Historic Cemeteries

1812 Cemetery: Eastern Promenade

Located on the Eastern Promenade at the foot of Quebec Street, this little-known mass grave is marked by a boulder which commemorates the communal graves of 21 prisoners of war from the War of 1812.

From a 1987 memo by John DiPaolo:
"The story of the mass grave goes back to December 23, 1812, when the British warship, HMS Regulus, en route from Quebec to Boston with American soldiers taken prisoner at the battle of Queenstown, put into the port of Portland under a flag of truce and anchored. Their leader was Lt. Colonel Winfield Scott, later known as “Old Fuss and Feathers” in the U.S. Army. Many of the prisoners aboard were sick with fever, malnutrition and dysentery. The twenty-four most severely ill were landed and housed in the Town Hospital on the Eastern Promenade on December 29th according to the old records. Within a month, twenty-one of these prisoners had died. They were buried in a mass grave at the foot of Quebec Street. The bronze plaque affixed to the boulder that marked the site was imprinted with the names of the soldiers buried there in 1887."

Eastern Cemetery: 224 Congress Street

Located on a height of land at the base of Munjoy Hill, it offers an outstanding view of the harbor, waterfront, and downtown business district. Pedestrian access is conveniently provided by paved sidewalks; automobile access is via Congress Street and Washington Avenue.

Established in 1668

Eastern Cemetery is the oldest major cemetery in the City of Portland. Established in 1668, with the earliest recorded burial in 1718, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally, only the southeastern half of the present cemetery was utilized. The other half was unfenced and used as a public common. In 1820, this second half became part of the cemetery. The cemetery was active until the 1860s and occasionally after that.

Land & Improvements

It totals approximately 5.3 acres in size. The present iron and granite fence along Congress Street was erected in 1852. The granite receiving tomb to the right of the entrance was erected in 1849. Both were rehabilitated in 1986.

Historic Gravesites

Eastern Cemetery contains over 3,500 known graves and over 200 unknown graves. Many religious, civic, and business leaders who shaped the social, cultural and economic development of the city during the 18th and 19th centuries are buried here. Soldiers of several wars are buried in the cemetery, including those who fought in the earliest colonial wars to those who fought in the Civil War. The commanders of the American ship, “Enterprise,” and the British ship, “Boxer,” are buried side-by-side. These two warships fought each other off the coast of Maine during the War of 1812.

Western Cemetery: 2 Vaughan Street

This historic cemetery, dating from the late 1700s, is Portland’s second oldest cemetery. The land which became Western Cemetery was purchased by the city in 1829. In 1841. more land was added, bringing the total land area of the cemetery to its present 12 acres. Western Cemetery was Portland’s primary burial ground from 1829 until 1852 (when Evergreen Cemetery was established). It remained active until 1910.

Open & Wooded Space

Western Cemetery is a significant element of the Western Promenade open space. Adjacent to the southern end of the Promenade, it slopes gently down from north to south, overlooking the Fore River Basin and the western horizon. While the Western Promenade offers a majestic view of surrounding areas and distant mountain tops, the Western Cemetery provides an enclosed wooded space.