Stones with Stories

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  • 27 Mar 2017 2:48 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)
    Honoring Civil War Vets in Cooper
    By Karen E. Holmes

    I believe there is nothing morbid about visiting the old cemetery, and I always do so when I walk up East Ridge Road in Cooper, Maine. On this particular winter day there is no snow on top of the frozen ground, and I crunch my way easily to two graves in the back row. They are always easy to find because of the two small American flags set in front of them. Today is so still, and no cold wind moves the tree branches or waves the little flags. The smaller gravestone has a very brief epitaph of “J.R. Higgins, CO. F 6th ME INF.” The tall gravestone has much more information and reads: “John H. Smith, Died July 10, 1866, AE 21 years. 1 ms, member of the Co. 1, 12th ME Reg.” Here are the graves of two men from Maine who were involved in the Civil War, a terrible time of crisis for our country long ago. The United States was almost torn in two by a conflagration ignited by Americans fighting Americans.

    Who were J.R. Higgins and John H. Smith? Did they volunteer or were they drafted to fight to save the Union their grandfathers had founded? Did they light for honor and duty? Or might they have wanted adventure and a chance to leave the everyday life of Downeast Maine? Did they hope to gain glory or to find monetary opportunity? Did they have families? Were they fishermen or farmers or storekeepers or teachers or lumberjacks? Perhaps both men were among those incredible people who called forth inner courage to go to war because it seemed the right thing to do. They would leave their Maine friends and families to fight for the Union and to abolish slavery in the name of humanity.

    It may seem strange that I always feel sadness for these two men who died so long ago. John H. Smith died soon after he returned home to Cooper. And he was not quite 22 years old. I did some research about the lives of Higgins and Smith and learned that their deaths and others left a profound legacy in Maine. Maine had one of the highest percentages of men who served in the Union Army of any state in the nation. It is documented that Maine lost one of every five men. However, they did not all die in combat. J .R. Higgins was in Company F of the 6th Maine Infantry Regiment. John Smith served in Company I of the 12th Maine Infantry Regiment. The actual statistics of the 6th and 12th Regiments state that 3 officers and 49 men were killed and/or mortally wounded and 2 officers and 237 men died of disease in the 12th. Twelve officers and 141 men were killed/mortally wounded and 2 officers and 100 men died of disease in the 6th. The living conditions of the camps were terrible, and all sorts of diseases were common. Also soldiers were more afraid of dying from infections they got in the poorly equipped hospitals than from combat wounds. Men such as John H. Smith of Cooper sometimes tragically died from wounds, or illnesses, after the war was over and they returned home.

    Men and women as well must have experienced days of boredom and anxiety waiting to go into battle. The excitement, enthusiasm and passion for the cause could have waned while they waited in drafty tents and cold and muddy trenches. Higgins and Smith and many others were Mainers and probably proud of it. But like all of their fellow soldiers, they had to put that loyalty aside in order to become part of a much larger army that had to follow orders, function and be united in the chaos of the battle. Most soldiers were in the infantry and had to walk and march long distances. Their boots and shoes would wear out and they became footsore and weary. But soldiers endured because it was their duty.

    A soldier also had to endure the madness of war itself. The screams of cannonballs dying over them and the descending whine when they came down and thundered into the ground was never taken for granted. There was often no place to seek shelter and they could be horribly blown to bits. They would hear the loud whiz of bullets and musket balls and the whoosh of deadly shrapnel. They would smell smoke, gunpowder, blood, sweat and even fear. Soldiers sometimes had to walk or run right over the bodies of wounded and dead soldiers and ignore their pain and suffering in order to save their own lives. You would probably never forget such experiences. If you saw blasted battlefields that were once crop fields and shattered buildings that were once homes and towns, you would have had to know that human lives were ruined as well. I wonder if men like Smith and Higgins has such experiences and memories.

    In April 2011 the United States began sesquicentennial recognition of The War Between the States/The American Civil War. All over America people can honor and remember the men and women who served in the War from both North and South. They can visit graves and battlefields and monuments. In a park in Calais there is a bronze soldier standing atop a red granite monument. He confidently holds a rifle across his chest and wears the uniform and cap of a Union soldier. The plaque below him states this was erected in 1893: “In Grateful Remembrance Of/The Men of Calais/Who Upon Land and Sea Sacrificed Their/Lives That The Nation Might Be Preserved/And That Government Of The People/By The People And For The People Should/Not Perish From The Earth/ 1861-1865.” Calais citizens remembered and desired to have future generations do the same thing. There are many such moments in Maine and other places in our nation that honor people.

    As Mainers we all should remember and be proud that it was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine, hero of the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, who was Chosen from many other valiant Union Army leaders to accept the formal surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 12, 1865. Ulysses S. Grant chose him, not because of his leadership in battle, but because he knew Chamberlain was a humble man with a sense of honor and compassion. He understood how important it was to begin a healing process for a torn nation. He respected people, He ordered his men to perform the formal salute of arms which recognizes the common soldier with dignity and respect as he surrenders. He wrote in his book Passing of The Armies: “Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin and worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured.”

