Stones with Stories

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  • 29 Nov 2019 4:05 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Cheryl Willis Patten

    While preparing for two speaking engagements in the summer of 2019 I saw two gravestones that were “Erected by George Bacon”. One was a stone for Emily Bacon in Richardson Cemetery in Jay and one was a stone for George Baker in Madison Bridge Cemetery in Madison.  At the bottom of George’s stone is carved, “Erected by Himself 1873”. After seeing those two stones I remembered that in 2016 Emily Quint and I were in Dinsmore Cemetery in Anson and saw another stone “Erected by George Bacon”. My question was then – what’s the story?

    According to the History of Winthrop with Genealogical Notes by Everett S. Stackpole, George Bacon’s father was Josiah Bacon who was born in Attleboro, MA about 1761 and who came to Winthrop before 1790. In about 1792 he married Eunice Mitchell and they are recorded as the parents of the following children:

    • Betsey b. 15 June 1793; d. 11 May 1840
    • Josiah b. 18 March 1795; d. 16 October 1865
    • Warren b. 31 October 1796; d. 28 June 1876
    • Joseph b. 22 November 1800; d. 25 July 1826
    • Joel b. 21 June 1803; d. 1 April 1835
    • Ebenezer b. 29 March 1809; d. 9 September 1834
    • George b. 17 July 1811
    • Emily b. 5 June 1815; d. 5 Oct. 1832
    • Polly b. 17 Oct. 1818; d. 20 August 1834 [1]

    A search of the U.S Federal Census records does not show George listed until 1850. It is likely he lived with other members of his family during the years prior to 1850 since the records through the time of his death in 1891 do not at any time list him as head of household. In 1850 and 1860 George is listed as a peddler living in Madison the household of his brother, Warren. [2] [3] In 1870 and 1880 George is listed in the household of Peter Ellis. In 1870 his occupation is “laborer” [4] and in 1880 “servant” “farmer”. [5]

    On 19 September 1871 an order was placed in Skowhegan at the shop of Baker and Judkins for a single gravestone for George’s mother Eunice and his brother Joseph. The stone cost $37 and the freight was paid for the stone to be delivered to Winthrop “on cars” [railroad]. This stone for Eunice and Joseph can be seen in Winthrop’s Glenside Cemetery. At the same time a stone was ordered for Josiah and four of his children Polly, Ebenezer, Joel, and Betsey. This second stone was to be delivered and set in the “yard near Arthur Dinsmore” [in Anson] and cost $50. Both stones were to have carved on the face the words “Erected by George Bacon”. [6]

    Ten days later, on 29 September 1871, an order was placed for a stone for Emily Bacon and was to be picked up “at shop”. George Bacon was to be charged $24 for this stone and on the face were to be carved the words “Erected by George Bacon”. [7]

    In 1873, on the 8th of May, George Bacon paid $62 for his own stone which was to be set in Madison Bridge yard. This stone was to have carved at the bottom “Erected by Himself 1873”. [8]  According to his stone George died on 7 January 1891.

    In June of 1866 Hannah Baker ordered a stone for her husband Josiah, who died on 16 October 1865 at 70 yrs. The stone cost $29 and was to be set in Village [Ireland] Cemetery in Hartland.[9]

    George’s brother Warren paid for several stones to be set in Madison Bridge Cemetery [Warren, his wife Patience, and four of their children]. In May of 1882 those stones were removed and were replaced by a single obelisk to be paid [$115] for by W. F. Bacon of Skowhegan.[10]

    Thus the story ends – Josiah, Eunice and their nine children all have grave stones marking their final resting places.


    1. Everett S. Stackpole, History of Winthrop, Maine With Genealogical Notes (Auburn, Maine: Merrill & Webber Company, no date), 261.

    2. Year: 1850; Census Place: Madison, Somerset, Maine; Roll: M432_269; Page: 52B; Image: 108.

    3. Year: 1860; Census Place: Madison, Somerset, Maine; Roll: M653_452; Page: 239; Family History Library Film: 803452.

    4. Year: 1870; Census Place: Madison, Somerset, Maine; Roll: M593_558; Page: 225A; Family History Library Film: 552057.

    5. Year: 1880; Census Place: Madison, Somerset, Maine; Roll: 487; Page: 386B; Enumeration District: 165.

    6. Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Eunice, Joseph, Josiah, Polly, Ebenezer, Joel, and Betsey Bacon“ (No place, privately published, 2006). Volume 11, Page 143.

    7.  Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Emily Bacon” (no place, privately published, 2006). Volume11, Page 146.

    8.  Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “George Bacon” (no place, privately published, 2006). Volume 13, Page 51.

    9.  Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Josiah Bacon” (no place, privately published, 2006). Volume 8, Page 67.

    10. Maine Old Cemetery Association, The Marble Records, “Warren, Patience, Eunice, Joseph, Joel, Josiah” (no place, privately published, 2006). Volume 24, Page 114.

