The Story Behind the 200-Year-Old Cemetery Just 3 Feet From the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk
As drivers cross into Maine from New Hampshire on I-95 and continue north on the Maine Turnpike, they may notice a very out-of-place thing very close to the highway just before the Kennebunk service plaza. Your eyes aren't deceiving you. A cemetery sits just a mere three feet from the shoulder of the highway. How did it get there? Well, it was there long before the Maine Turnpike.
According to an article from the Associated Press, The Mitchell-Hatch Cemetery has been in that spot since 1819. At the time the first person was buried there, there was no Maine Turnpike because there were no automobiles. And there still weren't when the last burial occurred in 1883. The land the highway sits on today was likely owned by the family who built the cemetery to lay their loved ones to rest nearby.
The cemetery is not easily accessible, as there is no road to it, as you can see in this satellite photo from Google Maps. Note just how close the cemetery is to the highway.
The highway wasn't always this close to the cemetery. It had always been visible from the road, but when the Maine Turnpike expanded to three lanes in the early 2000s from Kittery to Portland, the highway suddenly got really close to the burial site.
At one point, Turnpike authorities thought they may have to move the cemetery, and no one wanted that to happen. Luckily, when the expansion reached the cemetery, they were able to build the third lane coming just three feet from the edge of the burial site.
The Turnpike Authority took the time to protect and restore the cemetery by replacing some posts, sealing headstones to make them weather and element-proof, and building a fence that keeps the snow and debris from the plows away from the cemetery.
The Mitchell-Hatch family is long gone, but their legacy remains and is protected today. The next time you're heading north on the Maine Turnpike, keep an eye out on your right for the Mitchell-Hatch Cemetery.
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