Lincolnville's little Coleman A. Harvell

By Corelyn Senn | Mar 20, 2014

When I was a minster, bereaved parents spoke of how hard it was to leave their child alone in a cemetery far from home and then go home. No matter what the circumstances, it is unbearably painful to lose a child as so many did in the 1800s. Perhaps having their children buried near their home gave parents some solace, and if it was a family burying ground it might give even more comfort.

In Maine, we have many of these burying grounds, most of which were marked only by a wooden cross and a fieldstone and thus their location and history are lost to us. Once in a while we come across a child’s grave that we can identify and on land that we recognize as the family homestead. Such is the case with Coleman A. Harvell.

Coleman is buried on his grandfather’s farm in the Townhouse Road area of Lincolnvile. The burying ground is now deep in the woods, but in 1883, it was meadowland. Coleman has a very sturdy stone on a sturdy base.

On the front is written:

"Coleman A.

Son of Herbert G. and

Edith L. Harvell

Died

Sept. 18, 1883

AE 4yrs 7ms 3ds

Gone to the summer land"

On the back is the first stanza of a poem:

"Now kiss me, Dear Mother,

The angels await.

The Savior is smiling

From yonder bright gate."

We do not know much about little Coleman other than that in 1880, when he was one year old, he was living with his grandparents, Shepherd Harvell, a farmer, age 59 and Emily S., age 58, and his uncle, Willis A., age 15, a laborer. This is the only census they appear in and his parents do not appear in any.

We know that they lived on the family farm, 83 acres of land, which Shepherd purchased in 1868 for $1,500 as part of a 141 acre parcel. It was sold in 1902, after Shepherd Harvell’s death and remains an intact parcel to this day.

Coleman’s grave lies on a hill behind the farmhouse. In old pictures it is shown with a wooden fence around it. Surrounding that is a circular stonewall enclosing an area big enough to be a burying ground. A circular burying ground is quite uncommon. We have no record of where Coleman’s parents or grandparents are buried. Was Coleman buried in the center of a family burying ground? I would very much like to do a Ground Penetrating Radar study of this area. I have a dream of someday having GPR equipment and being able to go to old cemeteries in Maine and help find lost graves. Meanwhile I will continue to search for more information in traditional ways.

Also in this area is another old burying ground that we have never found but which shows up in deeds to this day. For a while we thought these were one and the same but checking back they are not. The deeded burying ground is on land purchased by Josiah Stetson on which he and his family lived. It was sold to his son, Amasa, in 1836 and that is when the description first appears: “four square yards for a burying ground.” We know that between 1803 and 1816, Josiah and Mary (Polly) Stetson had eight children. Their second child, Josiah, was born on April 12, 1804, and died a month later. This is their only child to die young. In 1809, another boy was born who was also named Josiah.

The Stetson family is buried in Union Cemetery which became a burying ground in 1807. In the Stetson plot there is a stone that simply says Baby. This stone looks different from the others as it is a compact rectangular stone about as tall as it is wide. It is unlike the tall, slim, engraved stones of other Stetsons. The Lincolnville Historical Society lists the stone as the child of Josiah and Mary Stetson. Could this be baby Josiah, moved to be closer to the family? Is this why we cannot find the deeded burying ground? All ideas and information are welcome.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.