  • 01 Nov 2019 1:53 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Walter Guptill

    According to 1910 US census records, Edward Bennett, age 39 was born in England ca 1871. He immigrated to the United States in 1905 and settled in South Thomaston, Maine with his wife Edith Windram Bennett, whom he married c. 1902, prior to his immigration to the states. Newspaper accounts at the time of his death indicate he worked as manager of Littlehale's Grain Mill in Rockland, Maine and also engaged extensively in poultry raising. Together, Edward and Edith had three children, Edward Jr., Barbara H. and Nancy.

    The New York Times; 29 Aug 1911Edward's beloved wife Edith died on August 9, 1911 from pneumonia.

    Her death set up a series of tragic events that both shocked and saddened the local community.

    According to a local newspaper account in the Rockland Courier Gazette, dated August 29, 1911, Edward, distraught over the loss of his wife, murdered his three children and then committed suicide. Headline of the day, "MURDERED HIS THREE CHILDREN - Shocking Crime of Edward Bennett, at Ingraham Hill, Followed by His Own Suicide - Grief Over Wife's Death Led to the Deed --- Cyanide of Potassium and Chloroform Used --- Bennett's Body Found in the Sea."

    The article goes on to relate details of the event and his tragic note about his grief and desire for his children to return to their mother.

    Headline, The Rockland Courier Gazette, Saturday, September 2, 1911, "Three Hearses In the Cortege. Burial of the Murdered Bennett Children and Their Suicide Father an Awesome Spectacle -- A Cablegram That Came Too Late."

    The article describes details of the funeral details and the cablegram. "Tuesday morning wile Coroner Otis was determining upon the funeral arrangements there came from Birmingham, England a cable directed to "Bennett," Ingraham Hill, and signed "Dad" --- from the father-in-law of the infanticide. It read: Cable Assurance of welfare. Grief enough already. Writing."

    The cablegram was written by Mrs. Bennett's father on the very eve of the awful tragedy. According to the news account, "It is now believed that the suicide (Bennett) may have intimated to the latter (Mrs. Bennett's father) the he (Bennett) contemplated ending the misery caused by his wife's death. Without waiting for the mails and powerless to act, Mr. Bennett's father-in-law cables his words that may prevent his rash deed." The report goes on to speculate, "Had that dispatch reached Edward Bennett Sunday morning instead of Tuesday morning it might have stayed the hand of the assassin-suicide. Who can tell?"

    It was an event that shocked not only the local community, but the entire country according to the press at the time.

    The suicide note left by Bennett was addressed to the rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, The Reverend Mr. Woodman. It seems that the letter, or at least portions thereof, were released and printed in the local press. In a letter to the editor of the Rockland Courier Gazette, published September 2, 1911 the Rev. Mr. Woodman writes... "The Rector of St. Peter's wishes to state that the letter addressed to him was not given to the press by him, that his knowledge of it, being out of town Monday, was when seeing it in the papers, nor has he yet received the letter or been communicated with regarding it."

    The Rector Woodman continues, "Of the unseemliness of the public exhibit of the dead there can be no question." Owen Wister says in effect, "Somewhere in every grown man is a boy who is afraid of the dark". So in us all maybe a morbid inclining to the horrible, which was put in repulsive evidence by gruesome curiosity to see what ought not to have been made possible, and which in the opinion of the writer was an outrage upon the helpless dead. It was known Mr. Bennett had lived aloofly. And Englishman's reserve and sense of caste, with untoward fortune, made more poignant this agony of bereavement.

    Rev Woodman continues his letter and describes the scene at Mrs. Bennett's graveside service as follows: "One who had made many a grave (conducted funerals), and made Mrs. Bennett's and the later four, told the writer he had never seen such absolute agony as when Mr. Bennett knelt by his wife's grave and lifted his eyes skyward without sound or word. It was indeed the grief that does not speak, whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break. We cannot even dimly guess at the agony, we who were nearest, yet even so only in the outer vestibule of acquaintanceship. Alone, in a strange land, bereft, an Englishman's reserve, a strong man's capacity for suffering --- a hopeless future from his standpoint of what was due children of gentle birth --- wrong, yes, but "Who can be wise, temperate, amazed; all in a moment?"

    The letter to the editor concludes, "There are words that Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Kind Henry, as he stands by the dead cardinal, We might wisely lay them to the heart; Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all. Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close; And let us all to meditation." Signed: Russell Woodman

    Excerpts from Courier Gazette, 2 September 1911
    Clipping from New York Times, 29 August 1911


    The beyond-the-grave discovery of a 1900s triple murder/suicide
    Story by Kay Stephens
    Penobscot Bay Pilot

    Edward Bennett Memorial - Find a Grave

  • 19 Dec 2018 6:46 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)
    By Nancy Peckenham

    If you have ever strolled through Black Point Cemetery in Scarborough or in the graveyard next to the Harrington Meeting House in Bristol, chances are that you have seen the work of headstone carver Joseph Sikes. The spoon-shaped faces, half-circle eyes and stylized manes of hair of the deceased are unmistakable and the work is recognized as colonial art.

    At a time when the winged angel was a standard choice for headstone design, Joseph and his son, Elijah, created their unique work featuring the face of the deceased on the headstone, encircled with ivy vines, whorling rosettes, hearts, stars or moons. Occasionally the Sikes would include a winged cherub, a popular symbol at the time. The words Memento Mori, Remember Death, grace many of these stone carvings.