    I, too, understand how important it is to celebrate the contributions of people, and not war itself. So I will continue to visit the graves of Higgins and Smith. Charles Kuralt once said: “The reality of any place is what its people remember of it.” I will always admire and respect the caretakers of the East Ridge Cemetery in Cooper who still place all those small American flags near their graves. Let all of us remember.

    *********************************

    J.R. Higgins [no dates], Find a Grave #104466994

    John H. Smith [1845-1866], Find A Grave #104497457

    Published 2013 Discover Maine.  Reprinted with permission of the author.


  • 17 Mar 2017 10:37 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Jennifer Stucker, Gouldsboro Historical Society, Gouldsboro, Maine

    Prologue:  One sunny afternoon in 1964, a group of young college boys were driving the back roads in rural Massachusetts when they stopped to “answer nature’s call.”  In the process, one of the young men noticed an interesting looking flat stone, leaning against a nearby tree.  When he tipped it upright, he discovered it was a broken off fragment of a very old slate headstone!  But there was no cemetery anywhere near the wooded area where they had stopped.  Seeing that it had some interesting carving, he decided to “rescue” the stone and take it home.  He kept it safe as he moved through college, first apartment, first house, next house, etc.  Eventually, he and the headstone ended up here, when he retired to Maine.  For most of that time (over 50 years!), the stone was kept indoors, sheltered from the New England climate. So even though it was broken off at the bottom, the stone remained in very good condition and quite legible…


    The Present:  In 2016, when it was time to make his next move, our protector of tombstones was pretty sure that by holding onto her stone, Hannah was somehow jinxing his house sale prospects.  The headstone needed to go.  Here’s where I came in, offering to take custody of the stone to try and find its rightful home.  Of course, back in 1964, that would have been a daunting task for Hannah’s finder.  Like Maine, rural Massachusetts is littered with cemeteries large and small, and there were few resources then for searching cemetery records unless you had some hint where the family lived or died and a lot of time on your hands.  But today, with online inventories like Find A Grave and Ancestry.com, the process took just a few minutes -- less than the time it took the wet slate to dry after being rinsed off on my front porch on a warm September day, to be precise. 

    By searching on Find A Grave for Captain Joseph Ware, I quickly located his grave, complete with photo, in Old South Cemetery, Sherborn, Massachusetts, several miles west of where Hannah’s stone was found by the side of the road in 1964.  There is a burial record there for Hannah as well, but of course no stone, though the stone does exist in a 1905 inventory available online through the Sherborn Library.   

    Not surprisingly, Hannah's stone appears to be in much better shape than the Captain’s.  Nevertheless, except for the names, the stones are identical, clearly executed by the same carver, with the same winged death head depicting a grim human face rather than a skull, and the reference in the inscription to ye. Memorable Mortality (this unusual phrase refers to a deadly plague that swept through the area in the early 1750's, causing severe respiratory symptoms and wiping out a large percentage of the population). 

    Intrigued, I contacted the only person I knew who might have the 2-volume “bible” for researching this sort of thing (Jim Blachowicz’s From Slate to Marble 1770 – 1870: Gravestone Carving Traditions in Eastern Massachusetts), Ron Romano, of course!   He noodled around a bit without much luck – that winged face was odd -- deliberately primitive in a stone that had no other primitive features.  So Ron directed me to the Farber Gravestone Collection, a fascinating online archive of over 13,500 images of historic New England gravestones, indexed by numerous characteristics, stone type, date, location, carver, etc., for further noodling on my own.     

    Provenance:  My first attempt was to search for Slate, Massachusetts, winged face.  That narrowed the field to 2,192 -- considerably fewer than 13,500, but still too many thumbnail images for browsing.  Then I took a chance that maybe the carver was just goofing around with this style in 1754 (see alternative theory below on this subject).  That narrowed the crowd to 15! 

    And there it was – on a 1754 stone for Solomon Park of Holliston, Massachusetts, the same disturbing face staring back at me and the carver was John New…


    From the other images of the Solomon Park stone, I could see that the border carving on the sides was different, but the lettering style, numbers, wording were all very close.  Same shop if not same carver.  So once I had the carver’s name, I searched the Farber Gravestone Collection again and found a total of 125 images of John New’s work.  Browsing through those images revealed all of the components on Hannah’s stone -- including some fabulous lettering!  

    Timothy Harrington's 1749 stone is basically the same blank and in much better condition than Hannah’s, so you can see what her stone would have looked like with less weathering.  James Eager’s 1755 stone is more ornate, but has a similar composition… 


    New worked in the Sherborn area for just a few years, coinciding with the Memorable Mortality, but he was the only carver of the time (whose work is illustrated in the Farber Collection) to use that distinctive, haunting face, depicting a chain-like collar below the mouth.  Based on the Farber images, the winged face with the choke-collar only appears on stones from 1749 - 1761, when the plague was raging through Massachusetts, while examples of much more elaborate heads, cherubs, etc, appear on his work throughout the entire range of his career, 1742 - 1785.  Of particular interest is the stone he carved for James Eager’s wife Tabitha (shown below), who died just a few months before James in 1755.  Atop the angel’s wings on Tabitha’s stone is a neatly carved portrait head.  Above the same wings on James’ stone is the choke-collared skull.


