When John Orr Skolfield and Bethiah Sprague Merryman wed, it was a marriage of two of Brunswick and Harpswell’s most prominent seafaring families. Born just after the American Revolution and married about the time of the War of 1812, the couple understood that life could be unkind.
Their four daughters, Caroline, Susan, and twins Bethiah 2nd and Mary were used to John’s long absences from home as he traveled the Atlantic coast working aboard ship. One such trip ended in June of 1828: he returned home to Mere Point after a year and a half as master of the Skolfield-built schooner “Maria.” Perhaps the captain brought home trinkets for the girls and cotton fabric for their mother Bethiah.
Living on the shore of Maquoit Bay, it’s not hard to imagine John’s delight watching the sisters push one another on a swing hung from a sturdy tree overlooking the ocean, or jumping into the water at high tide on a hot summer’s day. After all, they had salt water in their veins!
That autumn would bring colder weather, the wind whipping off the sea. Perhaps it also brought illness, for in October, 15-year-old Susan died.
When a loved one dies, all those left behind can do is honor the beloved with burial in a special place. The family chose such a place overlooking the bay. Someone, perhaps Susan’s uncle Jacob Skolfield, builder of beautiful wooden schooners and sloops, shaped a massive piece of exotic wood, which was engraved and placed on a sacred spot high above the water on the western Mere Point shore.
That tombstone, hewn in wood nearly 200 years ago, still exists today, a loving family’s lasting remembrance of Susan L. Skolfield:
daughter of John Orr
and Bethiah Skolfield
born 1813 died 1828
aged 15 yrs 4 mos.
- John Skolfield Obituary, mv.ancestry.com, Scott Albright, May 26, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2016.
- Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants, Sinnett, Charles Nelson, Rumford Printing Company, Harpswell, 1905.
- Bethiah Sprague Merryman Skolfield, http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi/http%2522//trees.ancestry.com/tree/19807769/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=45093198, probably Stuart Strout Woodside Skolfield, Dec. 9, 2009. Accessed April 14, 2016.
- History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878