    Photo compliments of Ben GrossJoseph Sikes was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1743 to a family found among the first settlers of the Connecticut River valley. After he married Eunice Smith in 1769, Joseph moved to Belchertown, Massachusetts and that became the center of his work for the next two decades.

    Dozens of Sikes gravestones can be found in cemeteries in his hometown of Belchertown, Massachusetts, as well as in nearby Warren, Hadley, New Salem and Chesterfield, just west of the Connecticut River. [The Farber Collection has more than 80 examples of the Sikes’ headstones, though none of those in Maine.]

    Gravestones attributed to Joseph and his son, Elijah (born 1772), can be found as far south as Plainfield and Brooklyn, Connecticut

    Many of these stones are extremely well-preserved and the ornate vines and rosettes are beautiful.

    The exact dates of Joseph Sikes’ removal to Maine are unclear, but mostly likely occurred in the 1790s. His son Elijah married in 1794 and migrated first to Berkshire, Massachusetts then to Vermont, where he bought a stone quarry. Elijah and family eventually went further west to Trumbull, Ohio, where he continued to carve gravestones but in a different style.

    Joseph Sikes’ work that reveal his ever-evolving design can be found at least seven cemeteries in Maine. The earliest graves are in the historic Pemaquid Burying Ground, where the sea air has eroded many of the stones’ features. The two faces on one marker represent the siblings Susanna and John McIntyre who both died as infants, one in 1784 and one in 1788. Husband and wife, Esther and Thomas Holden were in their 60s at the time of their deaths in 1784 and 1785. Morgan McCafferty’s hair is shown in a stylized flip on his tombstone. McCafferty died in 1768 at age 35 and his inscription reads: “Behold my dad is gone, And leaves me here to morn; But hope in Christ I have, That he and I will save.”

    The majority of Sikes’ gravestone carvers can be found in Cumberland County. Black Point Cemetery in Scarborough has several well-preserved examples of his work, including the lion-like mane of hair surrounding the face on the grave of Hannah Libby. His choice of stone, schist, unfortunately does not stand up well to the ravages of time, unlike some of the stones he produced in Massachusetts.

    Other Cumberland County cemeteries with Sikes gravestones are the Old Smith Burying Ground in Windham, where you will find the headstone for three Anderson children who died one after the other in the early 1790s and the graves of Hannah and Caleb Graffam. Mary Akers Elder’s headstone features the circular mane of hair seen in Scarborough:

    In Portland, look for the headstone of William Frost in the Stroudwater Burying Ground and that of Sarah Simonton, in South Portland’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Gorham.

    Sikes apparently moved north from Scarborough to the area of Bristol, Maine. His son, Arthur, lived nearby in Lincoln County’s Balltown Plantation, which became part of Whitefield and Jefferson. Bristol includes the historic Harrington Meeting House, built in 1793, and the adjoining graveyard where you can find another half-dozen Sikes’ grave carvings. Look for the distinct headdress on the portrait of Mary Hatch, who died at age 19 in 1797, as well as markers of Hannah Hatch and Samuel Lermond, who died at age one in 1796.

    Despite his prolific career creating memorial headstones throughout New England, the whereabouts of Joseph Sikes gravesite remains a mystery. He was reported to have died in 1802. By the 1800s, the family changed the spelling of their last name to Sykes. Joseph Sykes granddaughter, and my 2nd great-grandmother, Sarah Sykes, was born in 1819 in Newcastle. If you have any clues to where Joseph Sikes is buried, please contact us!

    For more on Joseph Sikes and other early gravestone carvers in Cumberland County see Giguere, Joy, "Death and Commemoration on the Frontier: An Archaeological Analysis of Early Gravestones in Cumberland County, Maine" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 1041.

  • 29 May 2018 9:12 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    Contributed by Adrian Elliot

    [Editor's note: Please be advised that this story includes graphic descriptions of the crime scene.]  

    The morning of Thursday, January 17th, 1867 saw one of the fiercest storms in living memory strike Maine, fierce winds and feet of snow stopped all trains into and out of the state. By Saturday though, people were venturing out and conducting business as usual, and one Isaac Libbey, a shoemaker of West Auburn went to call on his neighbors, two elderly women, widow Susannah Kinsley, 64, and Polly Caswell, 67, to collect some work they had done for him. Approaching their humble home, Mr. Libbey noticed that there was no smoke rising from the chimney despite the biting cold, and no footprints marked the snow coming or going from the house. He futilely tried to raise a response by knocking on the door, but receiving none he walked about the house. With growing concern, he noticed the door to their shed was open, and filled with snow from the recent storm. Fearing some ill had befallen them, Mr. Libbey called on another neighbor, Otis Keith, to investigate further.

