Maine Mysteries: Who is in the mass grave at Portland's Eastern Promenade

Maine mysteries - mass grave

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- You may know Portland's Eastern Promenade as a seaside green space where locals and visitors come to play, exercise, and relax.... But you may not know the history of the grounds, or what lies just below your feet when you're there.

Located at the bottom of Quebec Street is a grave site- a memorial to several American soldiers who died during the War of 1812. After hundreds of American Soldiers were captured by the British following the battle of Queenstown, Canada, the prisoners were loaded onto a ship bound for Boston to be traded for imprisoned British soldiers. But 24 American prisoners fell so ill, they had to be dropped off at a hospital on the Eastern Promenade. It is said that 21 of the soldiers died and were buried there... but not all are convinced of that.

Reference Historian for the Maine Historical Society, William Barry, said eight of the 21 soldiers are unknown. There's no complete record of al the soldiers who dies, only 13 names are confirmed. The stone that originally marked the grave site labeled with that number wasn't placed until 1887. By then, a pest house had stood on the site where smallpox victims were taken and also buried. 

"Mingled among them were smallpox victims, but there weren't any gravestones," Barry said.

Barry references an account from a 1903 Portland Sunday Telegram article by then Maine Historical Librarian, Nathan Goold. Goold argued that the soldier were actually brought to a hospital on the other side of Quebec Street, at Fort Sumner, and that the other eight victims buried in the mass grave are those who succumbed to smallpox later in that century.

However, without a full, confirmed record of everyone who died, the truth about who is actually buried in the mass grave may never be known.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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