History of Medical Care in Calais to be Featured at Cemetery Tour

Entertaining the crowd during the 2016 Cemetery Tour is Sherry Sivret as she plays the part of schoolteacher Laura Burns. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson


Every year, the modern residents and visitors of Calais get to meet an assortment of past residents that used to call the St. Croix Valley home as part of the St. Croix Historical Society’s Cemetery Tour. This year’s event – which will be on Sunday, August 13th, at 3:00 p.m. – will specifically feature several past residents with connections to healthcare in the area, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Calais Regional Hospital. 

The hospital was founded in 1917 by Dr. Walter Miner, and, appropriately, he will be among the residents featured in this year’s tour. “He came to Calais in 1899 with a horse, a buggy, and everything he had learned from medical school,” said Jerry LaPointe, Vice President of the St. Croix Historical Society and author of the scripts of each performance. Dr. Miner purchased the house and equipment for the hospital himself, and didn’t open it as a money-making venture. “It was a matter of providing a hospital for the area,” said LaPointe. Jim Thompson will be playing the role of Dr. Miner.

Perhaps the most prominent nurse in the area in the mid-1900s was Frances Hall. “She was a nurse here for years and years,” said LaPointe. Hall began in the “old hospital” and transitioned into the “new hospital”, eventually becoming its administrator. Hall will be played by Jane Eaton, who will share information related to the nursing school in the area, the average pay of a nurse, and the cost of a room. Eaton’s mother-in-law, Eunice Churchill, knew Frances and will be providing additional details for the performance from her relationship with her.

For the first time in the seven-year span of the tour, Dr. Job Holmes will be featured as one of the performances. Dr. Holmes was the third doctor in Calais and practiced out of the Holmes Cottage on Main Street. In 1850 he had the Holmestead built as a new place for his family to live, but he continued to practice from the cottage until the 1860s. “Between Holmes, Miner, and Hall, we can span 175 years or so in the history of doctoring and medicine,” said LaPointe, who will be playing Dr. Holmes himself.

Two sisters, Helen MacNichol and Elizabeth MacNichol Paine, will be portrayed in a short play performed by Lorraine Mitchell and Candy Dwelley, respectively. The two lived very different lives; at one point, they lived in the house that Dr. Miner would later purchase for the hospital. Elizabeth married two “extraordinarily wealthy” Bostonians, LaPointe explained. Her second husband was the great great grandson of Robert Treat Paine, the signer of the Declaration of Independence for Massachusetts.

Sherry Sivret will be playing the role of Annie McBean Hatton, a woman that lived an ordinary life on Franklin Street beginning in the 19th century. She is the great great granddaughter of Matthew Thornton, the signer of the Declaration of Independence for New Hampshire. Thornton’s nephew was a loyalist and tried as a traitor. Sivret will be sharing Hatton’s story of her divided relatives.

Al Churchill will be speaking on the story of the Sherman brothers, two brothers for which the American Legion post in Calais would later be named. The Sherman brothers were both killed in World War I.

Among the most popular performances at the Cemetery Tour are those of the younger actors, and this year’s show shouldn’t disappoint. Brynne Lander will be playing a girl named Alice Crowell. She was a twin; she and her sister were raised by their grandmother on Germain Street. Lander will be sharing the life of Crowell from the time period of the 1910s.

Shane DelMonaco will be playing Joshua Hassan Thomas, son of sea captain Joshua Thomas (related to Kenny Thomas and Wayne Sammer). He'll tell the story of his sea captain father and his adventures, including experiencing ship wrecks and encounters with the British. DelMonaco will be speaking on the era of the 1880s.

There is no cost to attend the Cemetery Tour and all with an interest in history are encouraged to come and see the performances. Please remember to bring a portable chair if you may require one.