    Together they entered the house and found the horrific remains of a double murder before them. The Lewiston Evening Journal described the scene thus:

    “On the floor, lying across the door-stool of an open door leading into a small entry separating the sitting-room from a sleeping apartment, was stretched the lifeless body of Polly Caswell--her head and shoulders in the entry and her body and lower limbs in the sitting-room. The body was partially covered with a night dress, and on proceeding to take hold of it, it was found frozen stiffly, and giving evidence of having been in that condition for some days. A broken chair, covered with blood, lay near, affording evidence in itself that it had been used in aiding with the murder of Miss Caswell. Hardly has this terrible scene been realized before another still more terrible met their gaze.--In the bed in the small bed-room, about ten feet square, adjoining the sitting-room and connected with it by a door,--which was open--was the lifeless and ghastly body of the widow Kinsley, also frozen stiff, and lying with her night clothes on, in a pool of congealed blood. The bed-clothes were matted with blood, the quilt and feather tick torn, and feathers were scattered about...The body of Mrs. Kinsley was horribly cut and mangled. The jugular vein was severed by a deep gash on the side of the throat. There were also cuts on the left jaw bone and on the left forehead, a gash nearly six inches in length on the left leg, and severe bruises on the left shoulder, not to mention many minor cuts and bruises. The evidence was conclusive that a rape had been committed or attempted...Miss Caswell had received severe blows on her head and face (probably by the chair,) her skull was fractured, her left wrist broken, her wrist and left shoulder bruised. There was also a bruise over her right eye, a cut on her left arm above the elbow and a cut on the left knuckles. The immediate cause of her death was probably the fracture of the skull, although it is possible that this might only have produced insensibility and that freezing did the rest...A more horrible scene than was presented cannot be imagined. The bodies cut, bruised and mangled in almost every part, covered with blood, the hair dishevelled and bloody, the painful expressions of the countenances indicating even in death the fearful struggle for life, and then the bodies and limbs frozen stiff-all made up of a scene from which we recoiled.”

    Coroner Hamlin of Lewiston arrived after midnight, and following interviews with the immediate neighbors, deduced that the murder was surely committed late the preceding Wednesday night just before the storm struck, as the women were last seen that afternoon, and the lack of tracks in the snow indicated they met their demise before the snow had fallen.

    Clues were scant initially, and the motive unclear. Though the women were not wealthy, they had some money stashed away in their closet, which appeared to have been searched (but not discovered). The widow Susannah had an adult daughter, Emily, who was away from the house visiting friends during the murder. Initially some theorized that the murderer had to be a local, aware that the house was only occupied by two old women, and would thus make for a comparatively vulnerable target.

    The first lead came from the man that discovered the bodies, Isaac Libbey. Upon reflection, Mr. Libbey recalled that at 2AM Thursday morning (near the supposed time of the crime), he awoke to find a man trying to force entry to his window. The man wore a dark coat and hat that obscured his visage, and upon confrontation, insisted he was only seeking shelter from the growing storm. Libbey turned him away only to find him trying to force entry to another window, from which he was chased away into the night. Constable Ricker of Lewiston immediately suspected this man and the murderer were one and the same. Ricker thusly focused his investigation on transients in the area, supposing that this man was likely without a home to shelter in during the storm.

    In the following week, every transient in the area of Lewiston and Auburn was rounded up and questioned. Initially, some made for promising suspects. One Nathaniel Johnson, a vagrant of North Yarmouth was spotted in the area wearing clothes similar to those described by Mr. Libbey. He had a record for larceny and drunkenness, but was released after providing a corroborated alibi.

    The victims’ funeral was held on the morning of Wednesday, January 23rd. The Reverend Snow’s speech called out to the guilty conscience of the murderer: “Though hand join in hand, God says, the wicked shall not go unpunished. The weight of this crime must rest on his soul and pursue him, both sleeping and waking. He can have no peace.”

    That same morning saw the questioning of another two suspects, Luther Verrill, a thirty year old Irish man of Auburn, and Clifton Harris, a nineteen year old black man of Auburn. Apparently Verrill drew police attention to Harris, naming him as having made threats against the murdered women previously. Police questioned both, thought their manners unsuspicious, and released them having been satisfied of their innocence. The Lewiston Evening journal did not even see fit to print their names, merely describing them in passing as “an Irishman” and a “boyish negro”. These two were to be quickly forgotten, eclipsed by the appearance of a much more promising suspect.

    A certain Frenchmen, hideous and all a mess with blood was spotted wandering West Minot the afternoon following the murders. Deputy Keene of Mechanic Falls tracked him by sleigh to New Gloucester, and secured his arrest after a chase and struggle on Thursday the 24th. The Lewiston Evening Journal described him with horror, relishing the very ugliness of his appearance, and took it for a sign of his wicked soul and guilt:

    “The prisoner is a foreigner and gives conflicting accounts of himself. He is a most strange and brutal man, in appearance...He has a most beastly looking face, and a florid complexion. His eye is small and dark, and rolls uncomfortably in its socket, it being seemingly impossible for him to fix it on any point. His hair is dark and curly, and the top of his head is bald. His head is large, and his face is concealed among shaggy whiskers, and his mouth by a dirty moustache. He is evidently a powerful man, and has one of the most wicked eyes we have ever seen...His livid eyes wandered all over the cell, wildly and rolled in their socket like balls of fire. A more terrible-looking object in human shape we never saw before...His manner as well as his responses were strange and abstracted. He speaks with a growl and closes his teeth upon his words as though he would bite his words in two. Ugliness is the very expression of his manner as well as of his voice. You would say, this is the man who might ask the smallest motive for the wickedest deed.

