In the woods at the edge of a gully just off Middle Bay Road, two grave markers rest on the ground. The slate headstone and its matching footer have weathered 150 years of rain, snow, and falling trees, making the names and dates inscribed thereon difficult to read. Fortunately, others have transcribed them for us. The tombstone reads:
John Doyle Hiram Skolfield
Apr. 7, 1839 Oct. 3, 1851
Ae 25 yrs. 2 mos. Ae 29 yrs. 4 mos.
Who were these two young men who died before the Civil War, some 12 years apart? Why are their names on one tombstone? We know they aren’t father and son because they were born only 8 years apart, John in 1814 and Hiram in 1832. If not father and son, then, were they cousins?
The epitaph at the bottom of the tombstone gives us a clue as to their relationship:
Parent thy sons still live
Thy sons shall rise again but lade
Earth’s fairest flowers
In Heaven more pure to bloom.
John Doyle (Jr) and Hiram Skolfield had a parent in common, Anna (Skolfield) Doyle Skolfield. Half-brothers John and Hiram share a story told in the numbers describing relationships, ages, and dates.
In 1807 Anna Skolfield married John Doyle. After only 6 years of marriage, John died at age 29. In that year of 1813, 28-year-old Anna had a toddler at home named Randall, and was pregnant with John (Jr).
Five years later, she married her cousin, Clement Skolfield of Harpswell. He was 19 years old, Anna was 32. They had 2 children, Sarah and Hiram. Sadly, Anna’s second marriage mirrored her first: Clement died at sea in 1825 at age 28, after only 7 years of marriage. Both of her husbands died before they reached 30. Anna never celebrated the milestone 10-year wedding anniversary.
Anna never remarried. She raised her children, Randall and John Doyle, and Sarah and Hiram Skolfield, on the Middle Bay farm that had belonged to her father. John, as we know from his tombstone, died at age 25. His half-brother, Hiram, a shoemaker, died 12 years later at age 29. They were both buried in the family burying ground on the Middle Bay farm.
Anna’s remaining children, Randall Doyle and Sarah Skolfield, each married. Randall, a farmer and mariner, bought the Middle Bay homestead from his mother in 1839, the same year his brother, John, died.
When Randall eventually sold the farm and moved to Diamond Island at Portland, he didn’t abandon his brothers. The deed excluded the graveyard from the sale and also provided the family future access to the site. Randall broke the seeming curse of early death for, unlike his father, stepfather, brother, and half-brother, Randall Doyle lived well past his twenties, to age 68. And Anna lived to the ripe old age of 81.
Next Blog: “Then suddenly she called out, ‘Here it is'”: Finding Skolfield-Doyle Cemetery
Skolfield and Doyle Genealogy Notes:
- Anna (Skolfield) Doyle Skolfield (1786-1867) was the daughter of Stephen and Margaret (Knowles) Skolfield. Her first husband, John Doyle (1784-1813), was the son of Jotham and Huldah (Randall) Doyle. They had three children, Randall (1810-1878), Margaret (unknown), and John (1814-1839).
- Clement Skolfield (1797-1825), was the son of William and (unknown) Skolfield. He and Anna had two children, Sarah (Skolfield) Robbins (1819-after 1850) and Hiram (1822-1951).
- Thomas and Mary (Orr) Skolfield: Both Anna and Clement were the grandchildren of the first Skolfields to settle in the Brunswick/Harpswell area, Thomas (1707-1796) and Mary (Orr) Skolfield (1714-1771).
- Ancestry.com: Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriage)
- Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/cem31.html
- Cumberland County Registry of Deeds. 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine (also see https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx)
- Letters to Esther Skolfield Schmidt from Eleanor Means, Pejepscot Historical Society Collections. Pejepscot Museum and Research Center, Pejepscot Historical Society, 159 Park Row, Brunswick, Maine
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878