HODGDON, Maine — During a solemn, dignified ceremony on Saturday, the remains of a Civil War veteran received one final salute before burial in a local cemetery after being lost for nearly a century.
The ceremony to bury the cremated remains of Army Pvt. Jewett Williams at Hodgdon Cemetery on the Walker Road was attended by nearly 200 people, including living members of the Williams family. It signified the final chapter of Williams’ story, but also the last part of a combined effort by a wealth of people who worked to bring the Union veteran of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment-Company H back to his home state.
Williams’ remains arrived at the cemetery in a horse drawn carriage, along with a police escort and three groups of Civil War re-enactors, who helped re-create an 1873 Civil War funeral service. He also received present day military funeral honors, including a three volley salute and the playing of Taps.
Pastor Robert Smith of the Hodgdon United Baptist Church touched on Williams’ service history, including fighting at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in February 1865 and the Battle of Five Forks in April 1865, both near Petersburg, Virginia. Williams died at the Oregon State hospital at age 78 in 1922, where his ashes were subsequently discovered.
Smith referred to passages in the Bible, Luke 15: 1-7, which touches on the parable of the lost sheep, coin and son.
“What we learn from that is that when the sheep is found, when the coin is found and when the son is found, there is a time of rejoicing,” Smith said. “Today there is a celebration as we return someone who was lost home. That is the great thing about Aroostook County. People know that no matter how far away they go or for how long, they can always return home.”
Mike Edgecomb, the Maine state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, talked about receiving Williams’ remains in Virginia and the reception that the riders received all across the country. He noted that in almost every community, fire departments had their ladder trucks out when they passed through, they participated in a “beautiful ceremony” in Rhode Island and Civil War re-enactors often lined the road as they went by, a number of them on horseback.
The nonprofit motorcycle organization was formed to attend funeral services of American veterans.
“There is an old saying that an old soldier never dies until he is forgotten,” Edgecomb said. “Williams was not forgotten, his memory just faded for a bit. Now he is remembered again.”
Eugene Jackins of Houlton and Roderic Williams of Hodgdon, both distant relatives of Jewett Williams, were presented American flags as the next of kin by Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, adjutant general for the Maine Army National Guard.
Roderic Williams said that he was pleased with the ceremony, which will have his relative be buried next to the veteran’s parents in the family plot.
“I am glad to have him home,” he said.