Help sought in gravestone mystery

(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE)



CAPTION



Grave stones at the Penobscot County Jail.  There is no record of where they came from or how they got there. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
BDN
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE) CAPTION Grave stones at the Penobscot County Jail. There is no record of where they came from or how they got there. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
Posted Oct. 12, 2010, at 8:08 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — One is dated Oct. 3, 1850, and has an infant girl’s name on it.

Another is that of a 23-year-old wife who died on Sept. 13, 1872.

The third is a family headstone with the name Dean on it.

The three gravestones sit in the back of a small Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department evidence room and Sheriff Glenn Ross wants them returned to the cemeteries where they belong.

All three have been collected over the years in connection with three different thefts.

“People do these things — pranks — and they end up on our doorstep,” Ross said. “Over time, we’ve accumulated three of them.

“The only right thing to do is try to return them,” he said.

The tombstones are made of marble and sit on the floor of the evidence room surrounded by piles of evidence collected in other crimes.

“They’ve been down here forever and ever,” Sgt. Rose Mannette, who works at the Sheriff’s Department, said Tuesday while standing inside the cramped storage room.

One gravestone is thin and about a foot wide and reveals that Alzada A., daughter of Isaac E. and Mary C. Fifield, died Oct. 3, 1850, at the age of 7 months.

“Adieu sweet babe. Thy pains are over, we soon shall meet to part no more,” an inscription on the bottom states.

The second stone is much larger, a little more than 2 feet wide and about 3 inches thick, and states that Sarah E., wife of Russell S. Munson and daughter of Samuel & Eliza S. Jackson, died on Sept. 13, 1872, at the age of 23 years and 9 months.

“Both of those are very, very old,” Mannette said. “Somebody, maybe, is out there looking for them.”

According to the U.S. Census taken in September 1850, the Fifield family lived in Bradford and Alzada had two older brothers, Allen, 3, and Charles, 2. The census taker for some reason listed the baby girl’s name as Clara and her age as 6 months. She died the next month, her memorial marker indicates.

Isaac Fifield, her father, was a carriage-maker who owned land valued at $1,500, the census document states. He was born in Dexter on Feb. 16, 1824, and died in Bangor on April 28, 1902, according to familytreemaker.genealogy.com.

The census from 1860 states that the Jacksons lived in Hampden and Sarah was 11 at the time. She had three siblings living at home at the time — William, 21, Eliza, 17 and Ezekiel, 15 — and her mother had died and her father had remarried. The 1850 census showed she also had five siblings living at home, the ones listed and two older sisters, Mary, 16, and Betsy, 18, who probably moved out sometime in the next decade.

At least three family members, Sarah’s parents, and an older sister who died before she was born but who also was named Sarah, are buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Hampden.

Samuel Jackson died on Feb. 26, 1881, Eliza Jackson died March 16, 1855, and her older sister Sarah died on Dec. 21, 1844, just before reaching the age of 12, according to a listing of the Lakeview graves on the USGenWeb website.

“What they did, which was very common in the 19th century, was reuse the name when they had another child,” genealogist Roxanne Saucier, author of the Bangor Daily News’ Family Ties column, said Tuesday.

The census states Samuel Jackson, Sarah E. Jackson’s father, was a farmer and owned land valued at $1,000.

There were no Munsons listed in the census document in Penobscot County during 1870.

“There were some Munsons in Washington County but none with matching names,” Saucier said.

The third stone is a family grave marker with the name Dean on it that was taken as evidence in January 1992 when then-Bangor resident Samuel Hartley, age 24 at the time, was charged in a string of crimes, including felony illegal possession of a gravestone.

Where the Dean family stone came from is a question that Ross wants answered.

“We never were able to determine where it came from,” the sheriff said. “We did everything we could with the person that stole it. He had been on a [crime] spree and doesn’t remember” where it came from.

The charges against Hartley of illegal possession of a gravestone were later dismissed in a plea agreement, but he was sentenced to six years in prison for the other crimes he committed during his 1991 crime spree, according to previous BDN.

There are a number of cemeteries in the area that have seen vandalism over the years, including ones with stolen headstones, said John Wedin, an Orrington resident who for years repaired broken headstones for area cemeteries.

The 77-year-old has since retired from repairing grave markers, except by special request, but has a number of stories about unusual memorial markers, including one in Carmel that is made from slate and simply says “Man from Boston.”

Returning the stones to their proper place is the main objective, Ross said.

“We went through a lot of efforts to find out where they came from and we were unsuccessful,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate. We’re hoping that someone with the knowledge could do a search of genealogy. We’d like to return them.”

Those who want more information about the gravestones can contact the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department at 947-4585.

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