OXFORD — In a word, it’s a “disgrace.”

That’s the description resident Sharon Jackson gave to the Board of Selectmen last month after visiting the historic Craigie Cemetery with her family.

“I was appalled at the condition,” she told board members.

Dozens of gravestones, dating to the early 1800s and marking the final resting spots of local veterans, farmers, businessmen and infants, are toppled or leaning. Pieces of plastic flowers, ceramic ornaments and other adornments are broken, shredded and strewn.

Craigie Cemetery is the site of the town’s first common area and one of 19 cemeteries in Oxford. It is behind the Center Meeting House at Routes 26 and 121. It’s Oxford’s first meeting house and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jackson and others say the condition of the cemetery must be addressed.

Until that happens, voters at a special town meeting last month said they would not approve amendments to the 2006 Cemetery Ordinance that would tighten regulations and add restrictions on burials and maintenance.   

“It’s a disgrace to walk in there,” Jackson said.

Ceramic figurines of angels at the gravestones of infants such as 2-year-old Ina Bell Wing, who died in 1917 and is buried alongside two infant siblings, are smashed. Ceramic praying hands at the gravesites of Ina’s infant brother and sister, Iva and Edgar, are broken and tossed aside.

The cemetery adornments of Ina and her sister, who died in 1928 when a few months old, and their brother, Edgar, who was born six months after his older sister died, may have been vandalized or damaged by the weather.

The headstone of Horatio Smith, a veteran who died in June 1907 after what the Oxford Democrat described as a long and painful illness, is toppled under an American flag and next to it is the broken gravestone of his wife, Adeline, who died a year later.

Nathan Coy, a native of Minot, bought land in Oxford in 1845 and drowned four years later at the age of 56 trying to save his 8-year-old son Oliver who had fallen into the nearby Little Androscoggin River. Coy’s headstone is on the ground near that of his wife, Juliana, who outlived him by nearly 50 years.

So how did the serene plot come to be in such disrepair?

Cemetery Director Paula Locke said neither she nor members of the Cemetery Committee have a comment on the condition of Craigie Cemetery.

Jackson said, “Money should be put in the budget.” She recommended the town hire someone to repair the stones.

Town Manager Butch Asselin said there is money in the Municipal Facilities budget for town cemeteries.

The town’s Cemetery Rules call for a general cleanup of all cemeteries at least once a year before Columbus Day. All flowers, ornaments, decorations on graves or headstones, and other items are subject to removal.

Once the cleanup is done, nothing new may be placed in the cemetery to mark or decorate a grave until the Monday before Easter. Flowers left at a grave must be either loose or in unbreakable containers.

Proposed new rules expand on regulations for veterans graves, perpetual care, pet burials, foot stones and the disposition of cremated remains in plots. All plots would continue to have mowing and trimming, but upkeep of all stones would be the responsibility of the lot owners. If extensive work is required, the family must have permission from the town.

The amendments don’t address what happens if there is no family to care for a grave.

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OXFORD — In a word, it’s a “disgrace.”

That’s the description resident Sharon Jackson gave to the Board of Selectmen recently after visiting the historic Craigie Cemetery on King Street with her family.

“I was appalled at the condition (of the cemetery,)” she told board members.

Dozens of gravestones, dating back to the early 1800s and marking the final resting spots of local veterans, farmers, businessmen and infants, are toppled or leaning. Pieces of plastic flowers, ceramic ornaments and other adornments are broken, shredded and strewn.

Craigie Cemetery is the site of the town’s first common area and one of 19 cemeteries in town. It is sited behind the Oxford’s first meeting house which is listed on the National Historic Register of Places.

But Jackson and others say the condition of the cemetery is disgraceful and must be addressed. Until that happens, voters at a special town meeting last month said they would not approve proposed amendments to the Cemetery Ordinance enacted in 2006 that would have tightened up regulations and added additional restrictions on burials and upkeep.   

“It’s a disgrace to walk in there,” said Jackson.

State of disrepair

Ceramic figurines of angles set at the gravestone of infants such as 2-year-old Ina Bell Wing, who died in 1917 and is buried alongside two other infant siblings in Craigie Cemetery, lay smashed on the ground. A plastic fence and flowers are strewn to another side. Ceramic praying hands that lay at the feet of her infant brother and sister, Iva and Edgar, are broken and carelessly tossed aside.

The cemetery adornments of Ina and her sister, who died in 1928 at only a few months old and their brother Edgar who was born only 6 months after his older sister died, may have been the sporadic victims of vandals or perhaps Mother Nature.

The headstone of Horatio Smith, a veteran who died in June of 1907 after what the Oxford Democrat described as a long and painful illness, lies toppled under an American flag and next to it is the broken gravestone of his wife Adeline who died only a year later. They left a daughter behind.

Nathan Coy, a native of Minot, bought a tract of Oxford land in 1845  but drowned just four years later at the age of 56 trying to save his 8-year-old son Oliver who had fallen in the nearby river. His headstone lays on the ground near his wife Juliana, who outlived him by nearly 50 years.

This is a cemetery filled with gravestones of heroes, some dating back to the War of 1812.

It is a cemetery filled with stories of those whose lives someway connected with Oxford.

Some of the stories are known. Many are not.

Some have family members who visit. Others have no one to care of their final resting place.

Getting here

So how did this serene plot of land with its old stand of trees located behind the historic town meeting house come to be in such disrepair?

The town has a Cemetery Committee with what appears to be three vacancies on the seven-member committee, and Cemetery Director Paula Locke, who said  neither she, nor members of the committee, have a comment on the cemetery’s condition.

But Jackson said the condition of the cemetery must be fixed.

“Money should be put in the budget,” Jackson said. She has recommended that the town hire someone to repair the stones.

Town Manager Butch Asselin says there is money set aside under the Municipal Facilities budget for the town cemeteries. This fiscal year $17,400 was approved by town meeting and as of July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, $2,201.05 has been used for mowing, parts for mowers, gas and supplies.

There is a set of cemetery rules that guide all cemeteries in Oxford. The rules call for a general cleanup of all cemeteries no less than once a year. The cleanup takes place in the fall, before Columbus Day. All flowers, ornaments, decorations on graces or headstones, and other objects in the cemetery at the time of the cleanup are subject to being removed and disposed of permanently, according to the rules.

Once the cleanup is done, nothing new may be placed in the cemetery to mark or decorate a grave until the Monday before Easter Sunday. Flowers left at a grave must be either loose or in unbreakable containers.

The rules are straightforward and much more lenient than rules at many other cemeteries.

Proposed new rules expand on regulations for veterans’ graves, perpetual care, burial of pets, foot stones and the disposition of cremated remains in plots.

All plots would continue to have perpetual care, meaning mowing, trimming and so forth, but under the proposed amendments all stones and upkeep will become the responsibility of the owners. If extensive work is required, the family must have permission of the town.

The proposed amendments do not address what happens if there is no family to care for a grave site.

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This toppled veteran’s headstone in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford is one of a number that have tilted or broken at the base. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

Broken pieces of a ceramic angel, plastic fencing and torn silk flowers are strewn across the gravesite of 2-year-old Ina Wing in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

The headstone of veteran John Abbott, who died in 1905, stands beneath a large tree in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

Broken headstones lie in Craigie Cemetery behind the Center Meeting House on Route 121 in Oxford. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

A row of toppled and leaning gravestones in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

Iva Wing died at 3 months old and is buried next to her infant sister and brother in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford. Their gravesites are strewn with pieces of broken figurines. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

The headstone of veteran Horatio Smith, who died 111 years ago, lies in Craigie Cemetery in Oxford. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)