    For an in-depth look at John New’s career and life, see Vincent F. Luti’s scholarly article, “Eighteenth Century Gravestone Carvers of the Narragansett Basin: John and James New.”>1  In it, Luti refers to the winged head on stones like Hannah’s as a “third-rate skull,” which it was, but unlike Luti, I do not believe it was simply a step in New’s development as a carver. 

    I have a different hypothesis.  In “The Pursuit of a Pestilence,”2 Ernest Caulfield described the epidemic which swept through Massachusetts in the early 1750’s known as the Memorable Mortality, as a deadly flu-like "pleuritic fever" which spread rapidly, causing respiratory infections that literally strangled its victims, killing them in just a few days. 

    New was a skilled carver.  He knew perfectly well how to execute an elaborate skull or face, winged or otherwise, as evidenced by the other stones he was carving during the same period when he was also using the “third-rate skull.” Without knowledge of who the specific victims of the Memorable Mortality were, we cannot be sure, but it seems more plausible that New used that particular face for its victims, like Hannah and Capt. Joseph Ware.  Their stones and a few others in the area also bore the 31-character phrase, “Died in ye. Memorable Mortality.” But at the time, using the choked skull would have conveyed the same message to survivors in the know. 

    Hannah Ware’s Prospects:  Obviously, when I contacted Town officials in Sherborn about the recovery of Hannah Ware’s stone and my plans to deliver it to them this summer, they were ecstatic.  From my perspective as someone who has spent a fair amount of time involved in cemetery preservation efforts, there was really only one question left to be answered – what will Sherborn do with the stone, once it is returned? 

    Fortunately, they responded with the “right” answer -- Sherborn has a restoration fund for damaged historic stones like Hannah’s.  So before returning it to its rightful place next to Cap. Joseph in Old South Cemetery, the stone will be “professionally restored.”  It’s their stone and their Town history.  So I’m trying really hard not to ask just what that means. 

    By the way, the week after Hannah’s headstone left his house, my friend received two offers and sold it.

    **********************************************

    1 Luti, Vincent F.  “Eighteenth Century Gravestone Carvers of the Narragansett Basin: John and James New.”    Markers XVI (1999): 6-103.

    2 Caulfield, Ernest.  “The Pursuit of a Pestilence.” Paper presented to the American Antiquarian Society.  http://www.americanantiquarian.org/proceedings/44807204.pdf.

  • 06 Mar 2017 9:27 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Cheryl Willis Patten

    Also an Infant, also two Infants. These words or variations thereof appear often on grave markers in Maine’s old cemeteries.  The stone for Julia Ann Pierce Sanborn, who was born in May of 1812, is in Chesterville ME’s Center Cemetery.  On 10 Sept. 1835 Julia Ann Pierce married Amzi Sanborn as his first wife.1 Amzi was supposedly an 1832 graduate of N. Y.’s College of Physicians and Surgeons,2 and his stone is next to that of Julia Ann. Amzi, the son of John and Hannah Bachelder Sanborn, was born 1 Jan. 1809 in Parsonfield, ME and died of consumption in Phillips, ME 3 on 9 Nov. 1861.4 Julia Ann Sanborn died on 13 Nov. 1852 and near the bottom of her marble stone there is a recessed area with three hands, each of which has a finger pointing toward heaven.  Below the hands, written in stone you see  “THREE INFANTS/Children of/ Dr. A.& Julia A.  Sanborn/They sleep.”.5 Who were these infants?

    After graduation Dr. Sanborn moved to Chesterville, ME where he and Julia Ann Pierce were married on 10 Sep. 1835.6,7  In 1836 they spent about a year in Bucryus, Ohio and then traveled “in his own carriage … through much of the western country”.   When Dr. Sanborn’s health improved they settled in West Dedham, MA where he practiced for several years before returning to ME.8  On-line searches for Amzi and Julia Ann Sanborn’s children who might have been born in Ohio or MA have not located any children for the couple.

    Six children were born to Amzi and Julia Ann Sanborn. The children for whom names are known were Ellen Angeline (1836-1904)10, Juliette Caroline (1839-1840), Marshman Williams (1841-1884) and Edward W. Talbot (1845-1886).11  One of the hands carved on Julia Ann’s gravestone is likely for Juliette Caroline, but what were the names and dates of birth and death for the other two infants?

