The receiving tomb at Anderson Cemetery is said to be one of the graveyard’s haunted places. Photo by Haley Pal

Fall weather provides the perfect opportunity to take some walks in the brisk air as you stroll through any one of Windham’s many old cemeteries. These plots of hallowed ground are filled with the remains of some of Windham’s most noted residents and families, and your visit will be like taking a literal walk through history.

One of the most famous cemeteries in town is the Anderson Cemetery (also called the Smith Anderson Cemetery) located off River Road across from the Parson Smith House. The cemetery is named for the Anderson family who are descendants of Abraham Anderson, one of New Marblehead’s founding fathers, who settled here in 1738. He was the first man in the new township to build a house on the main road, rather than on the river, and he is remembered for his part in the battle with Native Americans that led to the death of the infamous Chief Polin. There are many generations of the Anderson family buried there, and another claim to the graveyard’s fame are the scary ghost stories associated with this eerie place.

Also buried in the Anderson cemetery is the Rev. Peter Thatcher Smith whose famous house is one of Windham’s most recognizable historic sites. Smith was a Harvard graduate who began preaching in Windham in 1753. In November 1759, he was asked to become the town’s settled minister and he was ordained as such in 1762 in the old Province fort. He remained Windham’s minister for nearly 40 years and died here in 1826 at the age of 96.

At Friends Cemetery with its tall, ancient trees towering above and its old, weathered tombstones, you will find the graves of such well-known local families as the Cobbs, the Varneys and the Popes. One early resident of note buried here is Stephen Webb, a prominent figure in town in the 19th century. He served as a selectman and a state legislator and was a popular school teacher for many years. It is said he was an inspiration to his pupils, whom he encouraged to always do their very best and to do it with conviction and confidence. He was a member of Friends Church and, when he died in 1872, was an honored member of the congregation. Webb Road is named for him. Friends Cemetery is located on Route 202.

Windham Hill Cemetery, next to Windham Hill United Church of Christ on Windham Center Road, is another fascinating spot to explore. There, you’ll find the grave of Edward Anderson, the son of Abraham Anderson, and a successful businessman of his time. He owned a saw mill where he employed many local men. and he was very active in town affairs. He served in the American Revolution as a lieutenant in the Continental Army and later served as both town clerk and as the first postmaster in town. His Colonial house still remains up the road from the church on the crest of a hill where it has been watching over travelers for centuries.

Photo by Haley Pal

At Chase Cemetery on Highland Cliff Road you can explore the resting places of members of the Bodge, Cobb and Dole families, among many others. Some members of the Dole family you may want to seek out are Richard Dole, who came to Windham in 1769 and was a cabinet maker and a church deacon and also served as town clerk for 20 years.

Two of his descendants, Samuel and Frederick Dole, were recognized as town historians. Samuel’s book, “Windham in the Past,” is considered a bible by members of the Windham Historical Society. Frederick’s “A History of Windham, Maine” is a wonderful reference source and was used as a textbook in Windham schools for a number of years. Our more recent town historian, Kay Soldier, is also buried there. She was an incredible woman who loved Windham and its rich history and wrote many books and articles for local newspapers over the years.

This just scrapes the surface of all the history that lies at your feet when you visit the cemeteries scattered throughout town. Whether you’re interested in ghost stories, famous historic figures or just want to go for a walk on a nice fall day, consider paying one a visit and pay your respects to the incredible people who lived their lives and were laid to rest in our town.

Haley Pal is a Windham resident and an active member of the Windham Historical Society. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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