by Jen Lynds
Sometimes, I can’t grasp how the Maine of my youth contrasts with the Maine of the present.
It is still just as beautiful, and the people who live here remain generous, but the image of the state as a whole has gotten a little darker, a little rougher.
There is definitely more crime and more people who have been victimized.
Back then, most people had to know certain people in order to buy drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Now, drug seekers target medicine cabinets.
No one is immune from burglary now, as even churches have been targeted.
People sometimes roll their eyes when others say “you didn’t have to lock your doors back then,” but it was true. When I was growing up, it was odd to find a locked door, unless you were out of town. My friends didn’t have keys jingling in their backpacks because they got off the bus and walked right into their houses.
No matter how much life has changed, I think that we all still believe that no matter who you were in life, you deserve to rest easy in death. When the funeral home lowers your casket into the ground and your family puts up a stone, they do so with the faith that you will be left undisturbed.
So it was shocking on Tuesday afternoon when the Houlton Police Department reported that someone had stolen the 70 pound grave marker of the town’s founder, Joseph Houlton. He is the town’s namesake, having permanently settled in the area with his family in 1807, 205 years ago.
After his death, he was interred with a simple white marker in a section of the cemetery people call “Rich Man’s Hill.” The name reflects the fact that several important figures in the town’s history are buried there. As a child, I loved it when my father would take me up there to see some of the old graves. When a group of us were studying local history for a project in middle school, we took a trip there just to see the Houlton grave. Not only is that section of the cemetery historic, it also offers a spectacular view of the town. If you had to die, that was the spot to be buried.
I know that the state as a whole has changed significantly over the past decades, because the data reflects it.
According to the Uniform Crime Reporting Division of the Department Of Public Safety, property crimes in Maine such as burglary and motor vehicle theft take place on an average of one every 15 minutes and 54 seconds, according to the latest figures. Robbery happens on an average of one every 21 hours and 3 minutes.
The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency isn’t just battling cocaine and heroin anymore, as drugs like Vicodin, Oxycodone and Fentanyl have taken a stranglehold on the state.
It really isn’t safe to leave your doors unlocked anymore, just because of those people who target medicine cabinets.
And while the times have changed a great deal over the years, I don’t think that our core beliefs have changed with them. Joseph Houlton has been lying undisturbed on that little patch of land in the cemetery since his death in 1832. People here believe that disturbing the grave of anyone is something that cannot be brushed off as a prank, a game or just people “fooling around.”
Joseph Houlton obviously gave a lot to the town.
Finding his stone and bringing those responsible to justice will allow all of us to give something back.
Police are asking that anyone with information contact the Houlton Police Department by calling 532-2287. People who remain anonymous may call 694-3545 and leave a voice or text message.
To leave a voice message for the cemetery superintendent, call 532-1329.
To place a direct call to the cemetery superintendent, call 532-1320.