Alexander Cemetery Phase I

The following article appeared in the JFA newsletter no. 4, Summer 1991

Archaeological Findings from the Phase I Survey of the Alexander Junkins Family Cemetery, York, Maine

By Kathleen Wheeler, Historic Archaeologist

On July 12, 1990, Alan Junkins, founder of the Junkins Family Association, contacted Kathleen Wheeler about conducting an arcaeological investigation at a family cemetery in York, Maine. The purpose was to find the exact location of three graves, whose headstones had been vandalized and pushed off their bases. The second objective was the discovery of possibly other, unmarked burial pits that may also have been dug in the nineteenthe century cemetery. A third goal was the designation of the placement of granite posts that had formerly marked the boundaries of the burial lot.

Once the location of the above features had been established archaeologically, the Junkins Family Association — heirs and assigns of Alexander Junkins — would assume responsibility for the family lot. Ownership and access to the Junkins Family Cemetery were guaranteed in a warranty deed signed by Bronislaw and Julis Kowalski in the 1985 transfer of the property to Gary and Dale Guyette. The Junkins Family Association will re-erect the three headstones over the discovered graves, and collect the granite posts removed to a neighbor's garden to stand them back in place along the periphery of the burial lot.

Archaeological field work took place August 21 through August 23, under the supervision of historic archaeologist Kathleen Wheeler, and with the assistance of Alan Junkins, Donald Junkins and Roland Junkins. Neighbors Robert Shaw and Harriet Simonds were most cooperative in offering information about the site and other family cemeteries in the vicinity.

Fieldnotes from the brief survey will remain in the possession of Kathleen Wheeler at 2 River Road, #5, Brentwood, New Hampshire, 03044. Few artifacts were collected, but after they are processed, provisions will be made for their storage at the Old York Historical Society on Lindsay Road, in York, Maine. The following report has been sent to the Junkins Family Association, c/o Alan Junkins, with copies forwarded to the Old York Historical Society and the office of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in Portland, Maine.

Historical Background

Robert Junkins was one of several Scottish prisoners of war who settled on the western side of York in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. He took up a lot of land on the east side of the road Newitchewonoc, the current-day Route 91. His homestead was nearly opposite the lot owned and developed by Micum McIntyre.

Robert died in 1699, and his estate went first to his widow, Sarah (Smyth) Junkins and then to his eldest son, Alexander. This began a long sequence of transfers from father to son, which ended finally with the death of fifth generation Alexander Junkins in 1844. Ownership of the garrison and an accompanying ten acres and twenty-four rods (Prob. Rec. 10629) passed next to Alexander's widow, Hannah, but she had to sell the lot in 1866 to a nephew. Joseph Hilliard Junkins never occupied the garrison, and for twenty-three years the homestead remained vacant. Paintings and sketched by such artists as Winslow H. Homer, Edwin Whitefield and Emma Lewis Coleman record the decline of the structure during this time. In 1889, the landmark building perished in a fire, and to date, there has been no new construction on the site.

Included with the garrison parcel is a small family cemetery, whose location and history concerned us for this project. In 1817, Alexander Junkins buried his first wife, Judith (Moulton) Junkins in his front yard. He erected a headstone to her memory, remarried the following year, and two decades later, 1838, he buried his second wife in the family lot between the Junkins garrison house and the road. Alexander also marked the bounds of the burial yard with granite posts, and it is possible he interred several infant children there as well. At his death in 1844, his third wife and widow, Hannah (Bragdon) Junkins, buried him in the family lot. His grave was marked with a marble headstone, as was that of his second wife, Hannah (Langdon) Junkins.

Family tradition offers two explanations for the location of a family cemetery in the front yard of the garrison lot. The first that Alexander himself would offer is that he wished to be buried where he could hear the preaching of the minister from across the way at the Second Parish Church (Davis 1938:57). The second, more pragmatic, story indicates that Alexander established a cemetery alongside the highway so that the town could not cut through his property to alter the roadway's path (ibid).