    The 1840 census finds the family in Chesterville, ME with two female children under 5 years.12    These two children were likely Ellen and Juliette.  In the 1850 census of Wilton, ME listed with Amzi [Amsi] and Julia Ann are Ellen, Marshman, and Edward.13  Per the 1860 census, living in Phillips with Amzi and his second wife, Mary Wheeler (20 Aug. 1819-19 Jan. 1902)14 are his children Marshman and Edward.15  The Phillips, ME 1870 census (after the death of Amzi) lists Mary Sanborn living in a household with her parents, Samuel and Abigail, 33 year old George Wheeler, and 9 year old Alphia M. Sanborn.16  In addition to their daughter Alphia, Amzi and his second wife Mary had a son who is buried next to Mary in Phillips’ Evergreen Cemetery.17  Again, no name or dates are carved on this gravestone for INFANT/son of/Dr. A. & Mary/ SANBORN.18

    A quest to find the names of the three infants for whom hands are shown on Julia Ann’s gravestone turned up the name of only one, Juliette Caroline (1839-1840). What were the names for Amzi and Julia Ann’s two “name unknown” infants or the name of the infant son of Amzi and Mary?  There are many INFANTS in Maine’s old cemeteries who might never be known by name, but those lucky enough to have an existent gravestone will be remembered.

    *********

    1. "Maine Marriages, 1771-1907," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F46R-T48 : 4 December 2014), Amzi Sanborn and Julia Ann Pierce, 10 Sep 1835; citing Civil, Chesterville, Franklin, Maine, reference ; FHL microfilm 10,792. [Hereafter “Maine Marriages”]

    2. Dearborn, J. W. (Jeremiah Wadeigh), A History of the First Century of the Town of Parsonsfield, Maine. Incorporated Aug. 29, 1785, and Celebrated with Impressive Ceremonies at North Parsonsfield, August 29, 1885 (Portland, ME., B. Thurston & Company, 1888), 148.  [Hereafter History of Parsonfield, ME]  Note that Catalogue of the Alumni, Officers and Fellows, of College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York from A. D. 1807, to A. D. 1865 (New York, Baker and Goodwin, 1866) 48, 49 lwhich lists the class of 1832 does NOT list the name of Amzi Sanborn.

    3. History of Parsonfield, ME, 148.

    4. Dr. Amzi Sanborn gravestone,  Center Cemetery, Chesterville, ME. Photographed by Cheryl Willis Patten, 22 Oct. 2016.

    5. Julia Ann Pierce, wife of Dr. A. Sanborn gravestone,  Center Cemetery, Chesterville, ME. Photographed by Cheryl Willis Patten, 22 Oct. 2016.

    6. History of Parsonfield, ME. 148.

    7. “Maine Marriages”.

    8.  History of Parsonfield, ME. 148.

    9.  Ibid.

    10. Maine State Archives; Cultural Building, 84 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0084; 1892-1907 Vital Records; Roll #: 18. [Ellen A. Eveleth]

    11. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mefrankl/NasonYoung.htm

    12. Year: 1840; Census Place: Chesterville, Franklin, Maine; Roll: 140; Page: 55; Image: 115; Family History Library Film: 0009703.

    13. Year: 1850; Census Place: Wilton, Franklin, Maine; Roll: M432_253; Page: 61A; Image: 121. [Amir]

    14. Find A Grave Memorial 118735752, Mary Wheeler Sanborn, Evergreen Cemetery, Phillips, ME.

    15. Year: 1860; Census Place: Phillips, Franklin, Maine; Roll: M653_435; Page: 1069; Image: 484; Family History Library Film: 803435.

    16. Year: 1870; Census Place: Phillips, Franklin, Maine; Roll: M593_543; Page: 160B; Image: 190319; Family History Library Film: 552042.   

    17. Find A Grave Memorial 118735752, Mary Wheeler Sanborn, Evergreen Cemetery, Phillips, ME.

    18. Find a Grave Memorial 118735733, Sanborn Infant, Evergreen Cemetery, Phillips, ME.


  • 04 Jan 2017 2:59 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Cheryl Willis Patten

    On 29 May 1879 Dea. James Cleveland stopped at the Washington Hall Building in Skowhegan, home of Baker and Judkins Monument Works, and ordered a grave stone for his wife, Betsey Cleveland. It was to be set in Bloomfield Cemetery (now known as Southside Cemetery) and he paid for it in two installments. On 29 May 1879 he paid $30.00 and the remaining amount of $18.00 was paid on 6 June 1879. The dimensions of the stone and the exact wording to be cared on the stone were written in the order book. 1

    BETSEY/Wife of/Dea. James Cleveland. /Born Dec. 5. 1798./married at the age of 20/& lived with her husband 62 years./the mother of ten children/and lived to see/18 grandchildren/and 16 great grandchildren./Died Apr. 10. 1879./AE. 82. /A dutiful wife. A kind mother./a good Christian. 2

    Elizabeth (Betsey) Parker, the daughter of Samson Parker and Rachel Coburn was born 7 Dec. 1796 and died 10 April 1879.   On 8 January 1817 she married James Cleveland, the son of Joseph Cleveland and Susan Steward,3 who was born in Bloomfield on 8 Feb. 1793 and died in Fairfield on 4 March 1881. 4

    James and Betsey lived on the Middle Road in Skowhegan and he “gave to a number of his children the names of his wife’s relations.” 5  Their children were

