Western Cemetery (Portland, Maine)

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Western Cemetery
Front Entrance to the Western Cemetery.jpg
The front gate to the Western Cemetery on Vaughan Street
LocationPortland, Maine
CountryUnited States
Coordinates43°38′44″N 70°16′26″W / 43.6455°N 70.2740°W / 43.6455; -70.2740Coordinates: 43°38′44″N 70°16′26″W / 43.6455°N 70.2740°W / 43.6455; -70.2740
Size12 acres (4.9 ha)
No. of graves~6,600
Find a GraveWestern Cemetery
The Political GraveyardWestern Cemetery
The Western Cemetery in September 2011.

The Western Cemetery is an urban cemetery in Portland, Maine. At one time Portland's home for the "poor and indigent", the cemetery is named after for its location in Portland's West End neighborhood and proximity to the Western Promenade. Founded in the 18th century, the land was acquired by the city in 1829. In 1841, the city expanded the cemetery to its present 12 acres (4.9 ha). The Western Cemetery was Portland's primary cemetery from 1829–1852, when Evergreen Cemetery was established in Deering, then a suburb of Portland. It was an active cemetery until 1910.[1] In October 2003, the cemetery began a restoration and reconstruction project was run by the Stewards of the Western Cemetery and the City of Portland and funded with municipal funds.[2]

Desecrations and disorganization[edit]

The Western Cemetery is known for a large number of grave desecrations and general disorganization; for example, from July 1, 1988 to August 1, 1989, an estimated 1,942 tombs were desecrated. Likewise, it is unknown how many burials have taken place in the cemetery, though author William Jordan estimated 6,600. A plan was laid out in 1840, but the document was destroyed in the 1866 Great Fire which destroyed most of the city. A number of tombs have been opened with no contents found inside; for example the Longfellow tomb, home to the parents of Portland resident Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was opened and nothing was found inside, with no record of what happened to those entombed there.[3]

Old Catholic Ground[edit]

The Old Catholic Ground is an area of the cemetery for the primarily Irish Catholic immigrants who fled the Irish Potato Famine and settled in Portland. From 1843 to 1882, 900 people were buried in the section. As of 2003, 57 headstones remained. The section is also known for headstones containing references to Irish counties and is built on what used to be known as Brown's Hill.[3] In 1999, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division I, erected a stone marking the area as the Catholic Ground, and commemorating those who perished during, or fled from, The Great Hunger.[4]

Portland Maine Irish Great Hunger Memorial

Notable burials[edit]


  1. ^ Western Cemetery 2 Vaughan Street, Portland, Maine City of Portland, Maine
  2. ^ Greater Portland Graves
  3. ^ a b c Maine's coastal cemeteries: a historic tour by Karen Wentworth Batignani, 2003 via Google Books
  4. ^ "Maine Irish Heritage Trail". www.maineirishheritagetrail.org. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  5. ^ Albion Parris BioGuide, US Congress

Further reading[edit]

  • Burial records, 1811–1980, of the Western Cemetery in Portland, Maine ISBN 1-55613-060-0
  • The Western Cemetery Project, Ancient Order of Hibernians, South Portland, Maine