Evergreen cemetery, established in 1854, is Portland’s largest cemetery, designed as a nineteenth century Victorian rural cemetery and modeled after Mt. Auburn Cemetery, “America’s first garden cemetery,” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Still in use, the cemetery and its oldest sections reflect the era’s social values, including ideas about women. The Friends of Evergreen Cemetery conduct several tours including one discussing the graves and tombstones of notable women such as Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat (1823-1908) (site S23), Adeline Bond Rines (1887-1976) and her daughter, Mary Rines Thompson (site S02 and site W10 for both), Helen Augusta Blanchard (1840-1922), and Augusta Merrill Barstow Hunt (1842-1932) (site S10).
Hilda Ives (site S18), Katharine Reed Balentine (site W11) and Mary Brewer Nash Flagg (site W16), all active in women’s and other progressive causes in the early-to-mid twentieth century, also are buried here on Ash, Elmwood and Willow Avenues, respectively. Of interest as well is a plot for the Home for Aged Women (site W18). Middle class and wealthy advocates for social reform in the nineteenth century, including Augusta M. Hunt, supported the creation of institutions for aged and indigent women. These were in effect Protestant, while Catholic and Jewish groups created their own homes and cemeteries.
A walk including these sites should take about 45 minutes to an hour. Maps of the cemetery with points of interest are available from the cemetery office and online at Friends of Evergreen.
Mary Ellen Lunt Wilde (1829-1913), a native of West Falmouth, had the granite memorial building erected as a mortuary chapel to honor her husband, Samuel Wilde, Jr. The chapel stands grandly near the front of Evergreen on the opposite end of the main entrance. Though the Wildes lived in Montclair, New Jersey, Mrs. Wilde treasured her Maine heritage, and the couple summered on the Maine coast. She chose Evergreen as the final resting place for both her and her husband. Used for funerals for 40 years, it fell into disrepair with the advent of modern funeral homes and a step decline in its use. Friends of Evergreen stepped in during the mid-1990s to restore the chapel through volunteer efforts and donations. Today this beautiful chapel is used for memorial services, weddings, teas, lectures and book signings on a regular basis.
Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat (1823-1908) was a novelist and literary critic. Her writing was published in prominent literary journals. Her 1859 novel, Ethel’s Love-Life, scandalized some Victorian readers with its perceived lesbian overtones. Wealthy and married to a Congressman and senator, she traveled, learned many languages and became involved in historic preservation. She left her own home, the McClellan House (site S25), to the Portland Society of Art (now the Portland Museum of Art, site C23 and site S01) to be maintained as an example of late nineteenth century New England mansions.
Adeline Bond Rines (1887-1976) was the first woman in Portland to receive a law degree and was admitted to the Cumberland County Bar Association in 1914. After her husband’s sudden death in 1939, she took charge of and ran the family businesses. (Her family owned Rines Bros. department store, site C14) These included the Eastland Park Hotel (now the Westin Portland Harborview), Congress Square Hotel and four radio stations, including WCSH Radio, Maine’s first commercial radio station.
Mary Rines Thompson (1918-1992) carried on in charge of the family’s communications outlets, the Maine Broadcasting System, one of the most powerful broadcasting operations in America at the time, upon the death of her brother, William Rines and at the request of her mother, Adeline Bond Rines. Those outlets included WCSH6, founded in 1926. Her son, Frederic Thompson, succeeded her as head of Maine Broadcasting. Both Adeline and Mary were among the few women running a broadcast system at the time and were notably successful. The Rines and Thompson families contributed significantly and were highly influential in Portland for over 130 years. Their influence was deeply felt in retail, the hospitality industry, broadcasting, law and philanthropy.
Helen Augusta Blanchard (1840-1922) was a successful inventor best known for her invention of the zigzag sewing machine in 1873. Her “zigzagger” is exhibited in the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Often referred to as “Lady Edison,” she received at least 27 other patents, which included gores for shoes, a pencil sharpener, improvements for the sewing machine, and elastic seams for clothes. She established the Blanchard Overseaming Company to market her inventions and later founded the Blanchard Hosiery Machine Company. Though Blanchard left Portland to pursue her career, she returned to live here in later years and purchased the family homestead which her father had lost in the business panic of 1866.
Augusta Merrill Hunt (1842-1932) was a philanthropist and reformerin the Progressive era. She was an active member of the Maine Women’s Christian Temperance Union (site W04), the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the Women’s Literary Union (site S25 and site SA02). She worked for women’s suffrage, then a controversial issue, food for the poor, temperance, women’s legal rights as mothers, and for school reform.
Married to a wealthy sugar refiner and widowed young, Hunt used their wealth to support several charitable societies, including Portland’s Home for Aged Women. See site W18.