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Thursday, May 26, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 21

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7/16/2014 2:00:00 PM
Whitefield Family Adopts Forgotten Cemetery

By Kathy Onorato

A Whitefield family who dedicates each and every Memorial Day to making sure veterans' graves have American flags, has begun the work of resurrecting an ancient cemetery, where at least one known veteran is buried.

Now that the land has been cleared, the Newcombe family of Whitefield are finding cemetery artifacts. This piece of marble is likely part of a head stone. (Kathy Onorato photo)
Now that the land has been cleared, the Newcombe family of Whitefield are finding cemetery artifacts. This piece of marble is likely part of a head stone. (Kathy Onorato photo)
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Katherine and Phil Newcombe, of Whitefield, have dedicated themselves to unfolding the history of the families buried in the Edgecomb Cemetery. (Kathy Onorato photo)
Katherine and Phil Newcombe, of Whitefield, have dedicated themselves to unfolding the history of the families buried in the Edgecomb Cemetery. (Kathy Onorato photo)
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The Edgecomb Cemetery, once visible on Route 17 in Coopers Mills, was included in the 15 acres of land Phil Newcombe purchased in the early '90s. It was not until recent years that Newcombe noticed a tiny cross on a survey of the land which indicated the location of a cemetery, and he made a commitment to make the cemetery noticeable again.

"Once we knew it was here, it was our obligation," said Newcombe.

Over the past few years Newcombe and his family have cut down trees and cleared several juniper bushes to clear the site of the original cemetery.

At one time the 56 x 30 foot cemetery plot had a wooden rail and metal rod fence around it, part of which was standing in 1946, according to Whitefield Historical Society data.

The Newcombes have been carefully clearing the site and have begun to discover parts of the metal rod fence as well as remains of marble head stones.

"We are in the infancy stages of the project," Newcombe said.

According to the Newcombes, the last known official mention of the cemetery is a Whitefield Historical Society inventory of the town's cemeteries from 1977. It describes the condition of the site as "deplorable" and estimates 18 people may be buried there, although only one stone was visible and standing in 1977.

"This cemetery has no fence and is just a knoll by the side of the highway," the document states.

Katherine, Newcombe's 18-year-old daughter, said it is really sad people do not know the people are buried there and she is now dedicated to doing something about it.

"These people are gone, but shouldn't be forgotten," she said.

Already American flags and red, white, and blue flowers have been placed at the site to honor veterans she believes to be buried there. At the request of the Newcombes, the Knox-Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation district moved one of its signs, which was located right in the middle of the Edgecomb Cemetery.

"Now I take care of them like it was my family," said Katherine.

According to the Whitefield Historical Society, the only visible stone remaining in 1977 belonged to Joel Ham. Cemetery records indicate Ham died in 1861, however Katherine's research indicates he died in 1864.

"I believe that the head stone might have been chipped in such a way that the four looked like a one when the cemetery was documented," she said.

According to Katherine's research, Ham was born on March 17, 1776, and he died in December 1864. He served in the Maine Militia during the War of 1812 as a private in Capt. B. Davenport's Company and in Lt. Colonel A. Reed's Regiment from June 20 to June 22, and Sept. 5 to Oct. 1, 1814. He was married to Hannah (Blake) Ham.

"I feel like I know him," Katherine said.

She believes Capt. Benjamin Edgecomb, for whom the cemetery was named, is also buried in the cemetery. Edgecomb was Ham's nephew.

According to Katherine, both the Edgecombs and the Hams moved to the Whitefield area somewhere between 1830 and 1850.

She has begun to research the ancestry of Ham and Edgecomb in hopes to discover the names of others who may be buried at the cemetery.

"It's an educated guess, but I assume their spouses and children could be buried here," Katherine said.

Katherine said she has always loved ancient cemeteries and has been fascinated by reading headstones.

"My parents actually lost me once in a cemetery," she said

Since Katherine was a little girl, she and her family have spent every Memorial Day placing flags on the graves of family veterans, always bringing extras to place on veterans' graves where flags are missing.

"We never had to drag them," said Phil Newcombe, a 20-year Army veteran who served during the Gulf War.

Next year the family plans on donating the time to place flags on the graves at the Cooper Mills Cemetery.

"I am very passionate about veterans," Katherine said.




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