It is not entirely clear if Hannah Junkins abandoned the Junkins garrison immediately following the deat of her husband. By 1866, however, the house, the grounds and the cemetery were left largely unattended. In the absence of caretakers, the three headstones were knocked down. Harry Alexander Davis notes that in 1925, he had to excavate to find the headstones. A decade later, the stones were completely covered again with earth and grass (Davis 1938:58). Davis makes no mention of the granite pillars set up to demarcate the bounds of the burial lot.

In the 1970s, Roland Junkins, Donald Junkins and Alan Junkins initiated discussions regarding the refurbishing of the Alexander Junkins cemetery. In 1985, an agreement was reached with then owners Bronislaw and Julis Kowalski that awarded ownership of a 15-foot by 15-foot parcel to the heirs and assigns of Alexander Junkins, with foot access to the site coming from the highway. The exact location of the 15-foot by 15-foot lot was to be determined by archaeological means, and this work began in August 1990.

Results of Archaeological Fieldwork

Fieldwork: One day of clearing preceded all archaeological fieldwork. Donald Junkins worked to remove the overgrowth of shrubbery, sumac saplings, small trees and thistles at the site so that ground features could become visible. Clearing operations continued on the following day, 21 August, 1990.

Given that the exact location of the burial yard was not known, two areas were selected for investigation. One was a grassy knoll on the south side of the driveway, where a granite stone had been noted wedged vertically in the ground. A test unit measuring 1.5m by 0.5m was opened here, but there were no obvious signs of a burial here, and efforst were abandoned.

The second area was that in which the headstones were located, although it had been documented that the stones had been returned to that spot after slippage down the embankment into the road. This seccond area was on a knoll on the north side of the driveway gully. Upon close inspection, several flat-lying stones were noted here, such that may be used as uninscribed marker stones. One embedded vertical stone was also discovered, and work then began in the vicinity of this stone to clear off overgrowth and humus to expose the underlying ground surface.

Methodology: The objective was to shovel scrape the humus accumulation off in order to expose archaeological features. A 5.0m by 5.0m area was cleared and scraped down to the light olive brown silty sand. The sand was interrupted by patches of clay, that when trowel scraped, had clear outlines. Once the humus was removed, three base stones were exposed along the embankment, and three slightly mounded areas of clay were discerned. One of the three small mounds was associated with the vertical stone first encountered in the ground surveillance phase. Only one burial pit was clearly associated with a base stone along the western embankment, suggesting that there are two other graves whose outlines have not been established that are associated with the two remaining base stones.

Findings: A summary of the archaeological finding has been included in Appendix C. To date, there have been located three burial pits, mounded over with clay backfill. There were also found three base stones into which the three marble headstones were set.

Our objective of locating the holes in which the granite posts stood was also partially satisfied with the discovery of corner posthole 1 on the east side of a stone wall running along the embankment's edge. Posthole 1 formed a right angle with both Postholes 2 and 3, and they were found 2.45m (eight feet) away. There are fifiteen granite posts that stood originally along the perimeter of the Junkins Cemetery, and these are currently on the property of John and Harriet Simonds. The location of at least three of these posts has been ascertained in 1990 with the recovery of the three postholes.

Interpretations and Conclusions

Archaeological fieldwork began with two known: we had three headstones, and a 15-foot by 15-foot area in which to re-erect them. The objective then became the exact locations of the three graves and possibly other undocumented ones, plus we desired to determine archaeologically where fifteen granite posts had stood.

Our first problem was to discover the location of the graves. Old photographs and sketches (Old Gaol 1976; Davis 1938; Whitefield 1886; Coleman 1925) were not helpful in locating the cemetery. Documents stated simply that the burial plot was in the southwest corner of the garrison yard, which siting placed it on a knoll on the south side of the driveway. However, the fallen headstones were stacked togther on the north side of the driveway. Removal of overgrowth and humus — as much as 30cm deep in some places — exposed not only three base stones, but one vertical stone and the outlines of three slightly mounded burial pits.

Map 1 shows the general location of the cemetery, oriented from the northwest corner of the Junkins garrison lot (Tax Map 90, Lot 31C). A second, larger-scale map shows the location of the five graves as we uncovered them in 1990. We did not establish the clear outlines of two of the graves, nos. 2 and 5. However, in clearing the area east of the base stones, we encountered resistant deposits of clay. Work was impeded by a massive tree root system that grew over the two setting stones, anchoring them in place, but whose roots to the east obfuscated the clay outline of the graves. Another half day of fieldwork would likely clarify the edges of these burial pits.