    It is impossible to get any satisfaction from him. He seems to know nothing; don’t know where his parents live; don’t know the name of anybody he has ever worked for; don’t know where he as been the past few weeks.”

    This frightening, deranged man made the very picture of a Victorian fiend, and certainly captured the imagination of the public that came to view him at Auburn jail. Interestingly, the police called on Dr. Edgecomb of Auburn to determine if the soiling on his ragged clothes was blood: this test was performed by chewing the clothes and judging by taste; and indeed it was declared to be blood! This suspect’s contradictory answers even seemed to hint as his being the man that tried to gain entry to Isaac Libbey’s house the night of the murder.

    But a mere three days later, Nathan Maxim of Buckfield arrived at Auburn, and identified the suspicious Frenchman as having spent the night of the murder at his farm in Buckfield, thereby proving his innocence.

    Constable Ricker concluded that they had investigated every known transient in the area, and every one had an alibi. Additionally he concluded that since Isaac Libbey’s house was in the direction of Auburn (from the victim’s home), it was likely the perpetrator was in that city, and again the investigation turned towards local residents.

    The investigation here stalled briefly for want of leads or suspects. But news of the crime was spreading nationwide. The Attorney General of New York even sent two of New York City’s most experienced detectives to aid with the case, including Detective Blake, famous for capturing the perpetrators of the great Adams Express train robbery in Connecticut in 1866.

    Otis Keith of West Auburn approached the eminent New York detectives Blake and Laughton, newly arrived on the scene, with his own suspicions. He informed them that the earlier suspected (and dismissed) Clifton Harris was a boarder in his house, and he had noticed blood on his boots after the murder. Deputy Keene brought in Harris for questioning on February 2nd. Harris initially kept cool and seemed unshaken by the situation, but was unable to explain the blood on his boots, or damage to his coat. Detectives Laughton and Blake had researched the man, and pressed him on an earlier charge against him from the prior year, of trying to sneak through a window into the bedroom of two young ladies. He confessed to that when questioned (despite having been acquitted), and now having caught him in a deception, the detectives pushed further. His alibi for the night of the murder was that “he came that evening to Auburn with a sleigh, and called to see several negro girls living in this city, gave several of them sleigh rides through our streets, and was generally very gay” before returning to Mr. Keith’s house around 10 o’clock. The detectives had tracked down one of the girls alleged to have been with Harris that night, and she told a slightly different story: that he had left in a hurry slightly before 10, saying that he had “an appointment to go somewhere.” Confronted with these various suspicions, Harris broke down.

    “Finally the subject of the prisoner’s situation, his bloody boots &c., was referred to and water flowed over his eyes and rolled down over his cheeks. This was the first sign of being moved…The County Attorney said: ‘Well, Mr. Detective, things are growing worse and worse for him. This man must be held.’ The Detective asked for a confession, but no response. Finally, the two gentlemen put on their coats as though about to leave, when the prisoner, much affected, broke out:-- ‘I’ll tell all about it.’”

    His first confession suggested that the motive was pecuniary, and he implicated the aforementioned Luther Verrill as his accomplice. Verrill was similarly arrested immediately, but made no confession and denied any knowledge of the crime.

    To confirm his story, the police brought to visit him the girl that had earlier recounted her evening with Harris the night of the murder. While she met with Harris the detectives concealed themselves in an adjacent room and listened in on their conversation. Harris told his story to her in much the same manner as he had to the police. Harris claimed that Verrill approached him on the day of the murder with the plan to attack the women, stealing the money they kept in the house. Harris claimed that he did not even go to the house armed, and that only Verrill had armed himself, perhaps in anticipation of murder. Harris further claimed that while he merely searched the house for money, and beat Miss Caswell with the chair, Verrill committed the more gruesome murder and rape.

    Over the course of the next nine months, Harris’ story wavered back and forth, contradictory and incoherent, sometimes Verrill was completely innocent and uninvolved, at other times he was the main instigator. His story remained the sole evidence implicating Verrill. A characteristic interview with Harris’ after his conviction was printed in the July 30th Lewiston Evening Journal:

    “Now, Harris, you have said he was there and you have said he wasn’t there--how are we to know when you tell the truth?

    When I first told he was there I told the truth.

    Now tell the whole truth. You never told it all-what have you to gain by lying now? If he was there, say so; if he was not there say so, and tell the whole story.

    Last summer I and Verrill were working together and we talked over about going to Mrs. Kinsley’s to get money. Verrill said there was a young girl there, too--We never got started till that Wednesday night.

    Now keep nothing back-tell the whole truth.

    Well, if you want the whole truth, I suppose the real truth of it is that the night after Thanksgiving at the dance at West Auburn we were both there-Verrill and I-and Verrill mentioned it. I told him some night when I felt like it I would come up and let him know...So Tuesday night, as I said before, I came up to the shop and told him we would go Wednesday night…[Wednesday] I fell in with some of the boys, got a drinking and forgot my promise. The girl says I told her I had an engagement which I had, with Verrill.

