ROCKLAND, Maine ― Five years ago, little was known of the dozens of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans who are buried in a 238-year-old cemetery on a side road in Rockland.
But the Lady Knox Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is on a mission to change that.
After completing the restoration of Tolman Cemetery in 2017―and listing it on the National Register of Historic Places―the women of the Lady Knox Chapter are working on a book detailing the history of the cemetery and the lives of the 42 American veterans who serve there. are buried.
The women have been researching the details of the men’s lives over the past two years and hope to complete their book by 2023. The Lady Knox Chapter is working with Thomaston-based Maine Authors Publishing to publish their book.
“We want men to come to life, we want them to be real, not just a stone, not just a slab, we want them to be real. We want people to understand what they’ve been through,” said Lady Knox Chapter Regent Joanne Richards. “There does not appear to be any information gathering on the cemetery at this time. So this will be the first attempt to try to get it.
The Daughters of the American Revolution is a national organization with approximately 3,000 chapters across the United States. The organization is open to women who can trace their family history to soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. It focuses on promoting historic preservation, patriotism and education.
The Lady Knox Chapter of the DAR first became involved with the Tolman Cemetery―located on Lake Drive―about five years ago when a local man went to the cemetery to locate the grave of a relative. After seeing the dire state of the cemetery, he contacted the local DAR chapter.
About a third of the headstones were broken, with some pieces strewn all over the cemetery and others bent over.
“It was awful,” Richards said.
The cemetery, which includes 242 headstones, was established in 1783. The land was provided by Isaiah Tolman, a local landowner who served as a member of the Committee of Safety during the American Revolution. The cemetery was used until the mid-1800s.
Although the Rockland Cemetery Association kept the grass trimmed, it had no records of those buried in the cemetery, which Richards said was unusual. It is not known why there were no records for this cemetery. The Rockland Historical Society also had no records specific to the cemetery, according to Richards.
After raising $25,000, a massive restoration effort was undertaken over a two-week period at the cemetery in the summer of 2017. Women from the Lady Knox Chapter worked with a headstone conservator to repair broken headstones and clean the others. Volunteers from the Maine Old Cemetery Association also participated.
In the process, they realized a mistake about a monument erected by the National DAR in 1947. It listed the names of 21 Revolutionary War soldiers buried there, but the Lady Knox Chapter realized three other men who either served in the war or helped the revolution. efforts have also been made to rest there.
Additionally, 18 War of 1812 veterans are buried in the cemetery.
“We were determined to honor these guys,” Richards said.
After doing extensive research during the restoration process, into the origins of the cemetery and the people buried there, Richards said it seemed like a good idea to start compiling a book.
“By doing this, we learned a lot about them. But these are only names, numbers and dates on stones. We wanted to make them more alive. We want them to look more like people,” Richards said.
Work on the book began in earnest around 2019. Since then, the women of the Lady Knox Chapter have scoured records found at genealogy sites, local libraries and historical societies to gather information about veterans buried at the cemetery. by Tolman.
While most of the research on the facts of the men’s lives has been completed, they are currently seeking more information from families or local historians that may not be included in the public record, such as stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, Richards mentioned.
“You go in there and you find out the things that happened in their lives that were either wonderful or horrible, you know. And so the whole goal was to make these people real,” Richards said.
Richards affectionately refers to the veterans buried in Tolman Cemetery as “the boys.” She visits them frequently to make sure everything is in order, both placing and picking up flags as the seasons change.
She may never have known them in her lifetime, but she is committed to preserving their legacy for generations to come.
“It became a love project, actually,” Richards said. “I kind of consider these guys like family. [I’ve] spent so much time with them.