of Public Enemy No. 1 when he and his gang of thugs went on a crime and killing spree that led them from the Midwest to what they thought were the backwoods of Maine in 1937. Brady and his gang thought they could lie low and be safe while the FBI and other law enforcement officials scoured the rest of the Northeast for them after they escaped from prison and killed a police officer.

Brady and his men were wrong about Maine, though. Brady and another of his men were killed in a fire fight in the middle of Central Street in downtown Bangor on Oct. 12, 1937. Brady's family said it could not afford to bury him, so the federal government and Bangor buried Brady's body in an unmarked grave in Mount Hope's newer section, across Mount Hope Avenue.

As for the lesser known, but nevertheless notable, grave sites, visitors to Mount Hope can see the tomb for Samuel Veazie and the Webber and Hill family mausoleums.

Owner of one of the nation's first railroads, which went from Bangor to Old Town, Veazie founded the town that bears his name after becoming fed up with taxes in Bangor and convincing residents of that section of Bangor to secede from the Queen City. His family's tomb is embedded on the western side of Cemetery Hill, overlooking the Superintendent's Lodge near the main entrance.

The Maine Korean War Memorial lists the names of all 233 Maine soldiers killed or missing in action in that war. The memorial was unveiled on July 29, 1995.
On the Riverview Lawn side of Cemetery Hill is the Webber mausoleum. Franklin R. Webber and his wife, Martha, gave the Mount Hope trustees money for an iron-wrought fence on the cemetery's State Street side in the early 1920s. In the early 1930s, they gave the cemetery money to build the Webber Waiting Room, also on the State Street side, for visitors awaiting the trolley.

Designed by Bangor architect George I. Mansur, brother of well-known Bangor architect Wilfred Mansur, the Webber Waiting Room is 15 feet high and 10 feet in diameter inside, with a bronze ceiling.

The Hill family mausoleum is yet another attraction worth seeing at Mount Hope. Built in 1918, the round granite building is on the east end of the cemetery. It is the final resting place for Frederick Hill, wife Marianne and mother-in-law Nancy O. Egery.

Marianne died on Aug. 15, 1915, and bequeathed funds for the mausoleum's construction. When the mausoleum was finished in 1918, Frederick put his wife's body to rest in the structure and transferred the body of his mother-in-law, who had died in 1899, from Mount Auburn in Cambridge to the family mausoleum, per his wife's request. Frederick died on April 20, 1920.

A philanthropist, Frederick gave the Bangor Public Library, Eastern Maine General Hospital (now Eastern Maine Medical Center), the University of Maine, the YMCA and Bangor's Home for Aged Women a total of more than $2 million upon his death.

Frederick turned the mausoleum over to the cemetery's care upon his death and left detailed instructions for its upkeep, according to Irene Scee in her book "Mount Hope Cemetery: A Twentieth Century History." He directed the trustees to keep the glass doors to the mausoleum open from May 1 to Nov. 1, except in stormy weather. The grill outside of the glass doors was to remain closed at all times. In addition, Hill left a $50,000 trust fund to the Eastern Trust and Banking Co. of Bangor so a dozen roses could be placed in a vase in the tomb twice a week from May 1 to Nov. 1, according to Scee. He directed that roses also be placed in the tomb on Christmas, Memorial Day and Easter. In addition, he directed the cemetery to inspect the mausoleum periodically and make necessary repairs.

Mount Hope today

Tomb Pond.
As cremation became more popular in the 1960s, Mount Hope opened a crematorium in December 1972. In its first full year of operation, the crematorium carried out 158 cremations in 1973. In the 28 years since then, the crematorium's load has increased dramatically. In 1980, the cemetery performed 337 cremations; in 1990 the number rose to 895; and in 1995 the cemetery cremated 1,281 bodies.

Although public mausoleums enjoy some popularity in large urban areas, the concept has not caught on at Mount Hope. In 1986, the cemetery opened a public mausoleum on the east end of the grounds, but it has yet to reach capacity. Meanwhile, the cemetery has begun to design and landscape additional plots for burials on the northern side, across Mount Hope Avenue.

In 1989, the cemetery made its motion picture debut in Stephen King's "Pet Sematary" for two scenes. Shot from Sept. 27-29, 1988, the scenes take place on the State Street side of Cemetery Hill. The film crew had to wait until 2 a.m. to get the right moonlight for a shot of the lead character digging up his son's body.

The cemetery was added to the National Register of Historical Places in December 1974.

The cemetery is open to the public seven days a week. The gates close at 4:30 p.m. in the winter and at 7:30 p.m. in the summer. In the summer, the Bangor Museum and Center for History conducts guided tours for $10. If you prefer, you can print a map from the cemetery's Web site and explore on your own. Dogs are not allowed.

1995-2012, Ryan R. Robbins. All rights reserved.

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