    What did Verrill say when you met him in the jail last night?

    He said if I would put him out of it, it would satisfy the public. I went on to talk about the murder, but he didn’t seem to care to talk about it.

    Has Verrill ever broached the murder to you since you have been in jail, prior to last night?

    Only once, that was just after I accused him in the jail. Mr. Bicknell stepped down to let some one out of the jail and left us alone a moment, when Verrill said:--’You are a d----d fool for owning it; you might as well have kept it all yourself.’”

    Verrill and Harris were then interviewed together, in an extremely curious but riveting scene:

    “On being told that he was telling all sorts of stories, Verrill smiled and only told the truth when he said, ‘Cliff is a queer fellow.’

    On Harris’ appearance he took a seat on Verrill’s cot, while the latter sat at the head of the cot, leaning against the wall. Harris had one of his ears ornamented with cherries and wore a jaunty and independent air, turning his eyes in a very scrutinizing way to Verrill occasionally and seemingly debating what phase of the story it was best to stick to this time. Verrill looked at him with entire calmness and broke the silence: ‘Well, Cliff, how do you feel about this matter today?’

    Harris: About as usual.

    Verrill: Well it’s a short story to tell, and it won’t take you but a few minutes to tell it; and you will feel enough better for taking now to tell us about it.

    Harris said nothing, but swinging his feet nervously and twirling the cherries in his fingers, he looked at first at Verrill with a queer smirk on his face which indicated-anything you please-then at gentlemen present, then down at the floor, till after a few moments he looked up Verrill and said:

    ‘What do you want me to go back to the first of it?’-When someone interrupted-’Yes, go back as far as you please.’

    Who was it? [Harris looked at Verrill and without replying to the question, said:] Well, you can discharge Mr. Verrill.

    But you testified that he was there, in Court and swore to it?


    Well you swore on your oath that he was there; when did you tell the truth?

    I told the truth in Court.

    What do you say now he wasn’t there for-to please people?

    As much as anything. Because if people won’t believe the truth let them believe a lie.

    What, then are we to believe?


    Was it correct that Verrill was there?

    It was. He was there.

    But now you say Verrill had no hatchet, while in Court you said he had a hatchet?

    I saw no hatchet, is what is true.

    But you said in Court that Verrill used the knife?

    Verrill did not use the knife?

    Then you change your story-that Verill did not strike either of the women, that he did not commit the rape, that he had no hatchet?

    I do."

    Ultimately, Harris’ story changed so frequently, even from one sentence to the next, that sufficient reason could not be found to convict Verrill, and he was acquitted. Harris, for his part, was executed, hanged at Thomaston prison on March 12th, 1869 in one of the last uses of the death penalty in Maine. His execution was recounted in the Evening Journal, as the final chapter in this horrific story:

    “No man ever died more bravely or better commended himself as a penitent murderer, by a more willing death. Harris died hard; his contortions were painful to witness. Weighing but about 125 pounds, the weight of his body was insufficient to break his neck, when the drop fell, and strangulation ensued...The measure of his bearing is best found in the unanimity of all who witnessed it, that they were most favorably impressed with both the negro’s penitence and sincerity. It was the general feeling, if Verrill is innocent he is a very fortunate man, if he is guilty, Harris is better off than he.”

    As an interesting note to end on: a modern reader may be suspicious that some degree of racial prejudice played a role Harris’ conviction, and surprisingly (to me), the Evening Journal even commented on this concern with some advice to the people of Maine:

    “Let no one so far forget his duty to himself and to society as to endeavor to prejudice (as we fear some have done) the case of either of the prisoners on account of any political reason. One of the prisoners may be for instance a democrat and the other a colored man, yet that fact has nothing to do with their alleged crime, and ought not and will not in decent men’s minds prejudice either of them, or affect other democrats or colored men. It is unfortunately the case that wicked men are found in all races, all ranks and conditions of society, in all organization and parties; but that fact affects not such race or condition, or organization, and the moment there arises any reason to suspect any have been wrong doers, no one is more interested in ferreting out the truth than others of this very race, class or organization. Let therefore this case give no one an excuse to cast reflections upon colored men as such, or democrats as such, because it chances that persons connected with one or the other class are held to answer on the charge of committing a heinous crime. Let all citizens simply look upon the accused as men, and do all in their power to bring out the real facts and mete out due justice to the prisoners.”

    In fact, the Evening Journal seemed far more concerned with the fact that Clifton Harris had served in the Confederate Army than with his race. They even (somewhat ironically) commented: “The negro prisoner stated that he was in the rebel army during the war. He certainly, then, has had a schooling that would fit him for anything bad.”


    The murdered women, Polly Caswell and Susannah Kinsley (along with her husband and daughter) are buried in together, with one monument in Brookvale Cemetery in West Auburn. I have been unable to identify the precise location of their house, I think it is perhaps no longer standing.


