Riverside Cemetery History Journal

The Bethel Journals

Compiled by Donald G Bennett

February 19, 2007



This journal is a chronological listing of historical information about a Bethel cemetery that is located in the Mayville section of the town on the bank of the Androscoggin River.  Additions to this journal occur as the information is discovered. Many sources contributed to the story that follows.  The Bethel Historical Society and the Riverside Cemetery Association are major sources.   Other sources have been local and county newspapers, obituaries, sexton’s notebooks and personal photographs.  Published sources include: “The History of Bethel, Maine” by William B. Lapham and “Bethel Maine - An Illustrated History” by Randall H. Bennett





          From the circumstantial evidence of burials and gravestones, Riverside Cemetery once known as Mayville Cemetery, like most cemeteries in this part of Maine began as a family graveyard. The first grave belonged to the 33 year old first wife of Eli Twitchell, Rhoda Leland, who died in March 29, 1792.  There are a number of logical reasons why her family chose to bury her where they did. 


          Her grave was on Twitchell land - property owned by her brother-in-law, Eleazer Twitchell. The location of her grave is approximately midway on a probably well traveled path between her home and the home of Eleazer and Martha Twitchell next to Mill Brook at the foot of Bethel Hill – location of the plantation’s first mill sites. 


          At the time of her death, the township where the Twitchell’s lived was known as Sudbury Canada Plantation and Joseph Twitchell of Sherborn, Mass., was president of the plantation proprietors.  Joseph was the father of Eleazer, who arrived in Sudbury Canada in 1779; he was followed by Eli Twitchell, who arrived here in 1782 and Captain Peter Twitchell who arrived in 1784.


          Early white pioneers and Indian inhabitants


 In 1790, Rev. Eliphaz Chapman arrived with his family and settled about two miles west of the site where Rhoda Twitchell would be buried two years later.  Burials in the oldest part of this cemetery consist almost entirely of Twitchell, Chapman and Mason family members.


In 1798, Moses Mason of Dublin, New Hampshire, purchased the Twitchell property where Rhoda was buried. His family came to Bethel the next year and made up the third old-family burial group in this cemetery.



          Indian farms, camps and “Powow” meeting places had also occupied the area where Rhoda Twitchell was buried. For more than 75 years following Bethel’s incorporation, Indian people continued to visit this area to peddle their crafts and visit points of land that were spiritually as well as historically important to them. In the historical address delivered by Dr. Nathaniel True at Bethel’s centennial celebration in 1874, the speaker described Indian life that existed circa 1790 as follows:


  “So common were the Indians during the first settlement of the town, that quite a fleet of canoes on the river was a common occur­rence. “


On the banks of the Androscoggin, about one mile above the bridge (that today carries US Route 2 over the Androscoggin River), and directly in front of the dwelling house of the late Tim­othy Chapman, Esq., (son of Eliphaz Chapman) there is an elevation of intervale consisting of three or four acres. It is a lovely spot. Here was an Indian village. How long it had been inhabited is not known. It is prob­able that they had not occupied the spot since about the year 1750. They had cleared about ten acres of the intervale for a corn field. Pine trees measuring eighteen inches in diameter had grown up in some places when occupied by the first settlers; the rest was cov­ered with bushes. Corn hills were everywhere visible among the trees.


On clearing the land, about twenty cellars were discovered, which had probably been used as a deposit for their corn. A dozen or more gun barrels were found, together with brass kettles, axes, knives, glass bottles, arrows and iron hoes, the latter of which were used by the settlers for several years afterwards, while the gun bar­rels were wrought into fire shovel handles by Fenno, the blacksmith.


A single skeleton was discovered wrapped in birch bark. It is said that they generally carried their dead to Canton Point for burial. Probably the settlement contained one or two hundred persons.


A mile and a half below the bridge, near the Narrows, is Powow Point. Here they had a clearing of three-fourths of an acre, which seems to have been a place of rendezvous for hunters and warriors. There is a tradition that a camp was burned there with all its in­mates, and that their implements and bones were afterwards found. Later the Indians made the point of land on Mill Brook their camping ground.”


The above was excerpted from The History of Bethel Maine by William B Lapham, pages 297-8


            Friendly Indians were eager to trade with both Twitchell brothers because of the commerce they conducted through Brunswick in both logging and purchase of West Indian goods - including rum. Based on a number of various stories, Eli Twitchell carried on quite an Indian trade.  His choice of a burial site may have been influenced to some extend by his Indian dealings and knowledge of their culture.



          The flood or Freshet of 1785 flooded all low lying intervale homes and drove inhabitants to relocate on higher land. From other historical accounts we learn that Eli Twitchell stepped into his boat and rowed to the area not far from the cemetery’s future location. He may have noticed that the high north river bank remained above the flood waters. If so this may have caused him to choose this location as a place relatively safe from flooding.  Up to now (2006) and in the memory of the current cemetery association directors, graves in this cemetery have not been noticeably damaged by flooding.  Therefore, this may have been another reason for selecting this location for the burial of Rhoda Twitchell.


























