Varina woke early as usual, on a Saturday morning in 1937. She could hear sister Lela bustling in the kitchen below, pumping water to make coffee on the wood-burning cookstove. The sisters had always been early risers, as there was so much to do on the family farm. The rising sun caused the bay, which she could see from her bedroom window, to shimmer like diamonds in the early dawn light.

There were visitors to greet, and the reporter, Henry Buxton from the Bangor Daily News had made an appointment to stop by, as Anne Wittemore of the Portland Press Herald had done three years previously.

Varina and sister Lela had been born and raised on the farm on the Atlantic Highway at Lincolnville Beach. Their grandfather, Elisha Griffin, had settled there in the early 1800’s. Varina recalled hearing about Grandfather Griffin, who, with his brother Thomas and another man, had drowned in the cold January waters of Penobscot Bay while fishing between the islands in 1842. Grandfather Elisha was 46 years of age when he drowned.

Varina had heard the story so often that it seemed she could look across the water and visualize seeing the small boat being caught up in a squall, causing the men to drown in the bay. Their bodies had never been recovered. Another of Elisha’s brothers, great-uncle Otis, had drowned in Bangor in the same year, 1842.

Grandfather Elisha Griffin was the son of Lt. Peleg Griffin and Lydia Pendleton. Elisha had married Desier Decrow. The Pendletons had been seafaring men for several generations. Great-grandfather, Lt. Peleg Pendleton, had gone to sea early in life. He later was part-owner of the 36-ton schooner Dolphin. He had resided in Prospect, in the part that became Stockton Springs, where Elisha was born. Many of Lt. Peleg Pendleton’s sons had become master mariners, with members of several generations drowning in one part of the world or another.

Varina was one of the 12 children of Peleg Decrow Griffin and Elizabeth Herrick of Northport. Her father had been named after his paternal grandfather, Peleg Decrow, who had also been an early settler at Lincolnville Beach. Only eight of Varina’s immediate family had lived to adulthood, and she and Lela were the last surviving members of the family. They had come from hardy New England families.

Their father, Peleg Decrow Griffin, had died in 1895 of Bright’s Disease, at age 75. Their mother lived on at the farm for 20 years after his death. Their children were Emery, Nancy Adelia (who married German Lyon), Ellis Alexander (who died at age 32), Llewellyn (who married Alfreda Monroe), Marcellus (who married Isabelle Sarah Howe), Lela, Varina, and the youngest, Sylvanus Griffin. Louvica, Lucalous, Lewader and Hollace all died in infancy.

They were all gone now, except sisters Lela and Varina. The passing of each sibling had been grievous, but none so much as the death of their youngest brother, Sylvanus. Sylvanus was a handsome, dashing, robust young man, beloved by all who knew him. On Christmas day in 1897, at the age of 30, he had married Julia Katherine Lermond, known as Kate. She had soon endeared herself to the family.

Their first child, Leonard J., had died as an infant. The next born was Nancy Marie, who was the joy of the extended family. Sylvanus and Kate later lost a daughter in 1909, Mary, who died at birth. The elder aunts doted on Nancy, using their sewing skills to make clothing items, and wee doll clothing for her delight.

Sylvanus worked in Boston and in Rhode Island. While in Rhode Island, he suffered from a bout of pneumonia. Kate went down and nursed him back to health. They had purchased a nice home on Eaton Ave in Camden. Sylvanus’ health declined and he died on a Tuesday, in January of 1917, at the age of 49 years, after suffering from Bright’s Disease, the same illness that had taken his father. Varina still felt the sadness of her brother’s untimely death.

Varina finished dressing to assist sister Lela with breakfast and farm chores. Lela had married George ‘Dana’ Spaulding in 1916, son of Ambrose and Mary A. Spaulding. He was called Dana, and was an avid hunter and trapper of smaller animals. He loved roaming the mountains of Lincolnville and Camden with his dogs. Varina had never married.

The sisters loved the farm where they had been raised. In 1934, Anne Wittemore of the Portland Press Herald had written a newspaper article calling the farm “A Garden of Eden,” after hearing of the many visitors to the farm on Atlantic Highway. She wrote of the natural rock gardens on ledges covering over one half acre, built by hand by the elderly Griffin sisters.

They had also built stone walls and stone steps up the side of the hilled landscape to a cabin at the top of the hill, which was also built by them. The hauled loam and natural fertilizer from their farm animals to fill the cracks and crevices on which they planted hundreds of varieties of wildflowers of many kinds.

They were given flower seeds by many friends and visitors, as well as ordering 100 or so packets of various flower seeds annually. They saved their seeds from year to year. They built series of steps by hauling flat rocks from as far away as the shore, which bordered on the large field across from their home.

The sisters devised a watering system from an old wash boiler with a hose attached that took both of them to operate — one to pump the water, and the other to handle the hose. The gardens were watered routinely. They also built a small natural pool with a footbridge that was an attraction to visitors. The flowers ran rampant over the ledges, visible from the highway.

The flowers were planted for their own pleasure, from the cabin at the top of the hill to the road. They were so bountiful and beautiful that they wanted to share them. They considered the land “good for nothing,” so they continued carrying rocks and loam to increase the gardens each year. Their eight dogs rambled amongst the beauty, enjoying the visitors who continued to come. They started keeping a visitor’s book, and had visitors from all over America, and some as far away as South America.

This morning in 1937, Henry Buxton of the Bangor Daily News was coming by. He was the author of many articles as he roamed across the highways and byways of Maine, writing of interesting sights.

He later wrote: “Many people may find an impressive and awe-inspiring expression of a great love of flowers in a vast rock garden covering a full half acre of ledges situated on US No. 1 Highway almost on the boundary line of Lincolnville and Camden.”

He wrote that he’d never seen two women with more radiance of inner spirit. He wrote that the elder women had never allowed the aches and pains of old age to interfere with their labor of love. Buxton described the scene as likened to a chapter out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Varina looked back over the visits from two or more reporters in the 1930’s, and how she and her sister had enjoyed reading of others enjoying the Paradise that they had created. They stayed on the farm until Lela’s death in 1947. Lela is buried with her husband in Camden. Varina passed away two years later in a Nursing Home in Rockland, aged 85 years.

Thus ended three generations of Griffins on the farm at Lincolnville Beach. As you pass by the summer hillside today, with buttercups and daisies blowing in the breezes across the highway toward the shoreline, one never realizes the hard work and beauty that the hill once portrayed.

Isabel Morse Maresh is a historian and genealogist. She lives in Belmont.