    Additional Reading

  • 07 Feb 2018 4:30 PM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    This gravestone of two young men who died on the same day in 1850 was photographed in the Old Garland Cemetery on the Gary Moore Road in Ellsworth by David and Ellen Simmons.

    The local story is that the men were killed in a logging accident. However, Cheryl Willis Patten found their 1851 obituary which tells a different but nonetheless sad story:

    Drowned—On the 17th of last Dec, James Hadlock, Jr., and Oliver H. Prescott, both residents of Ellsworth, and the latter not long since married to a sister of Hadlock, on their journey home, about six miles from this place, undertook to cross a pond, and save some distance in gaining their home, which was about a __ distant on the opposite side of the pond.  Full of enthusiasm and daring of youth, they incautiously took a direct course across the pond, but ere they had proceeded two-thirds of the way, their life and safety were beyond the reach of human power.  The next morning the father with misgivings, fears and feelings which parental love would naturally awaken in his breast, commenced a busy inquiry after them, hoping to be enabled to trace them to the house of some intimate friend or neighbor, but in following their course when first they entered the pond, a hat, cap and coat, too quickly led him to the cause of their unhappy fate.  The third day their bodies were obtained through the noble and praiseworthy endeavors of their friends and neighbors, who, deeply sensible that the recovery of the bodies would be to the parent and wife as “a cordial to a famishing soul,” were indefatigable in their exertions.—Nat. Dem

    ~Thanks to Pam Simmons for sharing this story

    Christian Mirror
    Thursday, January 23, 1851
    Portland, Maine
    Page:  3

  • 20 Jun 2017 6:11 AM | Debi Curry (Administrator)

    by Will Wootton

    image of Horace Nelson Powell's gravestoneThe College* has been rebuilding its simple, elegant but rickety porches at a steady clip for a number of years. The front porch of North House was rebuilt in the nick of time last summer. This summer the front porch of Kane Hall and the narrow, old back porch of North House got the same treatment. They are a sideshow to the huge renovation going on at Hamilton and Jefferson. No costly, mind-boggling code issues on porches; no permits, no real deadlines. The work is being done by crews from the St. Johnsbury correctional facility, supervised teams who do construction jobs for Northeast Kingdom non-profits. These teams have been the College's painters and carpenters for four years now, saving the College lots of money and earning a day off a sentence for each day of work, as well as some pay.

    On June 21, with the rotted North House back porch ripped out and its roof propped up with 2 X IOS, one man's shovel hit a stone that turned into a story about a child without record, who died almost exactly 185 years ago, and about the broken gravestone that the work crew pried up and laid out on the lawn.

    Twelve inches wide and 23 high, chipped, scraped, in three pieces with a lower corner missing, stained with age, and of a mildly elaborate but not perfectly executed font, the soapstone marker reads:  

    Horace Nelson  
    Son of Francis  
    K. & Mary C.  
    Powell, died  
    Sept 8th 1826,  
    Aged 10 months  

    No pain nor sorrow shall molest 
    Sleep on sweet babe securely rest  

    Cleaned of dirt and mud, Horace Nelson's stone took a position in the President's office in Mager Hall, on the corner of the table where everyone could get a good look at it.

    Especially Dave Linck, who is as close to being Craftsbury's official historian as the village is likely to get. "Oh, yes. Very nice," He said upon seeing the marker. "But who? Who exactly is this?" That rhetorical question was followed by a not too brief description of various Nelsons and Powells, including one who apparently "accidentally" shot his wife while cleaning his pistol in 1875.

    Micki Martin devoted herself to transcribing the epitaph, some letters almost entirely obscured, and comparing the couplet to similar ones from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. And Farley Brown, after joining Dave Linck and others in another round of story making over the stone, headed down to the Town Clerk's office to see if any records of North House or of the Common circa 1826 mentioned Horace Nelson Powell, age 10 months. Dave Linck chose to re-examine a few Craftsbury graveyards.

    In the meantime, something else turned up. Bones. One deer leg bone (everyone agreed) and two funny looking bones, thin walled, five inches long, almost fluted in shape, and with their internal bony filament partially intact.

    Is this a graveyard? Is the back of North House an early 19th Century boneyard? If it were, what then? Would the state anthropologist halt the rebuilding of the porch and initiate a real dig? How great would that be? There was already a blue rain tarp over the site, giving it a certain air of protection and importance. And there was much interest in probing the next layer down, which appeared to be a circular brick structure, capped with a slab of slate, and apparently once connected to North House cellar by a length of lead pipe.

    It was curious, too, that the known history of North House includes three generations of morticians, beginning with James Wellington Stevens (d. 1870), then his son Henry, followed by a nephew, Henry Clapp, whose family owned the house until 1968 when it was sold to Sterling School. 

    It happens that the current resident of North House is a direct  descendent  of patriarch Roger Clapp, of the 17th Century Clapp family of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and whose gravestone is secure in the King's Chapel cemetery in Boston. In any case, by the next morning the circular brick structure turned out to be an old backyard grey water sink, made with relatively modern brick (Drury brand), with some old slate holding it together, and filled now with dirt and mud.