The map above illustrates early Sudbury Canada settlement with respect to the choice of location for what is today Riverside Cemetery, formerly Mayville Cemetery.


Map Legend:


1 Cemetery

2 Home of Eli and Rhoda Twitchell circa 1790

3 Home of Eleazer and Martha Twitchell and location of Mill Brook mills

4 Location of Indian corn cellars, later home of Chapman family

5 Powow point

6 Jonathan Clark home and farm

7 Location of Mason home circa 1799

















Grave stones marking  the two earliest burials in Riverside Cemetery, left, Curatio Twitchell who died August 14, 1791 at the age of 2 and to the right, his mother, Rhoda Leland Twitchell, who died March 29, 1792.



On Oct 31, 1836, Moses Mason, Jr., died at his farm in Bethel 37 years after coming here from Dublin, New Hampshire. He was the first Revolutionary War soldier buried in this cemetery.  The farm where he settled and the house he built was handed on through two later generations and is use in 2006 as the Norseman Inn.  It stands within sight of this cemetery.





11-3-1845:  Eli Twitchell died on this date at the age of 88 years.  “A Soldier of the Revolution”








7-16-1886 Oxford County Advertiser:  Bethel: The 2nd Congregational society (in Mayville) has put up a new fence around their graveyard. The front is of iron set on stone posts, while the sides and back end is of wire with corner posts. The fence will be a long felt improvement.



11-18-1890 Oxford County Democrat: North West Bethel:  A crew of men from the Chapman homestead (in Gilead) was at work in the Mayville Cemetery on the 12th. 


5-29-1891 Oxford County Advertiser:  North West Bethel: A fine monument has been erected in Mayville cemetery in memory of Mr. and Mrs. George Granville Chapman and there six children.



1901 – 1912:  Asa Stowell of Bethel was employed as the sexton of the Mayville Cemetery.  Stowell very diligently kept a notebook log of all the burials that he completed.  The first burial he recorded was “Mrs. Hattie Belle Stowell, Buried Jan 12, 1901 Mayville Burying Yard” (Whether Mrs. Stowell was a relative of Asa’s is not known at this time.)  In 2006, Donald Brooks was President of the Riverside Cemetery Association.


Brooks related the story of how this notebook with a postcard and several photographs came into his hands this way:  When Walter Clark was sexton of Riverside Cemetery in the 1970’s and 80’s he discovered this notebook and the photographs in it tucked away in the cemetery’s tool shed and turned it over to me.  I don’t know if the man in the photograph is Asa Stowell or not.  (However, it would seem quite possible that the photograph below, since it was found in Stowell’s notebook, is of Asa Stowell sitting on the porch of the farm house, shed and barn that once stood at the west end of the cemetery.)


In 1901, Stowell’s first year as sexton, he recorded burying six people. 



Also in Asa Stowell’s notebook was a photograph postcard with a view of Riverside Cemetery looking westward up the Androscoggin River. There is no date on the postcard, but considering where the postcard had been kept in Stowell’s notebook it probably was taken sometime in the first 10 years of the 20th Century.  Besides the cemetery, the photo shows the farm house located in the rear of the graveyard.







Bethel, Me., Oct. 17/1908.

Dear Friend:—

Three years ago last April the Mayville Cemetery in Bethel, Maine was incorporated under the name of the "Riverside Cemetery Association."

Since its incorporation the citizens of the town have taken a more lively interest in the grounds.

Lots have been sold at fair prices enabling its officers to put something in the bank toward future improvement and care for the grounds throughout all time.

To day we have a cemetery quite creditable to our town, with a faucet so water is at hand during warm weather. •

The grounds show that some degree of care is being given them as a whole, while some of the lots show the personal interest taken in them by their owners.

It seems that the efforts of the Association are appreciated.

To-day a friend offers for every dollar contributed to the cem­etery fund to give another up to the amount of $200.

Contributions will be acknowledged at once by the officer to whom they are sent. And we are confidently expecting soon to see the fund increased by at least $400.


President,          E. L. BARTLETT.

Vice-President, D. G. L OVEJOY,

Secretary and Treasurer, H. N. UPTON,

H. C. barker,

Directors    wm. R. Chapman,

 E. E. whitney.



This promotional flyer* above issued by the cemetery association’s new directors in 1908 reflects their concern over the need to improve both the association’s finances and the general condition of the grounds.  E.L. Bartlett lived in Mayville on the farm that once belonged to his great-grandfather, Eli Twitchell.  E.E. Whitney operated a cemetery monument business in Bethel. William Rogers Chapman was both a Mayville resident and director of the Maine music festivals.  Horatio Upton had been a selectman and had held other notable positions in town affairs; he was a member of the Chapman family.


* This flyer appears on page 150 of “Bethel Maine, An Illustrated History” by Randall H. Bennett, Bethel Historical Society, Bethel, Maine, 1991