The town of Windham had a decidedly 1860s feel to it as the Local & Legendary project came to an end this past week.
Sabrina Nickerson’s 5th grade class wrapped up its yearlong study of the Civil War on Tuesday, May 20, by walking across Route 302 to Windham’s Arlington Cemetery. With assistance from Peter Morgan, Commander Mel Greenier, and Vice Commander Karle Leonard of the American Legion Field–Allen Post 148, they placed GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) markers at the graves of Civil War soldiers.
Teacher Sabrina Nickerson, David Manchester, and a student at Arlington Cemetery in Windham. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson.
The 23 students raised $452 to buy 23 GAR markers to replace old rusted markers. The new markers were designed by Brian Brigham of Windham, who interned at the Windham Historical Society last summer. The pattern work and casting was done through Auburn Stove Foundry of New Gloucester.
Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson
Each student was responsible for writing down all the information on a soldier’s gravestone to bring back to the classroom. Students then researched their soldier on Maine Memory Network.
One soldier who required no research was Joseph K. Manchester, who their school is named after. Earlier in the year students had the opportunity to learn about Manchester when they met with Carol Manchester, author of Joseph K. Manchester: Northern Son in the South, 1861-1863, His Letters, Family, and Friends. Carol Manchester’s husband, David, came along to point out Joseph’s grave.
Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson
Ms Nickerson, a member of the Local & Legendary team, has truly made history real, relevant, and memorable to her students through her enthusiasm. Both the Lakes Region Weekly and the Windham Eagle featured articles on the project.
On Memorial Day Weekend, the Company A, 3rd Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War Re-enactors group, encamped on the Village Green behind the Windham Historical Society headquarters, allowing visitors an opportunity to experience how soldiers lived 150 years ago. This event was also featured in the Lakes Region Weekly.
Photo by Heidi Hamblen for Lakes Region Weekly
New recruits were drilled in marching, shooting rifles, and battle strategy. The Re-enactor group marched in the Memorial Day parade on Monday and visited the Knight Cemetery where they paid honor to the dead. Neighbors of the cemetery came and took pictures of the unusual graveyard activity.
According to Linda Griffin, Local & Legendary team member, “it was an amazing experience on Sunday to see the reenactors visit the Knight cemetery on the Pope Road.”
The fife and drum duet played music at each Civil War soldier’s grave and a uniformed soldier put the GAR marker back on the veteran’s grave site. One soldier read the Gettysburg Address. Reenactor Carolyn Lawson, who was portraying a widow, was heavily veiled and dressed in black as she knelt at a soldier’s grave. Dave Gowen put the GAR marker on the grave of his third Great grandfather–Daniel Cobb of Windham–and told a little about him. In an interesting turn of history, Dave’s daughter, Hanna Gowen, saw the tombstone of another Hannah Gowen who had been born exactly 100 years before her.
Thank you to Windham Local & Legendary team members Sabrina Nickerson, Laurel Parker, and Linda Griffin for their enthusiasm and hard work on this year-long project.
And thanks also to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator for Maine Humanities Council, who contributed this article.