Many area residents know that Pine Grove Cemetery, located on Bath Road adjacent to the Bowdoin College campus, is the final resting place of Joshua Chamberlain, hero at the Battle of Little Round Top during the Civil War, governor of Maine and Bowdoin College president. Chamberlain’s wife Francis (“Fanny”), an accomplished painter and musician, shares her husband’s plot.

Few people know, however, that one of Pine Grove’s most notable “residents’” is Phebe Ann Jacobs, an ex-slave who moved to Brunswick in 1820 to live with the family of President William Allen of Bowdoin College. After Allen’s wife Maria died, Phebe chose to live on her own. She supported herself by washing and ironing for students at Bowdoin; she lived in a small cabin on the “Plains,” which is on the present Airport, but was once a large blueberry plain.

At her funeral, the First Parish Congregational Church was packed with people wanting to honor their beloved fellow citizen. Maine Gov. Robert Pinckney Dunlap served as one of the pall bearers. In fact, one person noted that Phoebe Ann Jacobs had as many people at her funeral as Joshua Chamberlain had.

Ironically, one of Phebe Jacob’s Pine Grove “neighbors” is Zenas Preston. A slaveowner from Louisiana whose family owned three plantations with 750 slaves.

These are just some members of the over 600 Brunswick area families who have plots at Pine Grove Cemetery. Understandably, Pine Grove, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, has always had close ties with Bowdoin College.

The cemetery began in 1821 with a gift from Bowdoin, and Pine Grove is the eternal home of several former Bowdoin presidents in addition to Chamberlain: Joseph McKeen, Jesse Appleton, William Dewitt Hyde, Kenneth Sills and Roger Howell.

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The cemetery is well represented by Bowdoin teaching legends. Alpheus Spring Packard, a distinguished professor of Latin and Greek, taught Franklin Pierce (14th President of the United States), Joshua Chamberlain and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Other notable former Bowdoin professors and coaches at Pine Grove include Ernest Helmreich, Herbert Ross Brown, Parker Cleveland, Fritz Koelin, Bob Beckwtth, Matilda White Riley (the first woman full professor at Bowdoin), Frank Sabasteanski and Sid Watson.

Many of the plots are owned by families of notable area citizens, such as the Bookers, the Rileys, the Skolfields, the Furbishes and the Curtis family. The Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick got its start from the generosity of William J. Curtis, who donated land and funds in honor of his father Capt. John Curtis, a celebrated ship’s captain who sailed to ports around the world.

Dick Snow, a dedicated town historian and member of Pine Grove Cemetery’s board, has done significant research on the people buried at Pine Grove as well as at other area cemeteries. “It’s important that we serve as caretakers and stewards of Pine Grove and other cemeteries. We must tell the stories of the people who’ve made such a difference to the town, the state and the nation. We must keep history alive.”

Ed Langbein, the head of Pine Grove Cemetery’s board, likens Pine Grove to the new Veteran’s Plaza on the Brunswick Mall, as a place where we can remember and honor those who have come before. Langbein encourages people to make plans for the future. “Families often don’t want to talk about death, but it’s important that everyone prepare for the future. Pine Grove gives people the opportunity to cement themselves to the Town of Brunswick.”

For more information on Pine Grove, go to pinegrovebrunswick.com or send an email to Ed Langbein at [email protected]

A final note: My wife Tina and I have purchased a plot at Pine Grove, and we always welcome good new neighbors.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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