This Portland veteran’s belongings were sold after he was declared unsound of mind

William Blake
Died 1853 at age 79

Greetings from Portland. Sweater weather is here. Every day this month I’m telling a story that bridges the gap between this world, and the next. I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side by posting one video each day, relating the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”

William and Sarah Blake are buried somewhere in the Grand Trunk Cemetery. But nobody knows just where.

They’d been married for 33 years when Sarah died in 1843. Shortly thereafter, William Blake was declared “non compos mentis” — or of unsound mind. His property was sold off by a legal guardian appointed by the courts.

He spent the last decade of his life committed to Portland’s Alms House. It’s believed he died there in 1853 at the age of 79.

A local group recently placed a stone in the Grand Trunk Cemetery in William Blake's  honor. He served in a private militia during the war of 1812. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A local group recently placed a stone in the Grand Trunk Cemetery in William Blake’s honor. He served in a private militia during the war of 1812. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A couple weeks ago, the group that takes care of the once severely neglected graveyard where he rests, dedicated a new military marker for William. He’d served in a private militia during the War of 1812. The stone is situated in a group of memorials dedicated to veterans buried, somewhere, in the cemetery.

Sarah, his wife, had no such luck. Her bones remain unmarked.

It’s also worth noting that during William and Sarah Blake’s lifetimes, their East Deering neighborhood — including the cemetery — was part of the city of Westbrook. From 1871 to 1899, Deering was its own city before being annexed by Portland.

Today’s story is brought to you, in part, by the tireless research of Marianne Chapman and her amazing blog “Remnant: Grand Trunk Cemetery Reclamation Project.

Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.

William and Sarah Blake are buried somewhere in the Grand Trunk Cemetery but nobody knows just where. A local group recently placed a stone there in William's honor. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

William and Sarah Blake are buried somewhere in the Grand Trunk Cemetery but nobody knows just where. A local group recently placed a stone there in William’s honor. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

 

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.