We met with great satisfaction in determining the location of three of fifteen granite pillars that stood along the border of the cemetery. One was the southwest corner, and from that, we could orient the line of the southern and western edges of the burial area. The bounds of the corner posthole (#1) were clearly defined in the field. Backdirt included modern beer bottle fragments that likely were introduced when the post was removed. However, the circular edge of the original posthole was apparent, and large pieces of redware were wedged vertically between the wall of the pit and the granite post.

In posthole 2, greater disturbance was apparent in that the rubble backfilling the hole was quite loose, as if the granite pillar had been recently rocked from its place. Most of the posthole debris consisted of broken brick and granite pieces, portions of which likely spalled off the granite post itself. However, a single piece of handpainted polychrome pearlware (1795-1815) may help establish the last used date for refuse scatter in this part of the yard before it functioned as a cemetery.

Eleven feet away east-northeast of Posthole 2, was a slight depression, exactly in line with Postholes 1 and 2. Time constraints prevented testing that would firmly establish this assumed Posthole 5 as the southeast cornerpost of the graveyard. It is possible that a three- to four-foot entranceway existed along the southern side of the fence line, and there is a fourth posthole yet to be discovered here.

The western border of the cemetery was defined with the recovery of Posthole 3, eight feet (2.45m) on center from Posthole 1. This pit, too, was backfilled with loose rubble consisting of brick, and granite chunks. Modern materials (e.g., brown beer bottle fragments) were apparent in the backfill, but these artifacts were not collected.

The complete dimensions of the cemetery have ot been established by the 1990 field investigation, but preliminary results suggest that the original fenced-in area is larger than the 15-foot by 15-foot area allotted in the warranty deed signed by the Kowalskis and the Guyettes. There are at least five graves in the cemetery: Alexander, Judith and Hannah Junkins, as well as two smaller graves that probably belonged to infant children. Appendix B shows that as many as three of Alexander Junkins' children died young. It is highly probable there is at least one more child's grave in the cemetery. Even leaving the possibility aside, we discovered five graves encompassing an area of at least 15.0 feet (4.6m) by 15.0 feet (4.6m). If we include the southern fence line and the northernmost Grave 3, the area stretches to 16.5 feet (5.0m) by 15.0 feet (4.6m).

There are several pieces of evidence that suggest that Alexander Junkins originally set aside a cemetery measuring some twenty feet (6.0m) by forty feet (12.0m).

Along the western property line fronting Cider Hill Road, thre is a more or less continuous line of stone wall. This stone wall is apparent in a photograp in York Then and Now (Old Gaol 1976: 89), with remnants of the stone wall still visibile today. There were two discontinuities in the wall; one for the driveway entrance, and the other in front of the cemetery.

The gap in the wall in front of the burial area measures forty feet (12.0m) long. To put in a fence line with posts every eight feet would require some six posts along the western edge to cover this span. Assuming a rectangular shape to the cemetery, the east fence line nearest the house would also be comprised of six posts. With a 19 to 20-foot depth, only one fence post in the middle of the north side would be necessary, with two posts on the south border needed to set off an entryway or gate. Altogether a total of fifteen posts would be required to demarcate a forty-foot by twenty-foot area, a figure that coincides with the number of granite posts removed by John Simonds to his property years ago.

Archaeologically we have recovered a total of three postholes, each of which is eight feet on center from one another. This evidence helps to substantiate the interpretation that Alexander Junkins set aside a rather large area for his family burial ground. Given that the gap in the stone wall also measures a factor of eight — forty feet — this leaves me to suspect that this entire length was fenced in with a sequence of granite poasts. There was a slight depression in the ground at the north end of the western end of the burial area, measuring forty feet (12.0m) from Posthole 1. This depression fell just south of the end of the stone wall; this possible corner posthole should be investigated at a later date.

A second phase of work could easily determine the location of other postholes, utilizing the hypothesis that these were placed eight feet apart from one another. Work should also be conducted on the north side of Grave 3 to search for other graves as yet unknown.

