The replacement of a marble monument to the Rich family will cost $27,415. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)
When an out-of-control SUV on the road to Cundy’s Harbor barreled through a fence into Cranberry Horn Cemetery on a Saturday night in February, it damaged 10 markers and monuments from the 1800s before bursting into flames near the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier.
Now, the volunteers who manage the cemetery hope the driver’s insurance will cover the more than $65,000 necessary to replace or restore the stones and repair the fence. The replacement of one piece alone — a marble monument to members of the Rich family — will cost $27,415.
As of mid-April, the association was waiting for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office to complete its report on the crash so the process could move forward.
The 10 stones belong to four families: Coombs, Eastman, Linscott and Rich. At least three — Coombs, Eastman and Rich — have descendants who live in Cundy’s Harbor today, according to Jen Stuart, president of the Cranberry Horn Cemetery Association. Stuart herself has connections to the Eastman and Rich families.
The association wants to restore the stones as close as possible to their original condition. Most need replacement, rather than repair. Because of their age, the materials and methods are more expensive.
The stones are marble and slate, rather than granite, which is less expensive and more common today. The slate stones will be replaced with black granite, which lasts longer. Names and epitaphs on the old stones were hand-cut, without lasers or power tools.
If the insurance provider balks at the cost, the cemetery may have to work with descendants on more affordable options, according to Stuart.
Also in need of repair is the section of post-and-chain fence where the vehicle entered the cemetery.
Collette Monuments, of Lewiston, and Pine Tree Fence, of Litchfield, have provided estimates and would complete the repairs. Stuart hopes the work will be complete by the spring of 2023.
On a Saturday night in February, the driver of a 2008 Kia Sportage was speeding toward Cundy’s Harbor when, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office at the time of the crash, he swerved to avoid an animal and entered the cemetery. Stuart said the vehicle was airborne on its way in.
The vehicle slammed into gravestones with such force that one stone landed 40-50 feet from its gravesite, according to Stuart. During cleanup, volunteers found pieces of marble at the back wall of the cemetery.
The vehicle finally rolled onto its side and came to rest. The driver and his passenger escaped before it caught fire. By the time firefighters extinguished the flames moments later, the vehicle was a charred husk.
Near the site of the fire, there is charring on the back of a slate headstone for William Coombs, 1752-1846. The stone identifies him as “A soldier of the Revolution.” His replacement stone will be the second most expensive, at $8,640.
Nearby are the remains of a headstone for Alfred Coombs, just 22 years old at the time of his death in the 1840s. His stone broke off at the base.
The large marble monument and several headstones around it mark the resting places of at least 10 members of the Rich family.
Nearby, one headstone with a chunk sheared off the back says simply, “Baby.” The stone marks the grave of an infant from the Eastman family.
Volunteers have moved several stones back into place and gathered far-flung pieces from throughout the cemetery. Much of the work took place on the cemetery’s annual cleanup day, April 2.
On that cold Saturday six weeks after the crash, about a dozen volunteers ranging in age from 3 to 91 spent four hours in the cemetery. They cleared brush and fallen branches like they do every year, but dedicated most of their time to the area of the crash.
Most of the volunteers have links to the Eastman and Rich families, according to Stuart.
Volunteers have also assisted by conducting research and gathering old photos of the stones. A few “jigsaw puzzle wizards” have pieced shattered stones back together. Stuart said the association is grateful to everyone who has helped.
The cemetery could use more volunteers — not just for cleanup, but to manage tasks that range from fundraising to lot sales and maintenance. Stuart and two other volunteers, Datti Bianchi and George Swallow, comprise the cemetery association’s board.
The trio is committed to the cemetery. “However, all of us agree we are seeking new faces to take the reins and guide us as we continue with improvements to Cranberry Horn,” Stuart said.
Stuart said that the association would like to see the town form a cemetery department, which would maintain and mow the cemeteries, while the association would continue to manage burials and deeds. Not all the town’s private cemeteries agree, she said.
The town recently hosted a meeting with leaders from all of Harpswell’s private cemeteries. “It was a wonderful opportunity to find our strengths, weaknesses, similarities,” Stuart said.
Cranberry Horn’s biggest expense — aside from the crash repairs — is mowing. The association pays about $6,500 per year for mowing — $650 per mow for about 10 mows. It will receive $6,000 from the town this year.
In June, the cemetery association plans to repeat a successful “high-five campaign” where supporters give $5 in honor of a family member or anyone buried in the cemetery.
A marble headstone for Hattie Eastman has cracks and gouges from a car crash in the cemetery in February. Eastman was 24 when she died on March 28, 1892. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)
Open to anyone who lives in or has ties to Great Island, Cranberry Horn Cemetery has burial and cremation lots available, as well as a memorial garden where people can place a stone as an alternative to a burial or cremation lot.
For more information about the cemetery, call Stuart at 207-319-0653 or join the Cranberry Horn Cemetery group on Facebook. Send mail to Cranberry Horn Cemetery, c/o Jen Thomas Stuart, P.O. Box 653, Brunswick, ME 04011.