Friday, June 1, 2018

A matter of historical record: The story behind a mysterious dog grave in South Windham uncovered by Walter Lunt

Part one of a two part series.

For many decades the solitary grave stone of a dog named Malsee, has puzzled residents and historians. Inscribed in the moss-covered marble stone, overtaken through the years by bramble and leafy bushes, is a touching memorial to a military officer’s best friend: In Memory of Malsee, General Hooton’s faithful Grayhound (sic). Born in Montana 1894. Died 1908 with First Regt at Chickamauga in Spanish War.”

Grave site before PowerServe team clean-up
The long-neglected grave site is located on private property in the Gambo section of South Windham near the walking bridge. No other stone is located near it.

In 2002, the late Kay Soldier, long-time Windham historian, wrote, “Research has not yet turned up the origin of this stone. About 1990, at the request of animal lover and local businessman, Lawrence Keddy, we tried to find out more.” Soldier reports that the Windham Historical Society contacted every greyhound association in the U.S. to no avail. And “Since acquiring internet capability, we have searched available military site[s] but cannot locate a general named Hooton.”

Soldier further reported that Keddy surrounded the burial ground with a pipe fence to protect it, which remains in place today. Nestled in trees, the grave appears to have always been free of vandalism.

And so, the stone with its endearing message remained one of history’s mysteries until it piqued the curiosity of a worker for the Portland Water District. Alan Anderson, who had hauled gravel from a near-by pit for the PWD, said he had known of the grave’s existence for some time.

“Somewhere I heard or read that Malsee was buried there by a manager of the Oriental Powder Co. (a historic gunpowder mill that operated in the area from the mid-1800s into the early twentieth century). I regretted spreading around a false story, so I started a search for the real facts.”
A book on the history of the powder mills made no mention of a Gen. Hooton or the dog grave. 
Books and research articles on Windham history were also silent on the matter.

Finally, after numerous Google searches, “I found a reference to Col. Mott Hooton’s Military Memoirs at the New York Historical Society. I sent for them, but there was no mention of Malsee in the document.” However, “I started looking for a dog and I ended up finding a very fascinating man.”
Hooton, it seems, fought in several major battles in the Civil War, later became an Indian fighter in the West and crowned his impressive military career by leading a regiment up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Amazing, but how and why did his beloved pet come to be buried in South Windham, Maine? investigations into the mystery led Anderson to a book published in 2011. “A Small Company of Faithful Ones,” tells the story of Hooton and other volunteers of the 1st Pennsylvania Reserves during the Civil War. A fascinating read, but again, no mention of Malsee. The authors, Kevin Brown and Amy King are currently writing a follow-up biography on Mott Hooton.

Anderson initiated e-mail correspondence with author Brown in 2013. Both were interested in knowing more about the greyhound dog, Malsee. Brown’s research had uncovered a 1908 receipt showing Gen. Hooton paid $5.00 for a marble tablet from a stone cutter in Maine. He told Anderson, “…I would bet this was the stone he used for (Malsee’s) grave marker.”

Further, according to Brown, Hooton was always attracted to the Greyhound breed, even keeping pedigrees of his dogs. Whether his dogs served as mascots in Hooton’s various military outfits, or were just his personal pets is unknown. The stone’s inscription suggests direct military attachment, but, as Anderson points out, the historical record shows no primary source of proof of it. Yet!
The research continues, by Anderson in Windham, and authors Brown and Small in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The grave site after the PowerServe lean up

After securing permission from the current property owners, eight special workers visited the dog grave last Monday, Memorial Day. Anderson and seven Windham High School PowerServe volunteers converged on the burial site to open it and clean it up. The neglected fenced-in area was closed in with small trees, bushes and tall weeds. The volunteers pulled stumps, plucked broken glass from the dirt and chucked a dead mole. The stone was cleaned with an acid-free spray, turning it from black and green to a near gleaming white. The plot was then covered with black mesh screening and topped with several inches of mulch. As a final touch, the group painted the fence black. Anderson said he was pleased and proud of the group’s work.

In our next installment, Part Two will examine heGen. Mott Hooton’s extensive and remarkable military career and his unlikely connection to Windham, Maine.

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