Alexander Junkins had ten children and three wives. He buried two wives and oversaw the death of three of his children before he died in 1844. It may be that in his effort to thwart the town from cutting a highway through his property, Alexander Junkins fenced off a burial ground large enough for all his offspring. He would have chosen a conspicuous means of doing this, such as lying a fence line that allowed complete visibility of the graves from the roadside. It is not inconceivable that the granite posts served this purpose of high visibility, and that he cordoned off a generous portion of his property most threatened by the town.


  1. Coleman, Emma Lewis. New England Captives Carried to Canada. Southworth Press, Portland, Maine, 1925.
  2. Davis, Harry Alexander. The Junkins Family: Descendants of Robert Junkins of York County, Maine. Washington, D.C., 1938.
  3. Old Gaol. York Then and Now. Old Gaol Historical Society, York, Maine, 1976.
  4. Whitefield, Edwin. The Homes of our Forefathers. Oldest and Most Interesting Historical Houses and Noted Placed in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. E. Whitefield, Reading, Massachusetts, 1886.

Appendix C

List of Archaeological Features Recovered at the Alexander Junkins Family Cemetery, Cider Hill Road, York, Maine.

Grave 1:
Dimensions are 0.55m (22 inches) by at least 0.75m (30 inches); the complete outline was not recovered in 1990 as the eastern portion of the grave extended beyond the excavation area. The grave was represented by a slight mound of clay cut into a fine sand, light olive brown (2.5Y 5/4) in color. Artifacts from the clay backfill included redware, both glazed and unglazed, and brick fragments.

Grave 2:
The exact outline of Grave 2 was not discerned in 1990, owing to lack of time. Massive tree roots obscured the line of the clay outline and may have disturbed the upper levels of the grave pit. The clay backfill was east of the base stone and was largely parallel with Grave 4, and possibly shorter in length. This grave mound will require further investigation. Grave 2 had decomposed brick fragments along its southern edge, suggesting that it may have been bordered with brick at one time.

Grave 3:
At the northern end of cleared area, Grave 3 was recovered as a mound of clay backfill. Its location coincided with the placement of a tilted, flat stone to the grave. Grave 3 was elliptical in shape, and measured 2.25m (84 inches or seven feet) long by 0.60-0.66m (24-26 inches) wide.

Grave 4:
Between Grave 3 and Grave 2, Grave 4 was uncovered as a slight mound of clay. Its outline was irregular, but the shape was largely elliptical. Dimensions were 2.4m (96 inches or eight feet) by 0.75-0.90m (23-36 inches). At the west end of Grave 4 was a base stone.

Grave 5:
Grave 5 was on the southernmost side of the cemetery, and time did not permit the accurate establishment of its outline. As was the case with Grave 2, a huge tree root system complicated the recovery process, and labor time was allotted to the removal of the obstruction before further archaeological investigation could continue. Grave 5 was marked to the west with a base stone. This was the one base stone for the setting of a headstone that showed some breakage of the memorial stone. It is possible that the correct headstone could be matched with this base.

Posthole 1:
On the east side fo a stone wall running along the embankment above the roadbed, a posthole was found. Approximately 0.50m by 0.34m, the posthole was oriented roughly north-south, and was backfilled with loose rubble, including broken brick and granite chunks.

Posthole 2:
2.45m (eight feet) east of Posthole 1, a second posthole was uncovered. Posthole 2 was oriented roughly east-west, and measured 0.52m by 0.32m. It, too, was backfilled with loose rubble composed of brick, redware, and broken pieces of granite blocks. The one Diagnostic artifact recovered from Posthole 2 was a piece of hand painted polychrome pearlware, whose dates of manufacture were 1795-1815.

Posthole 3:
2.45m (eight feet) north of Posthole 1 along the embankment was a third hole, backfilled with loose-packed brick fragments, granite pieces and humus. Posthole 3 was roughly circular in shape, and measured 30 cm in diameter.

Posthole 4:
The assumed location of Posthole 4 lies 2.45m to the north of Posthole 3, along the embankment. This area was not tested in 1990.

Posthole 5:
Along the southern border of the cemetery, 3.35m (eleven feet) east of Posthole 2, a slight depression was noted. Testing of the depression did not take place in 1990.

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