Martha Longley was born in 1824 and died in 1896. Martha has a headstone on the edge of Roger Brook in the woods of North Bridgton. It was thought, by those that saw it, that she was buried there. But she also has a headstone with her family in Elm Vale Cemetery. Why two stones in two locations? Under which one is she buried? Michael Davis answered these questions in an article in The Bridgton News.
Just up from the brook, through the woods on the left-hand side, there stands a long low building, painted white with many windows. Once upon a time, for over 30 years at the close of the 19th century, the Allen family — of whom Mr. Opie is a near descendant — lived nearby and Mr. Allen, who was a stonecutter by trade, used that shop as his workspace. He often cut headstones, and sometimes owing to a mistake or mischance, he would err in his engraving in some manner, and the stone would be unsalable. Perhaps it broke halfway through carving, perhaps he spelled the name wrong when he started, or — as was the case with Martha — perhaps he messed up on the final piece of engraving, where either from bad information or an honest mistake he miswrote the date of death, in Martha’s case, a day too early. Despite having almost all the finishing touches already in place, despite Martha’s stone looking quite literally finished, Mr. Allen could not allow it to leave his shop. Martha’s husband Jonathan was a fellow stonecutter; both respect for the dead and professional courtesy required that this headstone not go out incorrect, but rather be cast aside and replaced. That is what he did with all of his rejects. He would take them a short walk through the woods to the riverbank and cast them in disgust and remorse into the flowing waters. Liam told me that, after his death, many other stones were left unfinished or never started in his shop, and some of them ended up in the brook too, so that by the middle of the 20th century, his grandmother told him that one could walk along Roger Brook and see half a dozen or more headstones poking up amongst the boulders, all in various states of decay and incompleteness. Since then, as the decades lapsed into more than a century, these other stones have broken and sunk down in the mud, and some have no doubt been taken by ne’er-do-wells or impulsive youth in some flight of morbid curiosity, so that today only Martha’s stone, which looks finished to the unfamiliar observer, is left to tell the tale. Perhaps because it is complete, and does not look unfinished, it has been allowed to remain by all who have discovered it, thinking as many have that it means Martha is actually buried there. So, when it was fished up from the river in 2005 and set on the bank, it was regarded by those locals “in the know” that it should be allowed to sit there as a monument, not to Martha specifically, but to the now vanished headstone shop of the Allen’s.
People feel a haunting spirit around the stone by Rogers Brook. Perhaps Martha goes back to check out her second headstone?