Do You Know The Story Of Lincoln’s Famous Painted Rock?
The details surrounding hometown legends can get kind of fuzzy over time. Take the legend of the Painted Rock in Lincoln.
The rock, if you haven't been to see it in person yet, is situated in Lincoln on Route 6, about a mile from the town line.
No one can really remember exactly when the tradition of painting the rock began.
Darlene Flood grew up in the neighboring town of Lee.
"I grew up in Lee and attended Lee Academy. We passed the rock every trip to Lincoln and back."
Flood recalls the painting of this giant rock began at some point in the 70s.
"My earliest memories are of the rock in the early 1970s. And it all began when a local boy and his friends painted his name on the rock. Simply one word Jesse. It stayed for a very long time it was forbidden graffiti.1970s kids were rebels."
Flood says that the painting of the rock really started to pick up in the years to come.
"I raised my kids in Lincoln in the 1980s and 90s. Things really accelerated then. It became the rural version of city billboards."
Flood's father, Alton Pickering, would document the different layers of paint back then with his manual camera.
"The Dunphy photo is the most well known. It was a traumatic time for our small town of Lee...The 1991 photos of troops returning were a huge deal. "
Others like lifelong Lincoln resident Ruth Birtz think it might have started earlier than the 70s.
"I don't know how far back it goes. I do know that I have lived in Lincoln my entire life...and I would say it's been as far back as 1960-something...It's certainly been in place for a number of years. "
Birtz, who has worked in one capacity or another, for the Town of Lincoln for the past 30 years, says the Famous Painted Rock has been around as far back as she can remember.
"That rock, I wouldn't even dare to say how many coats of paint are on it."
One thing all who are familiar with the rock can agree on is the paint has always been added to mark a major life event or to commemorate the lost life of a local loved one.
Birtz says historically, the rock has been painted to mark births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, the passing of local members of EMS and military members, or even just folks who lived in the area.
It's even been used, in a friendly rivalry between neighboring towns, to show support for local teams during big sporting events.
"One day you'll see is 'Go Lee Pandas!' and the next day you'll see 'Hey Lady Howlers' and then you'll get the 'Mattanawcook Academy Lynx'. It changes multiple times a year."
Usually painted under the cover of night, Birtz says she only remembers one time actually seeing someone physically paint on the rock.
"It's always stealth. It's usually in the middle of the night. People go with flashlights and stuff. I think the only time I've seen it done actually during the day, was when it's to commemorate someone who has passed. Then they take a little bit more time with it."
Martha Currier, who grew up in Lincoln, says she's been lucky enough to paint the rock a time or two.
"I painted 2 one for my mum n one for my best friend going to college and had my friend caprice paint it for my daughter."
"I love the rock! It is a local tradition and an honor to have ur name, accomplishments, birthdays, artwork, any celebration, etc.. painted on 'the rock'! So many local memories that bring the whole community together."
Local artist Caprice Stevens, who grew up in Lee but now lives in Lincon, has painted the rock a number of times.
"I was asked on a few separate occasions to paint something good that would bring cheer to the people who drove by. It’s always been a fun outlet for me because I love creating."
Kathy Lothrop Crise also has a special connection to Lincoln's Famous Painted Rock, as she helped honor her fallen nephew with a display in 2007.
"Joel House is my nephew. The morning after Army officials notified Joel’s parents, my sister, and brother-in-law, my dad gathered us all and said 'let’s go paint the rock'.I’ve had many people tell me over the years that this is how they found out about Joel’s death."
Most recently, "The Rock" was painted to honor another local man named Gary Lyle Worster, who passed away unexpectedly in April of this year.
Worster, better known to his friends as "Swampy" was well-known and well-loved in the area.
Swampy's longtime friend and relative, Jennifer Gordon, was one of the local artists involved in painting the tribute to Swampy on the rock.
"Amy Renaud contacted me shortly after Gary's passing asking if I would be interested in painting the rock in his memory. The answer was YES immediately. I have done artistic painting for over 20 years and I was honored to help with it."
"Gary meant a lot to all that knew him and always left a lasting impression. His personality always put a smile on your face. Amy had some ideas of what she would like it to say so we bounced some ideas back and forth. His love for the slots and vegas were among the discussion. It was definitely a joint effort between the two of us."
"As we were there painting the rock we both realized the last time either of us had painted it was together then also with a group of kids in remembrance of a classmate."
"So many people complimenting and thanking me at Gary's celebration of life. I mentioned to a few it would be interesting to start a page for people to share past paintings. I got such a positive response I decided to do it"
And thus, the Lincoln's Famous Painted Rock Facebook Page was started. Now folks have a spot to share photos and stories of this local legend.
Birtz says she thinks it's pretty amazing that in all the years "the rock" has existed, it's never been painted up to be political or too vulgar.
"I think it's amazing that it's never been political. I don't recall ever seeing anything political on it. It's always been to commemorate a life event. Whether it's to celebrate a sports team winning or to celebrate a local person for their life achievements. There might have been one time, in my lifetime, when it had something inappropriate on it. But overnight it was gone. For the amount of years that that rock has been painted, that in itself is pretty remarkable as well."
"It's almost like it's got this unspoken folklore, that you're going to put things on the rock that you want to celebrate."