Alexander Cemetery 1991 Archaelogical Dig

Wednesday, August 14

When Alan and Betty Junkins arrived at the Alexander burial ground site Wednesday morning, Kathleen Wheeler, Historical Archaeoligist, and a crew of three other workers were already mapping out their projects for the day. The twenty by twenty foot area of the burial ground that had been examined the previous year was in excellent condition. Still clear of weeds and grass because of the layer of landscape screening and pine bark mulch that had been spread over the area before leaving. The large tree stumps did have many sprouts four to five feet high coming out all around the base of each.

The largest stump, engulfing two of the three granite headstone bases were one of the two most challenging objectives of the 1991 work session. Roland Junkins had attacked the stump with a chain saw several weeks earlier and had made little headway. It became obvious to him that it was going to take a lot more time and manpower than one person could supply.

The second objective was the replacing of the fifteen granite fence posts around the burial ground perimeter. The major disappointing factor, yet not unexpected, was that the posts were still a quarter of a mile away surrounding Harriet Simonds garden, where she had been holding them for safe keeping for the past fifteen years. Her son had not been able to remove and transport them to the burial ground this past spring because of wet and soggy ground.

Early that morning before breakfast, Betty and Alan had driven to Kittery to rent a heavy duty gas powered weedwacker. The first hour or so of the morning was spent clearing a path for the workers, both around the burial ground and around the sites where Kathy planned the first test digs near the garrison site. During this time Roland Junkins arrived from New Hampshire and his brother Donald arrived from Massachusetts. Kathy and her crew started several test digs and enlisted the aid of Betty Junkins to help sift and pick for artifacts.

About 10:30 in the morning, Kathy and Alan walked to Harriet Simonds house to talk to her about the removal of the granite posts. To our disappointment, there was no one home.

A great portion of the afternoon was spent clearing the cemetery site and moving brush off to the back portion of the lot, including most of the brush that had been cut the previous year and had been stacked near the garrison cellar hole.

Karl and Joanne Junkins arrived from Ohio and visited several cemetery sites with Roland and later began mapping and recording the seven Junkins burial grounds in the area.

During the next two days they recorded the dimensions and position of each headstone and footstone and recorded all information on the stones. This information will then later be published and recorded with The Old York Historical Society and become part of the permanent records held by the Archivist of the Junkins Family Association. This will enable any future interested parties to find, on paper first, the persons they are looking for, and then locate the exact spot of burial no matter what the condition of the burial ground.

As the working day came to a close, Kathey and her team of archaeologists had completed several test digs, Betty had become quite adept at sifting soil and finding artifacts, Karl and Joanne had completed the recording of the Elijah cemetery, Alan, Donald and Roland had cleared the Alexander burial ground site, and Alan had made another fruitless trip to Harriet Simonds house.

The group gathered at 7:30 at the home of Tom and Ruth Hodgins in York Beach for drinks, a wonderful lobster dinner and review of the day's progress.

Thursday, August 15

After breakfast, but before leaving the motel, Alan called Harriet Simonds and arranged for a meeting that morning. Alan and Betty went straight to the Simonds house and met with her on the front porch of her lovely home. After some time, she agreed that because we had the manpower available at the burial ground that day, we could bring in a backhoe and remove the fifteen granite posts from her garden. Betty and Alan went back to the burial ground elated with the news. What we all had come there to do, we could now possibly accomplish.

Clifford and Mary Jo Junkins of Holyoke, MA arrived with a van full of tools and equipment and spent the day helping to clear more undergrowth and sumac around and in the garrison cellar hole.

Kathy Wheeler gave us the name of a construction company in the area that might possibly provide a backhoe and driver on short notice. Alan went to the motel to call and make arrangements. We would not know if one would be available until noon but it seemed quite possible there would be one.

About 1:30, the backhoe and driver arrived and we proceeded to the Simonds house. Harriet came out to oversee the removal of the first two stones and then she retreated to the house. These granite posts had been an integral part of her garden for the past fifteen years and I'm sure she was saddened to see them being removed.

A chain was carefully placed around each and attached to the bucket of the backhoe, then carefully lifted out of the ground and placed to the side. As they were lifted lose from the earth, special care was taken not to destroy the lilies, roses, and other plantings which had been growing around the posts for many years.

The Junkins Family Association and the Alexander Junkins Burial Ground Trust are grateful to John and Harriet Simonds for their foresight and care in rescuing these fifteen granite posts from certain loss years ago. The loss of these posts could have meant the loss of any trace of the burial ground for future generations of the descendants of Robert Junkins and especially descendants of Alexander Junkins and his wife, Judith Moulton Junkins, and his second wife Hannah Langdon Junkins.

Around three o'clock, Ken and Kathy Junkins arrived from Pennsylvania, just in time to see the last of the posts pulled from the ground. Then, the task of transporting them to the burial ground about a quarter of a mile down the road began. Two to three posts at a time were placed in the bucket of the backhoe and then driven to the site. Each of the posts weighs between two to three hundred pounds and has metal pintles about halfway down the length of the post. These metal pintels, which are "L" shaped, are for holding a wood rail between each post. One of the problems was to place the posts in the bucket of the backhoe without bending or breaking off the pintle. The posts could not be rolled and care had to be taken about placing one post on top of another.

By four o'clock, nine of the granite posts had been careflly delivered to the burial ground site. Two more were loaded on the backhoe and were being maneuvered out of the Simond's yard when the backhoe went dead. A frustrating hour of attempting to re-start the backhoe went by before the driver decided to give up for the night and bring a mechanic out in the morning to try to get it started again.

Karl and Joanne Junkins pent the day continuing their project of measuring and recording the #7 Leonard Burial Ground, #33 Joseph Burial Ground, and the #146 Mary Burial Ground.

Before leaving for the evening, Don, Roland, and Cliff uncovered an area in the cellar hole which contained hundreds of broken pieces of glass, pottery, china and lanterns.

Friday, August 16

By nine o'clock, the backhoe had been repaird and the transportation of the remaining six granite posts continued. When they had all been safely removed to the burial ground site, the backhoe was employed to remove the two large stumps that were blocking the restoration of the site. They came out easily with the power of modern day equipment and the two granite base stones, which had been in the grasp of the largest stump for many, many years, fell free. They can now be placed back in their proper positions and their markers placed upright in them where they stood one hundred and fifty years ago.

The remainder of the day was spent measuring, digging, setting, and backfilling the first four granite posts. The holes were dug to exactly the correct depth for each post so that the pintles lineed up at the proper height. Once the post was dropped into the hole, only a backhoe could remove it again, therefore, a lot of measuring was done before the final sliding of the three hundred pound posts into the holes.

The crew of Donald, Roland, Ken, Clifford, Karl and Alan, along with a lot of advice from Betty, Joanne, Kathy, and Mary Jo, got the first four posts set in place, lined up and secured so they should remain as an outline of the Alexander Junkins Burial Ground for several hundred more years.

There is still a lot more work to the restoration of the remaining eleven posts and the three grave markers and their footstones. This work will continue next year during the week preceeding the 1992 meeting of the Association.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License