The Man Who Died Twice

A tour bus stopped just outside Varney Cemetery’s fence. Though no sports were being played on that sunny weekday, I thought surely the riders who disembarked would walk to the nearby Bowdoin football field.

They didn’t.

Instead they headed directly to a large headstone that had obviously split in half and been repaired by the application of a marble backing. They had come to the final resting place of George Cobb (1794-1843, 1882).

George Cobb

The front of his stone is heavily engraved, headed by the fourth commandment, his birth in 1794, death in 1843, then death again in 1882, ending with the nineteenth psalm. A careful reading of Cobb’s tombstone shows a period after the year 1843.

The 1840 federal census of Brunswick, Maine, showed Cobb as the head of a household of eleven. In 1850 he was listed as a mason and head of a family of eight. Gerald Wheeler writes that Cobb was the “rough, swearing” foreman of a stone crushing and hauling operation that was building the railroad just north of Freeport.

One of his laborers was James White (1821-1881), an ordained minister in the “Christian Church.” “Christians” relied on the Bible to guide their lives. White and others evolved into early Sabbath-keepers, now known as Seventh-day Adventists.

Cobb was one of White’s early converts. On July 22,1842, Cobb and four other members were dismissed from the First Free-Will Baptist Society at Growstown in west Brunswick to organize the Christian Church in Brunswick and Freeport.

George Cobb date

It would seem that Cobb found fulfillment in his new church, for on Nov. 10, 1843, Cobb experienced a spiritual death and rebirth. His physical self would thrive nearly 40 years more, until he “fell asleep in the Lord.”

The tourists who visited Cobb’s grave that day were Seventh-day Adventists who had come to see the burial site of the man they name as one of their very first members.

Where’s George Cobb? Varney Cemetery, Pine Street, Brunswick: down aisle 5, on the right, past the Freeman obelisk


  • The Seventh-Day Adventists: a history, Jordan, Anne Devereaux. New York: Hippocrene Books, c1988
  • The seventh day: the story of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Herndon, Booton. New York: McGraw Hill, c1960
  • James White: Innovator and Overcomer, Wheeler, Gerald. Hagerstown:Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2003
  • The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell: including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot, Wheeler, George Augustus, M.D. and Henry Warren Wheeler. Brunswick, A Mudge & Sons, Printers, 1878

About Barbara Desmarais

Writer and amateur historian
This entry was posted in Brunswick History. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Man Who Died Twice

  1. Alice Duquesnoy says:

    I find this very interesting, I never knew this!

  2. Jude Maloney says:

    Wow. How very interesting. I love to walk and to meditate in cemeteries Each grave marker has a story – this one is very rich. Thank you for sharing it!
    Jude Maloney

  3. Finder of Stories says:

    How interesting! I love the story behind the gravestone inscription.

  4. Vicki Clough Kelley says:

    Interesting subject matter and great writing (as with everything you do!) Congrats on the start of a new adventure! Vicki

  5. Marilyn says:

    I enjoyed this a lot. I also think the site is elegant, and look forward to seeing it grow and thrive. Thank you, Barbara, for all your hard work.

  6. John says:

    Barbara, Thanks for letting me in on this. I used to work the Varney Cemetery doing the mowing & trimming. Must have passed by this stone many times. I’ll have to take a closer look!

  7. Joyce D says:

    Thank you for such an interesting story .Looking forward to reading any information
    you make available. Joyce

  8. pam s. says:

    Really interesting piece Barbara. Thanks for posting it.

  9. Dave Robison says:

    Reblogged this on Old Bones Genealogy of New England and commented:
    Very interesting! Try to figure out how this happened BEFORE you read the story….

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