    • Calvin (1818-1907) Secretary to ME’s Governor Abner Coburn;  6
    • Samuel P. (1820-1882) “(lived a few years in Cal.), of Barnet, Whorff & Co., axe manufacturers. Was Chief of Police several years”; 7
    • Rose Ann (1881-1883) wife of Skowhegan farmer, Capt. George Washington Durrell;  8
    • James (1824-1905) resident of Kansas, “a large farmer, stock raiser, and business man; was twice member of state Legislature and Senate; sent by the State to Washington D. C. on important business. Has been in public life many years, and is an excellent orator"; 9
    • Mary Jane (1828-1892) wife of Charles Blanchard who engaged in the lumber business in Lock Haven, CT and Philadelphia, PA.  He was a well-known and large lumber merchant; 10
    • John Emery d. 11 Oct. 1831, infant son; 11
    • Fidelia Coburn (1830-1907)  wife of Skowhegan farmer, William Benjamin Fletcher; 12
    • William Parker (1833-1909) traveler to California in 1851 and to Australia in 1854. He married Catherine Lacy from Tipperary, Ireland and they raised seven children on their large farm in Yalca, Australia; 13
    • Sarah Parker (1836-1900) married Joseph Jewett Steward; 14
    • Abner Coburn (1840-1903) owner of one of the largest cattle ranches in Cleveland, NV, a town named for him. He held many public offices in NV, including twice being a presidential elector and in 1894 he was a candidate for governor. 15

    Betsey’s gravestone in Skowhegan’s Southside Cemetery makes it clear that family was important to her. How proud she and James must have been that their descendants were noted citizens in far flung places, including many U. S. states and Australia.

    ******************

    1 Maine Old Cemetery Association. The Marble Records, “Betsey Cleveland”, (No place, privately published, 2006).  Volume 19, Page 107.    

    2 Betsey Cleveland gravestone,  Southside Cemetery, Skowhegan, ME. Photographed by Cheryl Willis Patten, 22 Oct. 2014.

    3 Louise Helen Coburn and other residents, Skowhegan on the Kennebec, 2 volumes (Skowhegan, Maine, 1941), 1:178.

    4 Coburn, Skowhegan on the Kennebec, 1:178.

    5  Coburn, Skowhegan on the Kennebec, 1:178.

    6 Cleveland, Edmund James,. The genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland families: an attempt to trace in both the male and the female lines the posterity of Moses Cleveland ..., of Alexander Cleveland ... and of ancient and other Clevelands in England, America and elsewhere: with numerous biographical sketches : and containing ancestries of many of the husbands and wives : also a bibliography of the Cleveland family : and a genealogical account of Edward Winn … 3 volumes (Hartford, Conn.: Printed for the subscribers by the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., 1899) II:1710. [Hereafter cited as The Cleveland Genealogy.]

    6 James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1751.

    7  James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1708.

    8 James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1709.

    9  James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1709.

    10 James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1710.

    11  John E. Cleveland gravestone,  Southside Cemetery, Skowhegan, ME. Photographed by Cheryl Willis Patten, 22 Oct. 2014.

    12 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

    13 James, The Cleveland Genealogy, II: 1710.

    14 Coburn, Skowhegan on the Kennebec, 1:178.

    15  Coburn, Skowhegan on the Kennebec, 1:178.


  • 31 May 2016 1:20 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Photo by Find a Grave volunteer, Gail Kelly. Thanks, Gail!!Hattie Berryman Pitts (b. July 1876 in Massachusetts) was the wife of William (Willie) H. Pitts. Both residents of Skowhegan, they were married on 29 Sept. 1894. Their first child, Harry W. Pitts, was born in March of 1896. Their second child was a stillborn premature male infant who was born in March of 1902. These boys appear to be the only children born to them. Hattie's sister, Nellie, married Mark W. Savage in 1896 and the Savage home on Skowhegan's Alder Street and the Pitts home on the Middle Road, then sometimes known as the Waterville Road, were only a few miles from each other.

    William and Hattie lived on a farm with William H.'s parents, William A. and Sarah E. (Snow) Pitts.  In Skowhegan Harry W. attended schools in the village district and in 1909 was planning on entering “Academy Grammar School, Grade VIII. He was universally popular with his school mates” [1] and Harry's death on 13 July 1909 “was a tragic circumstance [that] has attracted more than the usual amount of attention and sympathy.” [2]  A Friday July 16th article in the Bangor Daily News claimed that Harry died of “blood poison” [3], but according to his death certificate Harry W. Pitts died on 13 July 1909 of “traumatic tetanus from injuries received from [a] toy pistol”.

