Roland Winslow Junkins, Caretaker

The following article, written by Alan D. Junkins, appeared in JFA newsletter no. 11, May 1996.

During the summer of 1995, Roland took the one hours and forty-five minute drive from Sanbornton, New Hampshire to York, Maine to take care of the seven Junkins Family Burial Grounds at least every other week and sometimes as much as twice a week. He could not take care of every one each time he came to York and many times he would only be able to maintain one of the burial grounds in a day.

In the spring he would start long before the grass began growing by going to each and removing all the winter debris. He would pick up all the many twigs, branches and stones left by the winter winds and heaved up by the winter frost. Sometimes there would be large branches broken by the winter snows and sometimes even full trees blown down by the chilly winds. These would have to be cut by hand because it is impossible, in most cases, to drive to the site of the burial ground with heavy equipment such as a chain saw. The Daniel and Sylvester Burial Grounds are a forty-five minute hike up the mountain trail on a path that is only accessible now by All Terrain Vehicles or four wheel drive trucks. He would carry the trash left by the winter off into the woods, out of sight, so that when you are standing in the burial ground you can see nothing but a clean beautiful serene sight in all directions.

It is obvious that most of these burial ground sites were picked carefully by our ancestors because of the beautiful surroundings. Most of them are within easy sight of water. The Mary burial ground is overlooking the ice pond, the Alexander burial ground overlooks the York River, the Sylvester and the Daniel are both positioned so that they are on a high point of land surrounded on at least two sides by the water of Kingsbury Marsh, and the Samuel burial ground is the most beautiful, on the edge of the woods with a small stream running along the edge and in sight of the small pond that is formed by the stream. I am sure that our ancestors thought often of the water and the giant ocean that separated them from their beloved Scotland.

Before Roland can get the winter's refuse cleaned up, the grass starts growing rapidly and the trees are sprouting their leaves anticipating the coming fall so that they can spread their leaves on the ground for Roland to rake and cart away.

One of nature's strangest sights is to see a 70-year old man dragging a push lawn mower up the mile-long trail through the woods and up the mountain to the Daniel burial ground during the summer. Roland always meets someone on the trail. Hunters or hikers coming down from Mount Agamenticus, young men and girls on their dirt bikes trying a new trail, and all stare in wonder at this man pulling along his lawn mower. Roland smiles and often stops to talk with the stranger he meets and with no attempt to explain the mower, he is always anxious to tell them about his heritage and his commitment to honor his ancestors.

As this past summer moved into the hot days of July and August, and the black flies and gabillions of mosquitoes found the fresh meat each week on the trail, the mowing became less of a weekly need and some other projects were undertaken. The iron bars between the granite posts of the Mary burial ground needed additional straightening after the school children found such good sport in jumping on them on the way home from school in the afternoon. The Elijah burial ground needed extra brush trimmed away from the new railings that had been installed in 1993, and the Samuel burial ground had fourteen tree stumps to be removed or ground up so that top soil could be spread and new grass sown, and to make it easier to mow without having to trim.

A contractor was hired for the job of grinding up the stumps and Roland and Alan met him on the appointed day to oversee the four-hour job. When all was done and the fine wood chips raked out to a smooth finish, it was another feeling of satisfaction tht our Samuel and family were smiling down on us.

The old, small mower that was used for the burial grounds that could be reached by car was no longer a power mower. It putted its last putt and Alan and Roland went to Portsmouth and bought a new one for the Association. It is being stored at Alan's house so that Roland does not have to haul it to York each time he comes over.

Soon, fall was approaching and those trees were swaying and saying it's time to cover the ground with our beautiful mat of red and yellow leaves and we will snicker in the breeze while we watch Roland rake them up. In November, it's time for one last visit to each of the grounds to pick up fall branches and make sure that everything is set for winter. Roland can now go home to his farm i New Hampshire and sit by the evening fire, knowing that he has done his job well.

If these burial grounds are left to nature's way, they will be lost forever within just one season and along with them, the memory of our Robert and Sarah Junkins…Thank you, Roland.

Note: For more about Roland, see Roland Winslow Junkins, Brother, Ture Grit on a Sunday in January, and a memorial article by his brother, Donald.

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