The History of Cedar Brook Burial Grounds

Hello from Cedar Brook Burial Ground.

At the urging of a friend I am sitting here on this blustery Maine winter day thinking about Cedar Brook Burial Ground, its surrounds and how it came to be. This thought also being stimulated by the fact that we just had our third burial this winter. A concern many people have about a green cemetery, but one that should be completely put to rest.

Peter McHugh, the founder of Cedar Brook, passed away last March. He settled in Limington 30 some years ago when he purchased a 150 acre parcel of land from an elderly gentleman who was retiring and moving from the area. Peter loved this land and maintained it in tree growth throughout all these years.

In 2007 we were talking one spring day after Peter had read an article on green burials. He said his Dad had always wanted to be buried “naturally”, but living in Massachusetts at the time that was not possible. He commented that he wanted to be buried here near the old Joshua Small Cemetery, located within what is now Cedar Brook and thence he started exploring what it would involve to establish a green cemetery here in the State of Maine.

It turned out to be a pretty simple procedure as he just had to write the Department of Health and Human Services who responded that he must have the land surveyed, register the section with the York County Registry of Deeds, set up a non-profit with a Board of Directors, comply with any local Zoning Ordinances pertaining to cemeteries (in Limington there were none), and not allow any burials within 250 feet of potable water. This was not a problem as Cedar Brook is located up a small knoll away from our pond and any streams on the property. Thus his dream was realized and Cedar Brook became the first green cemetery in New England.

During the ensuing years, thanks to our special friend and web master, Cedar Brook has gained recognition up and down the New England coast with burials from as far away as Chicago, and with requests on how to establish a green cemetery from folks in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The basic tenet of a green cemetery is that everything is biodegradable. That means no embalming, a simple wooden or woven coffin constructed of biodegradable material or a shroud to contain the remains. It’s simply going back to the “old” way of burials – just like those in the Joshua Small Cemetery which dates back to the mid 1700s. This can be reassuring to many as it means Cedar Brook will still be here eons into the future. Once a cemetery, always a cemetery.

One of the most rewarding aspects of Cedar Brook is the wonderful people – couples and families – we have met through these past several years. Cedar Brook is a serenely peaceful, natural environment for the final resting place of those we love. I want everyone to know that, even though Peter has passed away and indeed is buried in Cedar Brook right beside the Joshua Small Cemetery, I will continue on to maintain and possibly expand the cemetery as will whoever succeeds me in ownership of the property when my time comes. As I said a bit ago, once a cemetery, always a cemetery.

There have been questions concerning what type of plants are allowed in Cedar Brook so in the near future – before planting season – I’m going to post a list of allowable plants. One rule is all plants must be native to Maine, and no “landscaping” of the site. Absolutely NO artificial flowers and no potted ornamental plants. Everything must blend in with the natural environment of the cemetery. All stones are to be flat to the ground with whatever engraving the family wishes on them. Everyone may select a free stone from a selection on the property if they wish, or bring one from their own property as long as it’s not a polished stone.

Thank you all for your interest in Cedar Brook and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or other inquiries.

Joyce Foley