Originally published in The Weekly Packet, September 27, 2018
Cemetery tour brings early Blue Hill to life
Holt House docent Brittany Cortot led an historical tour of the Old Cemetery on Union Street in Blue Hill on August 3. Pictured is the Old Cemetery grave of Theodore Stevens, whom Holt House docent Brittany Cortot noted as an early town blacksmith.
by Anne Berleant
The Old Cemetery, rightly named as it is, holds some of the earliest settlers of Blue Hill (and is also known as the Early Settlers Cemetery) and lies on a small hillside on Union Street. Brittany Courtot, Holt House Education Fellow and Blue Hill Harbor School history teacher, outlined the cemetery’s origins and the lives of some of its inhabitants, weaving together history, fact and lore to draw a sketch of Blue Hill in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“It’s hard to know about your identity if you don’t know about your past,” she said.
Blue Hill was a mill town and a lumber town, a town of fishermen and boatbuilders, where people settled, in part, for the plentiful fish and white pine trees.
Millers, Civil War soldiers, the town doctor and perhaps Blue Hill’s most well-known inhabitant, Jonathan Fisher, all lie within the confines of Old Cemetery. Courtot led a small group curious about history to select grave sites, filling in the lines between the dates on their gravestones.
Some names were familiar, like Dr. Nathan Tenney, for whom Tenney Hill is named, and Theodore Stevens, Blue Hill’s first “proper” blacksmith, and brother to George Stevens, who started what is now George Stevens Academy. One early settler and town founder, Captain Joseph Wood, sailed up the Massachusetts Bay in the 1760s, joining the cause of the Revolutionary War as a safety officer, working to keep the town and its citizens safe. He probably crossed paths with Ebenezer Floyd, born in 1756, who arrived in the second wave of settlers in 1791, Courtot said, as Floyd also served as Revolutionary War soldier, present at the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Battle of Trenton, and the Battle of Saratoga, “the turning point of the American Revolution.” Then, like soldiers often do, he later turned to town government, serving as town secretary and town clerk. Most historical town records from that time bear his name, Courtot said.
Floyd also wrote back and forth on town business to Jonathan Fisher, Blue Hill’s first settled minister, whose gravestone is a granite obelisk rising to the sky. Fisher graduated from Harvard in 1794 and founded the First Congregational Church, serving as pastor for 43 years. In an interesting aside, Courtot noted Fisher was the first local to suggest building a bridge to Brooklin.
The home he built is now a museum, after it was mysteriously abandoned by his descendants with the dinner table still set, Courtot said, who may very well have left by steamship for a better life. Packed and ready, or so the story goes, Courtot said, they waited to hear the steamship’s whistle and ran, because “You never knew when the steamship was going to come.”
The Old Cemetery was last used in 1833 and officially discontinued in 1860, when the larger and still active Seaside Cemetery was established. It is now maintained by the Blue Hill Cemetery Assocation and Town of Blue Hill.