Where Wiscasset’s famous sons were laid to rest

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 8:45am

Wiscasset was an important place in Colonial times, its more notable citizens having had a measure of influence over state politics. Others bore witness to great moments in our nation’s founding.

Some of these early Wiscasset people lie at rest in the Ancient Cemetery at the corner of Federal and Lincoln streets.

Here you’ll find a worn square-shaped stone marking the grave of Ezekiel Averell, a veteran of the Continental Army’s 16th Regiment of Massachusetts. When the call came for volunteers at the outset of America’s fight for independence, Averell was among those who packed a knapsack, shouldered a musket and marched off to war.

After the shooting started, Private Averell distinguished himself for bravery on the battlefield. Soon after he was chosen as one of General George Washington’s bodyguards. This was quite an honor since only the bravest and best soldiers were selected for this company commonly known as Gen. Washington’s Life Guard.

The Life Guard stayed by the side of Gen. Washington through every one of his major battles, from the Battle of Trenton until the end of the war.

Following the war, Averell returned to Wiscasset and lived a long life of 95 years, eight months. He died Feb. 20, 1850. So that the noble service he gave to the “Father of Our Country” wouldn’t be forgotten, his family included this on his memorial stone.

Although his surname is spelled Averell on his gravestone, it appears as “Averill” on the military rolls for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which of course Maine was then a part of.

Nearby is a hump-backed earthen crypt, the final resting place of the Honorable David Silvester, 18th century ship owner, magistrate and delegate to the first Constitutional Convention held in Boston. Squire Silvester also served as a Wiscasset selectman and town clerk. On June 19,1792 he was the first Master Mason raised within Lincoln Lodge, which is still going strong today on Fort Hill Street. He was the Lodge’s first Worshipful Master.

During the American Revolution, Silvester negotiated on the village’s behalf when the British warship Rainbow anchored in the harbor, its commander issuing a demand for contribution and supplies. Silvester went so far as to offer himself up as a hostage to the British.

When Silvester’s earthly days ended on Feb. 25, 1798, he left instructions that his memorial stone be placed flat on the top of his grave.

A time-worn white marble stone resembling a jigsaw puzzle because it’s been broken and repaired marks the grave of Manasseh Smith, Esq., another noted Wiscasset man. He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on Christmas Day, 1748.

A graduate of Harvard University, Smith served as chaplain in the Continental Army during the Revolution. Later he practiced law in Wiscasset and “declining public offices, devoted himself to the duties of his profession, happiness of his family & offices of piety,” his memorial stone reads.

Smith is also remembered for having built the first brick home in Wiscasset, in 1797. The square building now painted white is on the corner of Pleasant and Main streets and known now as the “Day House” named for a later owner, Dr. DeForest Day who practiced medicine in Wiscasset for half a century.

A smiling sun is carved at the top of Squire Smith’s gravestone symbolizing the soul rising to Heaven and the Latin inscription, Oriturus occidit: “He sinks destined to rise.” He died May 2, 1823.

At the back of the property, a pointed iron fence surrounds a stone obelisk, a memorial to the Honorable Samuel Sewall, chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Justice Sewall died while presiding over a case in Wiscasset on June 8, 1814. He was 56.

Justice Sewall’s grave is empty; long ago his mortal remains were carried away and reburied in the Sewall family plot in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He was a Revolutionary War veteran. Wiscasset continues to honor him by placing a small American flag here on Memorial Day.

A few blocks away in Evergreen Cemetery off Hodge Street, you will find the resting place of the Honorable Samuel Emerson Smith, Wiscasset’s most famous resident. He served as Maine’s 10th governor from 1831 to1834.

After graduating from Harvard College in 1808 Smith moved to Wiscasset and began practicing law. He eventually rose to become a judge. In 1819 he campaigned and was elected as a representative to the Massachusetts Legislature. He continued his political career by serving in the Maine Legislature after Maine gained statehood in 1820. During his term as governor, Maine’s state capital was moved from Portland to Augusta.

Gov. Smith’s home can be seen on High Street across the street from Wiscasset Public Library and a short walk from the Lincoln County Courthouse. Gov. Smith died March 4, 1860. His grave is an unassuming granite obelisk.

Resting alongside Gov. Smith is his son, Capt. Edwin M. Smith. Capt. Smith laid down his life for his country during the Civil War; he was just 22 when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.

When a call was made for Wiscasset volunteers, Edwin Smith was first to step forward and swear his allegiance to the Constitution and pledge to fight to preserve the Union. While the Union forces retreated at the first battle of Bull Run, Capt. Smith stood his ground firing his pistol at the charging Rebels.

Eleven months later serving with the Army of the Potomac Capt. Smith was struck by a bullet and killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia on May 31, 1862.

Hundreds of people gathered to meet Capt. Smith’s casket when it arrived in Wiscasset draped with the stars and stripes. He was buried with full military and Masonic honors on June 19, 1862. Close to 200 Masons took part in the ceremony, accompanying the casket from the Episcopal-Methodist Church on Fort Hill Street to Evergreen Cemetery.

Also buried in Evergreen Cemetery is Erastus Foote, Maine’s first attorney general. A lieutenant colonel during the War of 1812, Foote practiced law in Wiscasset. In 1819,  Foote and Samuel E. Smith were elected representatives to the General Court at Boston. Foote was State Attorney General from 1820 to 1831. Squire Foote died July 14, 1856.

Special thanks to Steve Christiansen of Wiscasset for his help in researching this article and guiding the reporter to the grave sites of these notable people of Wiscasset.