Sylvester Cemetery, or is it Morse?

By Corelyn Senn | Jun 20, 2014

Lincolnville — When something seems straightforward it can turn out to be just the opposite. And so it is with the Sylvester Cemetery. At least 14 Sylvesters and no known others are buried in this burying ground along Route 1 near the Northport line. Thus it is the Sylvester Cemetery, right?

As it turns out, it is Esdras Morse’s cemetery. It was on his land and he reserved it when he deeded his land to his daughter, Sarah Jane Wyman, in 1877: “reserving the burying ground on said homestead” and he goes on to give the boundaries. It remains reserved in the current deed to the land.

This led me to wonder why all these Sylvesters were buried on Morse land and to ask who they were. Some years ago the cemetery was cleaned up by Susan Underhill, Randy Stearns, Cecil Dennison and others after it was found in total neglect. It still shows signs of that earlier neglect as many stones cannot be read, others have fallen over, many are broken and not all are in the correct spot.

Understanding the cemetery is also complicated because of three Nathaniels. Nathaniel Sylvester (1770-1840), patriarch of the family and one of the first settlers of Northport, is buried there with his wife, Julia Ann Percy (1769-1848). Their son, Nathaniel (1799-1841) and his wife Elizabeth Drinkwater (1800-1874) are there as are at least three of their young children. The wife of their son Nathaniel, Martha A,, is buried there along with at least six of their very young children. Nathaniel Sr.,as I learned, was the father of Esdras Morse’s wife, Martha Sylvester (Morrison) Morse. He owned extensive property along Penobscot Bay in Northport as well as land abutting Esdras’s on Ducktrap Mountain.

The next Nathaniel Jr., a Master Mariner, inherited his father’s lands with his brother Mark. (Martha Morse gave up her rights to them). He probably also owned land in Lincolnville along Route 1 in the area of the Baptist Church. In 1835, he was granted the right to sell spirits so he probably had some sort of store. In 1831, he bought half the wharves and flats that Esdras owned in Ducktrap Harbor. His son, Nathaniel III, married Esdras’s youngest daughter, his cousin, Martha A. and lived in Lincolnville, most likely in the Ulmer House which Esdras sold to him. (Esdras and Benjamin Carver bought the Ulmer house and lands in 1820, and in 1822, Carver sold his portion to Esdras.) This Nathaniel was a ship’s captain and after Martha died in 1872, he sold his Lincolnville land and in 1874, was living in Baltimore.

Two other burials in this cemetery are siblings of Martha Morse who lived with the Morses; Mark Sylvester (1811-1886), an attorney, and Jane Sylvester (1802-1887.) The earliest burial date we can read is Louise, age 7, daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth, who died in 1830.

The Sylvesters, Morses and Wymans came to Waldo County from Phippsburg, (formerly Georgetown). Esdras’s father Jonathan married Sarah Wyman of the family that founded Woburn, Mass. Several members of the second generation moved to Cumberland and then to Phippsburg, and Esdras and Martha’s daughter Sarah Jane married her cousin Seth Wyman. There was a tightly knit contingent of Phippsburg people here living in close proximity to each other, prospering and intermarrying.

Esdras and Martha and their daughter Sarah Jane, are buried in Maplewood. Their oldest son is buried in Bath and we do not know about the other two. Seth died in North Dakota. We know that a 13-month-old child of Esdras and Martha died in 1825, and it is possible that that was the first burial in the Morse-Sylvester Cemetery, marked by one of the stones we cannot read or with one of two field stones. After reading deeds and wills I have concluded that Martha and Esdras lived on the 8.6 acre lot where the cemetery is located. The only cellar hole I can find is behind the cemetery, an unusual place for a house for someone as prosperous as the Morses, but possible.

This cemetery has been a fascinating puzzle and I am grateful for extensive help from Lincolnville genealogist, Ted Steele (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~steeles).

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