Saturday, August 7, 2010

“Thus Perish Our Hopes”: The Dead of Bowdoin College

The gravestone of Aretus H. Chase. Chase is buried in the first row on the right, just before the granite-curbed Booker family plot.

As we have already seen, many Bowdoin College presidents and professors have been buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, but many of the school’s students rest there as well.

There are many former students buried in Pine Grove Cemetery who wished to permanently memorialize their connection to their alma mater. Winfield S. Hutchinson, for example, lived to be 66, and despite the fact that he graduated from Harvard Law School and was a lawyer for over 35 years, his gravestone only mentions that he was a member of the Bowdoin College class of 1867. Brothers George Sidney (1835-1861) and Nathaniel H. Whitmore (1833-1871) have their class years inscribed on their tombstones as 1856 and 1854, respectively. Morrill M. Tozier lived to be 67 and worked as a newspaper reporter before holding several different positions in the federal government has a gravestone which has only the dates of his birth, death, and the words “Bowdoin College, Class of 1932, Magna Cum Laude”.

The footstone of Morrill Tozier, located in the front of the fifth row from the right.

While there were people like Tozier, the Whitmores and Hutchinson who chose to forever honor their enrollment at Bowdoin College on their gravestones, there are others buried in Pine Grove whose young lives were cut so short that they were defined by nothing but their years at Bowdoin. Jonathan Ela, whose gravestone mentions that he was a sophomore at Bowdoin when he died in 1830 at age 29, has an epitaph which reads: “He was preparing to serve God on earth: God took him to serve him in heaven.”

In many cases, the deceased’s classmates assisted in paying for a gravestone and plot. Bowdoin College junior William O’Brien died in 1856 at age 21, and his stone bears the words: “This stone is erected by his classmates as a testimonial of affectionate regard. Even so them also which sleep with Jesus shall God bring with him.” 27 year old Aretus H. Chase of the Maine Medical School at Bowdoin died in 1833 and now lies beneath a gravestone which reads: “To know him was to love him. Erected by his classmates.”

One of the most touching of these Bowdoin College student epitaphs reads in full: “WILLIAM CURTIS Jr., member of the senior class of Bowdoin College, distinguished scholar, and not less beloved as a friend. Died July 2, 1826, aged 20. His afflicted classmates erect this monument in his memory. Thus perish our hopes.”

The gravestone of William Curtis, Jr., who is buried in the second row from the right.
Perhaps it is best that a dead Bowdoin student’s classmates no longer are responsible for arranging for a burial. One gravestone in Pine Grove Cemetery reads:
“HENRY RAND of the Freshman Class, Bowdoin College: died Aug. 12, 1830: aged 19 years. An orphan and friendless, he sought the path of learning with a zeal that neither sickness nor poverty could subdue. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity.”

The gravestone of Henry Rand laying on the ground. Jonathan Ela is buried next to him, and Aretus H. Chase is one grave over from Ela.

Cheetham, Donald & Mark. Pine Grove Cemetery, Bath Road, Brunswick, Maine, volumes 1 & 2 (Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 2006.7.1 & 2006.7.2), 2005.
General Catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, 1794-1912.
Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1912.

General Catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine: A Biographical Record of Alumni and Officers, 1900-1975. Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1978.

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