I’ll be honest – I can be sort of creepy. I’ve been known to have the occasional morbid interest, and one of them is in cemeteries. Even during childhood I enjoyed exploring the expanses of local resting places, from Calvary to Evergreen. The summer after 7th grade, I would ride my Huffy to Calvary Cemetery every day of the week with a brown-bag lunch in hand. On an early expedition to the site I had inquired about a large mausoleum in the back of the grounds, only to be told that the entire monument was for a single, lonesome man. Finding this too sad to bear, I ate my lunch at his grave site all summer long, feeding crumbs to the ducks that populated a nearby tributary of the Fore River. Like I said, I can be a bit morbid.
Needless to say, I pride myself on my knowledge of local cemeteries. As an adult, I visit them for long walks with my dog and take the occasional tour at Evergreen Cemetery on Portland’s Stevens Avenue. Friends and I have dared each other to brave Portland’s spooky West End Cemetery after dark, and I love snapping photos of the Tim Burton-esque sign that adorns the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery in South Portland. But I had never been to, let alone heard of, Black Point Cemetery in nearby Scarborough.
I’ve driven down Black Point Road innumerable times in my adult life, as it connects my parent’s home to that of my high-school best friend. I had seen Black Point Cemetery maybe hundreds of times, but never so much as paused to give it a look. Perhaps it’s the modern-looking stone gate out front that deterred me, or that the only parking for visitors is along the busy Black Point thoroughfare. After spying its name on our class list of potential sites, I decided I needed to see what might be the only local cemetery that I’ve yet to visit.
Black Point Cemetery did not disappoint. Stepping out of my car on sunny March 25th in the mid-afternoon, I noticed that the stone gate was not contemporary – in fact, the metal gates that hung between the tall stone pillars were reminiscent of those at the aforementioned Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The first rows of headstones boasted names like “Libby” and “Larabee”, familiar titles of local roads and neighborhoods. The cemetery was clearly the resting place of some important residents. I marveled at the markings on the graves – there were a few familiar symbols, but there were many more I had never previously encountered.
How had a missed out on this historical gold mine for so many years?! There are a plethora of headstones dating back into the 18th century – some so old they employed “f” for “s” in the inscriptions, others had eroded and were now nearly blank. An internet search for “Black Point Cemetery” yielded few useful results, and the same search on the Maine Memory Network resulted in only one hit. The Scarborough Historical Society has possession of a photograph of Addie Kaler-Vaill, a Scarborough woman who erected a tomb at Black Point and set up a trust fund for its maintenance (1).
Wanting to know more about one of the names frequenting the stones at Black Point, I headed to the Scarborough Town website and found a link to a page for Scarborough’s Libby Family. Apparently, John Libby came to America in 1636 and has descendants across the United States, but the family now hosts their annual reunion in Scarborough, and I have a feeling that some of the Libbys I saw at Black Point Cemetery were ancestors of the current Libby clan. A search of the Maine Memory Network results in plenty of hits for “Libby”, and it seems as though members of the large family played prominent rolls in the settlement of Scarborough.
Black Point Cemetery sits just a few miles from the infamous Massacre Point – the site where 19 Scarborough settlers were killed by Native Americans in 1703 (2). This occurred merely a year following Scarborough’s second attempt at settlement in 1702 (3). I wonder if any of those men are interred here at Black Point.
Several of the headstones have engravings of anchors – representative of the individual’s time at sea, but also indicative of Maine’s seafaring culture. Scarborough, with its extensive marshlands, rivers, and streams, may have been a prime place to live for those who made their livelihood on the ocean.
Black Point Cemetery is quite enormous, and I’m unable to explore the entirety of it. But soon, on one of our increasingly-warm spring days, I’ll make a return trip to uncover more about the history of Scarborough, Maine.
1) “Addie Kaler-Vaill,” Maine Memory Network, http://www.mainememory.net/artifact/33669.
2) “About Our Town,” Town of Scarborough Maine, http://www.scarborough.me.us/about.html.
3) “History of Scarborough,” Scarborough Trails, http://www.scarborough.me.us/350thcelebration/links/history.html.