    A Thursday noon, July 15th 1909 Somerset Reporter newspaper article reported that on July 3rd a “portion of the shell from a blank cartridge pistol, with bits of the powder or other explosive” was blown into the forefinger of Harry's left hand.  “The wound was dressed by a physician and seemed to heal nicely but the young man commenced to complain of not feeling well on Saturday last and symptoms of lockjaw developed Sunday morning, death ensuing from this disease in spite of all that could be done to combat it.” [4]

    The same issue of the Somerset Reporter that reported on Harry's accident and funeral also reported in a separate section that “on Saturday last, Mrs. Mark [Nettie Berryman] Savage received a wound from a cartridge pistol. The pistol was one that had been used by her son Brooks, on the Fourth and she was putting it away. It was discharged accidentally and blew off the end of the little finger on her left hand. The wound was carefully treated at the time and has been dressed one or more times a day since but continues painful and, by reason of the well known danger from such accidents is the cause of much anxiety. The solicitude is very naturally much increased by the death of Mrs. Savage's nephew, Master Harry Pitts, resulting from a similar injury as reported elsewhere in this issue.” [5]

    Lewiston Journal 15 Jul 1909On September 29, 1909 an order was placed at the Skowhegan Marble Works for a gravestone for Harry. Mr. Wm. H. Pitts paid $26.00 for Harry's stone [6] which was placed in lot 557 at Southside Cemetery in Skowhegan [7].  About two years later, on 3 October 1911, an order was placed for a stone of similar shape to be set in the same lot. The 1911 order was to be charged to Wm A. Pitts and the $38.00 was for a marker for the grave of Harry's father, 35 yr old William H. Pitts (b. 10 March 1875-24, May 1910). Father and son now rest side by side in lot 557 in Southside Cemetery in Skowhegan.

    Sources

    1. “Death of Harry Pitts”, Somerset Reporter (Skowhegan, Maine) 15 July 1909, p. 1. column 3rd; Skowhegan Free Public Library.
    2. “Death of Harry Pitts”, previously cited.
    3. “The Fatal Fourth”, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) 16 July 1909, p. 12, column 2nd; Maine State Library.
    4. “Death of Harry Pitts”, previously cited.
    5. “Town and Vicinity”. Somerset Reporter (Skowhegan, Maine) 15 July 1909, p. 8. column 2nd; Skowhegan Free Public Library.
    6. Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Harry Pitts” (No place, privately published, 2006).  Volume 74, Page 82.
    7. Town of Skowhegan [Maine] Cemetery Information, Town of Skowhegan, online.
  • 11 Mar 2016 12:59 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    “The body reposed in a black broadcloth casket and was wrapped in the national colors. … At the close of the service the remains were taken to the Northern depot and shipped to Mt. Auburn Cemetery where they will be cremated and afterwards brought to this city [Lowell, MA] for internment”. [1] 

    These words, from the obituary for Albert V. Partridge, as printed on 17 July 1901 on the front page of the Lowell Sun newspaper mark the end of the career of a man who lived an interesting life. He was the son of Benjamin and Hannah Ames Partridge, and was born 5 October 1843 in Prospect, Maine. In August of 1865 he married Emma (1844-1873) and in 1875 he married Martha (1840-1914). He died on 15 July 1901 in Lowell, MA.

    In various records he is listed as a sailor, gone to sea, a mariner, a master mariner, sea captain and in the 1900 Federal Census he is listed as a capitalist living in Lowell, MA where he was apparently one of the proprietors of the Merrimac House. [2]

    One of the vessels on which he served as captain was the bark Emma L. Partridge, named for his first wife. Because all hands were saved we know that the bark Emma L. Partridge, on the evening of 9 September 1879, while on a voyage from Liverpool, England to Matanzas sank after striking a reef later identified as Silver Key Bank. The bark sprang a leak and the rudder was “unshipped”. Despite the pumps going all night the water was nine feet deep the next morning. Captain Partridge decided to abandon the vessel and cargo and with “great difficulty two boats were launched”.  The “small quantities of provisions clothing, etc.,” they took with them later needed to be thrown overboard during a gale.  They began to row in the direction of Turks Island, “some 65 miles to the westward”. The two boats were able to stay together, reach the island, and using funds provided by the American Counsel, pay for their return passage on the brig Tubal Cain. Thus Captain Partridge and all nine of the crew members were returned to the U.S., safe after this adventure. [3] [4]

    Captain Partridge's cenotaph in Sandy Point Cemetery in Stockton Springs. ME is a “huge polished granite globe erected to the memory of a sea captain. On the globe is a map of the world, showing the various ports visited by Capt. Partridge in his sailing days. To be found are Boston, Valpariso, New Zealand and Liverpool, indicative of the exuberant life Partridge lived”. [5] This seems a fitting reminder of his world wide travels.


    [1] “Solemn Service at Funeral of A. V. Partridge”, Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA), July 17, 1901, p. 1, Courtesy of Pollard Memorial Library, Reference Section.

    [2] “Sandy Point Breezes”, Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor, Maine), Tuesday, August 19, 1890; Issue 196, NEHGS External database.

    Captain Albert Partridge of Lowell, Mass., proprietors of the Merrimac House, with his family and servant, have come since the last breeze, and are stopping with Mrs. William Perkins.

    [3] Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, (Bangor, ME), Monday, January 17, 1876; Issue 14; col A, By Telegraph Maine News.

    “Belfast – 15 Jan  Launched from the yard of Henry McGilvery bark Emma L. Partridge [umclear; likely 400] tons, owned principally here and in Stockton, to be commanded by Capt. Albert V. Partridge of Stockton.

