Purrinton Massacre Update
In the May-June 2006 issue of the Kennebec Current, a newsletter put out by the Kennebec Historical Society, a new finding in the case of the infamous ax murders of the Purrinton Massacre (see original posting here) has been reported:
Gravesite of Purrin(g)ton Family Found
On July 9, 1806, Betsey Purrinton and six of her eight children were brutally slain by Capt. James Purrinton, Betsey’s husband and the children’s father. A son, James, escaped with minor injuries. One of the daughters survived for several weeks after the horrific incident, but eventually succumbed to her injuries.
The murders occurred at the family’s farmstead on Old Belgrade Road, not far from the home of Martha Ballard, who chronicled them and their aftermath in her now-famous diary. The funeral at the South Parish Meeting House on Market Square drew a large crowd. Mrs. Purrinton and her children were buried in the northeast corner of what was then the Burnt Hill Cemetery, now a part of Mount Vernon Cemetery. Capt. Purrinton was buried in the highway at the corner of Winthrop and High streets.
When Charles E. Nash wrote his history of Augusta a century later, he stated that the family’s gravesite location had been lost from the community’s memory. Several weeks ago, however, it was rediscovered. Lee Cranmer, an archaeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commisson, and a Augusta city crew under the auspices of the Augusta Historic Preservation Commisson, searched Mount Vernon Cemetery for the gravesite and they found it.
The Augusta Heritage Coalition, whose members include Old Fort Western Museum, the Augusta Historic Preservation Commisson, and the Kennebec Historical Society, intends to mark the gravesite and will invite the community to a memorial event to be held sometime in July. Interestingly, the surname Purrin(g)ton is spelled with and without a “g,” sometimes even within the same reference source.