    The headstone itself was receiving a steady flow of curious community members from inside and outside the College. In most cases, this happened: First they would read the words and then touch them— such an engraved object, laid out, seemed to compel people to lay down their hands flat on it—then everything would stop for just a  moment, snagged  on Aged 10 Months.

    The more we  looked , the more details emerged to be incorporated into the stories and speculations we all assigned to the stone, precisely because there was so little hard information behind such a compelling artifact and message. For instance, the sweet couplet was apparently a significant challenge for the engraver: three of the 12 words resisted fitting into the text space, so the engraver added an editorial caret in one case, just like a newspaper editor would, placing the missing letter above the word. Then he or she used a hyphen to complete two other words then ran out of space. Like this: 

    Sleep on sweet  babe securely re-st
    No pain nor sorrow shall mo-Lest

    There are other anomalies: The first two lines—Horace Nelson/Son of Francis—are slightly off-kilter, as if the engraver forgot to start each letter on the line. And the top of the stone, where a few decorative elements appear, has been removed, sawn off by the appearance of the marks. One guess is three-quarters of an inch are missing, that would have made the entire stone exactly 12 X 24 inches.

    What do these clues mean? Was this the engraver's first stone, and he made so many errors it was angrily rejected and tossed aside? Or perhaps it was the father who tried to engrave the stone, inexpertly and while grieving, and it was unusable. Maybe an illiterate engraver was following the script of another illiterate person, and then someone came along and corrected him and he inserted the correct letters.  

    Everyone made up a story, or at least a story fragment, like the stone itself. It seemed as important as touching the stone, closing some loop in how we think about children and death and times so remote as to be hardly imaginable even with the aid of found objects.

    But even if every story is as legitimate as the next one, if the stone was rejected, where's its replacement? Where is the child buried? Not in any of the nearby cemeteries, said Dave Linck. He knows of a child's headstone down in the village set all by itself in a backyard. And he knows of two children whose deaths are reported in town records, but whose burial sites are lost. It would have helped had Dave Linck been able to find Horace Nelson Powell's parents or grandparents. Instead, in the cemetery on Cemetery Road, Dave identified a person he believes was the child's younger brother, born in 1828 and who lived a long life and was buried in 1905. It was this man who shot his wife.  

    Then, after comparing the bones discovered near the headstone to the articulated human skeleton owned by Craftsbury Academy, and after consulting with his anthropologist brother, Dave reported that these were not human bones. No one was disappointed at this news.

    Still and all, none of this explains or even suggests an idea of how the stone came to be buried under the North House porch. The workers who uncovered the pieces reported the largest piece, practically the entire stone that would have stood above ground, was about four feet from the back door, buried a foot or 18 inches deep, engraved side down, and at a slight pitch, maybe 10 degrees. 

    Farley Brown discovered nothing in the town records of a Horace Nelson Powell, or of a child's death in early fall of 1826. Exactly when North House was built is not clear, but Farley's examination of village documents indicated that the current structure was there by 1850, and that there was certainly some kind of structure on that site as early as 1825, and it could have been the current building, or not. When the back porch was added is also not known, nor is there any evidence indicating whether the porch just rebuilt was original or just one of many over the years.

    Dave Rowell, a local real estate broker, justice of the peace, and live radio performer for 15 minutes a day with the WDEV Radio Rangers, tells one story that may shed light on how the stone came to lie under the North House porch, or at least how  gravestones  sometimes wander.

    Dave Rowell's sister, Margaret, had for years owned the upper half of Samuel Crafts' headstone. The son of Ebenezer Crafts, considered the town's founder, Samuel became an early governor of Vermont. He died in 1853 at age 85; his wife Eunice in 1828; and their son Samuel was born... but the break in the stone occurs there. Town records and history account for the child, however.

    During a long drought around 1998, Margaret Rowell wanted to find a new spring above her cabin - the old Spaulding property just up the hill from Craftsbury village. Competing  dousers  identified two spots; the first didn't work out. The second did, sort of. "After a bit of digging," Margaret said, "he found the actual headstone of Samuel and Eunice Crafts. It was in remarkable shape, but broken off at the bottom."

    Some years later, Dave and Margaret were talking about how her half gravestone was white marble when they noticed they were standing on top of a piece of white marble in the dooryard. It had been there for many years, part of a stone walkway. Dave flipped it over and it turned out to be the missing portion of the Crafts stone, which is four or five times larger than the baby Powell's stone. The Crafts marble monument (C. 1905) sits in the main cemetery on the Common. The speculation is the more formal and elaborate monument replaced the original stone, and it found itself on the Spaulding property in pieces that may have been apart for 100 years or more.

    But for our stone one story really is as good as another. Take your pick. To me, at North House with its new porches front and back, covering up for generations whatever else might lie buried under them, there is meaning in  discovering  a life long disappeared and unimagined. No paper work. No memory. No family bible hinting at this short-lived pioneer. Just an ill-carved stone, misused, dug up, displayed, but testimony, still, to a life returned to place and to imagination. 

    * Reprinted with permission from the fall/winter 2011 issue of CommonVoice, a publication of Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, VT.

  • 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, 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.

  • 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 ( : 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]


    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.

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