    [4] “Seventy Miles in Open Boats Experience of the Crew of a Bark Wrecked at Sea”, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, (St. Louis, MO) Sunday, October 05, 1879; pg. 14; Issue 137; col C.

    [5] “Unusual Gravestones Are Found in Maine”, Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section, October 9, 1976, p. 4A, microfilm Maine State Library.

  • 04 Jan 2016 5:53 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Russell Bucknam’s grave at Gray Village Cemetery is marked by a slate headstone with accompanying footstone. The headstone is extraordinary for its size and decoration. These were produced in the Portland shop of Bartlett Adams. Given the handwriting and decorative elements, I tentatively attribute this stone to Alpheus Cary, Jr., a talented carver who was working in Adams’ shop in the middle of the 1800-1810 decade.

    The shape is unusual for Adams’ shop undefined over 80% of the stones he produced have shoulders, but the Bucknam stone has a simple upside down letter “U” shape. More typical to Adams is the shallowness of the carving; it’s difficult to read the Bucknam stone unless in ideal lighting.

    The headstone is heavily decorated with masonic symbols and inscriptions. There is central urn with the initials R. B. which oddly sits on 3 long legs (like a camera on a tripod). Unusual enough as this is, the footed urn is on a cabinet adorned with a pair of skulls & crossbones.

    This is only the second known stone from the Adams shop to have the skull & crossbones motif. Architectural columns decorate the side borders. A personified rising sun, a tiny winged face, and willows all add to the complexity of the design.
    The date of death, 1806, is expressed in the Masonic’s Blue Lodge calendar (which adds 4000 years to the Christian calendar), thus it is 5806.

    Inscriptions include:

    • Lux in Tenebris” which translates from Latin to “Light in Darkness”
    • The initials “RAM” for the Royal Arch Masons
    • Holiness to the Lord
    • Encircled letters “H T W S S T K S” for “Hiram, the Widow’s Son, Sent to King Solomon”  [Hiram was king of Tyre, a city in Lebanon, and was the Grand Master of the Masons. He was slain just before the completion of King Solomon’s temple (Solomon being the king of Israel)]

    Finally, the epitaph on the stone is as follows:

    Stay thoughtful mourner hither led
    To weep, and mingle with the dead:
    Bemoan the Mason who sleeps here,
    And pay the tributary tear.
    Thy feet must wander far to find
    A better brother, husband kind, 
    A heart with sweeter passions warm'd;
    A life with nobler acts perform'd;
    A death with deeper sighs confess'd:
    A memory, more belov'd and bless'd.

    Ron Romano presents original research exploring the life and times of Portland's first stonecutter, Bartlett Adams (1776-1828), and revealing the scope and impact of his work throughout Cumberland County.  Ron shared these notes on this extraordinary headstone at Gray Village Cemetery with MOCA.

    For more information about Bartlett Adams and his stonecutting shop, contact Ron Romano.

  • 13 Dec 2015 3:40 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    A 2010 inquiry on the Trapdoor Collector Discussion Board first brought Lieut. James E. Porter to our attention. Cathy Long was asking for information on a commemorative rifle in her possession. According to Long it was for "1st Lieut. James E. Porter I Co. 7th US Cavalry.  On the other side of the barrel is Born in Strong, Maine 1847 and Commissioned, 2nd, Lieut, 7th, Cav. June 1869 Underneath by the trigger says Missing in Action with Indians., June 25, 1876 Little Big Horn River MT". 

    A bit of online research revealed more of the story of 1st Lieutenant James Ezekiel Porter.

    A biography posted on GENI.COM reads: 

    James Ezekiel Porter (February 2, 1847-June 25, 1876) was one of General Custer's officers killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand. 

    James E. Porter was born in Strong, Maine, in 1846. He attended Bates College (called the Maine State Seminary until 1863) from 1862–1863 and then Norwich University from 1863-1864. Porter was then appointed to West Point and graduated in 1869. He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment upon graduation. In 1872, Porter became a 1st lieutenant and was assigned to Troop I. He participated in 'The Plains' Indian warfare from 1869 to 1876. On June 25, 1876, James Porter was killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn under Brevet General Custer.

    This, in turn, led us to a Wikipedia.com entry for James Porter (7th Cavalry) which provides further details about his family, military career, and death at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

    It is believed that Porter's unidentified remains were buried where they had been found on the battlefield.

    Since it was not known precisely where he had died, there was originally no marker with his name on it. In 1910 a marker with Porter's name was shipped to the battlefield. The placement of that marker was near where most of the bodies of his company (Company I) had been found. A Find a Grave Memorial commemorates his death.

    In addition to his marker at Little Bighorn Battlefield, Lieut. James E. Porter has a cenotaph on the end of the gravestone of his parents - Jeremy Wyman Porter (9 Nov. 1820-26 Apr. 1904) and Rachel Hunter Porter (09 Jan. 1827-01 Apr. 1890). 

    His cenotaph reads Lieut., James E. Porter, Jan. 12, 1847., Killed Custer Massacre, June 25, 1876.

