Meet Past Residents of Calais at the Cemetery Tour

Regaling a captivated crowd during last year’s Cemetery Tour is Sara Gavit as she portrays Anne McBean Hatton. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

Calais has a long and storied past filled with characters that often demonstrate that fact is more interesting than fiction. As intriguing as these characters are, the community has also seen the passage of thousands of “average” lives across the centuries – lives that are interesting to us to consider today because of the stark differences from our own, despite sharing the same space that the now-deceased once inhabited. No other occasion offers the opportunity to meet both the famous and the more common past residents of Calais than the Cemetery Tour.

Sponsored by the St. Croix Historical Society, the Cemetery Tour sees the temporary resurrection of several former residents of the community by way of live theater presented alongside their graves. Members of the society embrace the roles assigned to them as past residents, dressing in appropriate attire and adorning their individual sites with belongings from the individuals when possible. Each oral performance is based on a script written by former educator and Vice President of the St. Croix Historical Society Jerry LaPointe.

This year’s tour is anticipated to feature seven sets of past residents: Kate and Carrie Washburn, Hannah Wheaton Smith, Martha Downes, Frank Barnard, William Hinds, George Chase, and General Rendol Whidden.

Kate and Carrie Washburn were twins that lived in Lorraine Mitchell’s house on Hinckley Hill; appropriately, Mitchell is playing the role of Carrie while Candace Dwelley will play Kate. Carrie was a newspaper journalist for The Calais Times, and she ran an insurance agency, all at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. “She was ahead of her time,” LaPointe expressed.

Hannah Smith was the wife of Noah Smith, who served as the secretary of the U. S. Senate during the Civil War. She was also the mother of Seth Smith, who signed the treaty with the Passamaquoddy tribe. Smith will be portrayed by Jane Eaton.

Martha Downes was the sixteen-year-old daughter of one of the city’s wealthiest and most successful citizens, George Downes, and the granddaughter of Shubael Downes, who purchased the land that became Calais. She will be portrayed by Brynne Lander.

Frank Barnard was a young Calais soldier killed in the battle at Rappahannock Station in 1863.  The son of successful businessman, Edward Barnard, he was the best friend of Dr. Holmes’s son, Frank. Dr. Holmes requested the construction of the Holmestead, the preserved building that the St. Croix Historical Society now utilizes as its headquarters. Barnard will be portrayed by Shane DelMonaco.

William Hinds was a master ship builder. He and his brother, Owen, directed the Porter brothers’ shipyard for many years, as well as operating their own yard and building the first marine railway. “He has a dark and tragic tale to tell,” teased LaPointe, who will be portraying Hinds himself.

George Chase served as the U.S. Consul to Lahaina, in the Sandwich Islands, which later became Hawaii. The weather did not agree with Chase, and he became ill and died in 1857. He was returned to Calais for burial in a surprising fashion that will be shared by Al Churchill during the performance.

General Whidden was a veteran of the War of 1812 and earned his rank in the Aroostook War of the 1830s. He served as a member of the state legislature and was, at one time, the owner of the granite stone house on the river. Jim Thompson will be portraying General Whidden.

 

The Cemetery Tour will take place in the Calais Cemetery at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 13th. There is no fee for admission but donations to the St. Croix Historical Society will be accepted on-site. Please bring your own chair if needed.