The Mount Hope Cemetery of Bangor, Maine: The Complete History

“By the early 1800s, Bangor, Maine was a thriving community in dire need of new cemetery space.” So starts Trudy Irene Scee’s new history of Mount Hope Cemetery. The group of men who set out to meet this ongoing and indeed increasing need in the early 1830s, at the same time as Bangor incorporated as a city, according to Scee, “sought to meet community needs in a manner heretofore unseen. They took a novel approach in securing land for a new cemetery and in ensuring that their new burial grounds would be something unique on the American landscape.” As Scee describes it, these men, who first incorporated as the Bangor Horticultural Society, perceived, as did a few individuals elsewhere, “the benefits of creating cemeteries that would serve the needs of the living as well as provide burial sites for the dead.” In 1834, the society purchased fifty acres of land and immediately thereafter created the second earliest “garden cemetery” in America––“a cemetery designed to serve as a haven for the living as well as a final resting place for the deceased.”

Mount Hope Cemetery was created as a private, non-sectarian cemetery, and remains one to this day. By 2012, however, the cemetery, long-since reincorporated as the Mount Hope Cemetery Corporation, would include 264 acres of land and a history some 178 years in duration, not including the planning stage before its initial incorporation.

Although Dr. Scee’s new book traces the history of burials in Bangor, Maine, to the early 1800s and the establishment of Mount Hope Cemetery specifically to 1833, her new book also includes and supersedes her earlier work, Mount Hope Cemetery, A Twentieth-Century History. Scee’s previous book is sandwiched in its entirety between her research on Mount Hope’s nineteenth-century development and her sequel to the earlier publication. Part One of the new book focuses on the nineteenth-century establishment and development of Mount Hope Cemetery, Part Two is a reproduction––with some new photographs and a map––of Mount Hope Cemetery, A Twentieth-Century History, and Part Three, the sequel, focuses on the more recent developments of the late 1990s through the early 2010s.

Mount Hope Cemetery of Bangor Maine; The Complete History is, as its name indicates, a complete and comprehensive history of the cemetery. Scee used cemetery documents dating to 1834 plus various town, city, state, and other primary records dating to the 1790s to discuss both the cemetery itself and its relationship to the Bangor community and the region. Over ninety images illustrate the history and beauty of the cemetery, images ranging from an extensive array of photographs––many of them taken by the author, the superintendent of the cemetery, and by cemetery staff––to postcards dating to 1910, to a few maps––one of them a reproduction from the 1870s––to reproductions of paintings of community and cemetery leaders from the early 1800s.

Although the book is in many ways an administrative history, it also captures the integral relationship between the cemetery and its community. Mount Hope grew and changed over the years, adding new services to meet regional needs. These changes, as well as the astute legal and fiscal management of cemetery are discussed in the new book. So, too are the many charitable contributions of the Mount Hope Cemetery Corporation covered, from gifts of burial sites to a children’s home to its aid in the creation of several memorials honoring American veterans from the mid-1800s to the early 2000s.

Mount Hope Cemetery of Bangor, Maine likewise discusses the more “glamorous” aspects of the cemetery, from its early leaders––who often led colorful lives themselves––to the interments of Bangor’s most famous madam, Fan Jones; of America’s Public Enemy Number One, Al Brady and one of his sidekicks; of a “gypsy princess;” and interments of other local and national characters. Cemetery lore is included, as are such events as the filming of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary at Mount Hope.

And of course, the actual creation of the garden cemetery is discussed in detail. This includes the creation of ponds and waterways, a working all-season water system, scenic and functional bridges, meandering small paths and roadways, plus the planting of ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mount Hope Cemetery remains a well-organized multi-service institution as well a beautiful site for people to visit, and visit they do. Purchase your book soon to ensure that you receive an autographed copy.