  • 11 Sep 2015 3:11 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    On 15 January 1875 Avaline A. Lord of Lowell, ME and Frank A. Kirkland of New York City were married by S. Besse. [1]  Avaline was the daughter of lumberman Daniel W. and Mary Dustin Page Lord and in the 1870 federal census Avaline's occupation was listed as “teaching school”. [2] Daniel and Mary died in Bangor, Penobscot Co., ME. [3] 

    No place of death has been located for Ava, however the grave markers for these three individuals and for Ava's younger sister Clara, are enclosed in a white picket fence in Tannery Cemetery in East Lowell, ME.

    In describing this cemetery Dick Shaw, writing for the 9 October 1976 Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section, wrote that, “as one turns east onto a quiet country road by the [East Lowell] town hall he soon finds himself at a small graveyard occupied by a near-life-sized statute of the deceased [Ava Lord Kirkland] who for 100 years has stood vigil from her granite cubicle, also occupied by two headstones and several pieces of wrought iron furniture.” [4]

    On a 10 August 2015 visit to this cemetery there was no wrought iron furniture and within the white picket fence enclosure there were three grave markers in addition to the statue. The tallest marker is TO THE, MEMORY, OF, AVA A. LORD, Beloved Wife, of, FRANK A. KIRKLAND, OF NEW YORK, Died Dec, 26, 1876, Aged 32 Years. Her epitaph reads “A faithful loving wife, A dutiful daughter, A devoted sister, A true and tried friend”.  A small brick-shaped marble marker is in place for Clara Lord Hawley (1850-1940), and there is a joint stone for “Father” Daniel Lord (4 April 1817–7 January 1897) and “Mother” Mary D. Lord (20 June 1820–3 March 1909).  Also within the fence, atop a large granite block onto which is carved LORD, is a sculpture of a young woman.  

    Shaw writes that the statute, a life-like sculpture of a marble barefooted maiden, was created in France and shipped to ME to be placed in the Tannery Cemetery in East Lowell.

    [1] Ruth Gray, editor, Marriage Returns of Penobscot County, Maine Prior to 1892 (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1994), 626.

    [2] Year: 1870; Census Place: Lowell, Penobscot, Maine; Roll: M593_554; Page: 194A; Image: 392; Family History Library Film: 552053

    [3] Ancestry.com. Maine, Death Records, 1617-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. 

    [4] “Unusual Gravestones Are Found in Maine”, Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section, October 9, 1976, p. 4A, microfilm Maine State Library.


  • 05 Dec 2014 7:56 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    In 1977, Thomas C. Bardwell of Richmond, Maine, set out to bring well-deserved recognition to Robert Browne Hall.  According to Bardwell, R.B. Hall was “the best writer of concert and parade band music America ever produced.” 


    R.B. Hall Biography

    Robert Browne Hall was a cornet virtuoso, bandmaster and composer of marches. The son of Nathaniel W. and Virginia L. [Browne] Hall, he was born into a musical family on June 30, 1858 in Bowdoinham, ME. His father played E flat cornet in a local band and was his son's first cornet instructor.

    At age 19, R.B. Hall was director of the Richmond Cornet Band. His first three marches written for that band were simply known as RCB1, RCB2, and RCB3.

    In 1878 Hall auditioned for J.T. Baldwin's First Corps of Cadets Band in Boston and shared the solo cornet chair with Allesando Liberati for four years. Passing up other tempting offers, R. B. Hall accepted a call to rebuild the Bangor Band. He did the job so well that a week of tribute to him in 1884 culminated with the presentation of a gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet by the grateful citizens of the city. Hall responded by writing the march “Greeting to Bangor”.

    Hall was associated with several other bands including the Bangor Band, Waterville Military Band (later known as R.B. Hall's Military Band), Chandler's Band, Cherryfield Band, Olympia Band of Augusta, and the Colby College Band. During this period he took time to rebuild the "musically bankrupt" Tenth Regiment Band of Albany, NY. Hall left the Albany assignment to return to his former position in Waterville as director of Waterville Military Band. While in Waterville several of his finest marches were written. He also enjoyed great popularity throughout New England as a cornet soloist.

    Besides dedicating his compositions to people and places, dedications include local characters (Uncle Dooley's Delight), newspapers (Richmond Bee, The Sentinel), and Fraternal Orders (Demolay Commandery for Knight Templars, The Redman's March for Improved Order of Redmen, Exalted Ruler for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Independentia for Independent Order of Odd Fellows).

    Having suffered a stroke in 1902 from which he never recovered, Robert Browne Hall died in poverty in Portland as a result of nephritis five years later and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, Maine [Find a Grave Memorial #51909306]. He left over a hundred marches and other compositions.

    R. B. Hall Day Proclaimed by the Governor of the State of Maine

    Official recognition of Hall and his contribution to the American music culture culminated with the proclamation of R.B. Hall Day in 1981. 

    L.D. 1920 - An act to establish an R.B. Hall Day to honor and commemorate a great Maine composer as approved by the Governor, May 11, 1981

    Since 1981, numerous events commemorating R.B. Hall Day have been celebrated throughout the State of Maine and continue to honor the musical genius of Maine's own Robert Browne Hall.

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