NORTH YARMOUTH — Nearly 200 years after it was erected, the tombstone of Winthrop Baston – a captain in the American Revolution – was in pieces, sunken under the ground, and seemingly forgotten.
But because there were those who never forgot, Baston now has a new stone at his Walnut Hill Cemetery plot, just in time for a Veterans Day dedication.
It was an effort about three years in the making, Town Clerk Debbie Grover said last week.
Baston’s stone was found to have collapsed during an annual inspection of the town’s three cemeteries, which is required by the Cemetery Commission. His descendant, Dick Baston, an octogenarian who still lives in North Yarmouth and was its longtime fire chief, inquired about getting the stone fixed. Grover, who is also the commission clerk, said she was happy to look into it.
“I used to be terrified of cemeteries,” she said with a smile, recalling the time she, as a child, fell into her great-grandfather’s newly-dug grave. “Now running them … I enjoy it. And I really feel that all our veterans should be recognized, regardless of what era they served in, and whether or not they did it in wartime; they were willing to.”
Grover’s mission to obtain a replacement marker for Winthrop Baston was hindered by challenges, including needing his non-existent discharge papers and finding the right person to approach – despite the contacts she has as past president of the Maine Cemeteries Association and serving on the board of directors of the New England Cemeteries Association.
The ultimate key was having a living descendant of Baston. Grover wanted the new stone to be a surprise for Dick Baston, so she involved his son, Clark – also a former North Yarmouth fire chief, and still its public works director – who signed a letter granting permission to work on his family’s behalf to get the marker.
Grover submitted that to the Veterans Affairs office along with her application and a copy of Winthrop Baston’s pay receipt. Early last month his new tombstone arrived at the public works facility.
“I just decided, ‘we’ve got to do something'” to honor the new marker and the 18th century veteran’s service, Grover said. And with Veterans Day around the corner, the timing was fortuitous.
The dedication ceremony was held at the Walnut Hill Road (Route 115) cemetery on Nov. 11. The North Yarmouth Cemetery Commission led the service, and among those in attendance were the Anderson-Mayberry Post 91 color guard, Boy Scout Troop 58 of Cumberland and North Yarmouth, and members of the recently formed North Yarmouth Veterans Park Corp.
Baston was born in Wells in 1739, and married Hannah Weare in North Yarmouth in 1762, according to information provided by the North Yarmouth Historical Society. During the Revolutionary War in 1775 he was a sergeant in the company of Capt. George Rogers. He rose to the rank of captain, serving in Massachusetts in 1776 with the regiment of Col. Jacob French with the objective of pushing the British out of Boston, according to information provided by Grover.
Baston, who died in North Yarmouth in 1817, and his first wife had seven children, according to the historical society. Four children came from his second marriage, and it is from the first of that group, Dura Baston, from whom Dick and Clark descend, Grover said.
“Debbie Grover should have most or all the credit for getting this done,” Clark Baston said last week, adding that “it’s pretty neat” that the government would send out a new marker honoring a veteran who died nearly 200 years ago.
Getting a new marker for Winthrop Baston is part of a long-term project, Grover said.
“I have three others that I want to get monuments for, who don’t have them at all,” she explained. She unfortunately does not know of any living family members of those veterans, “but I’m not giving up.”
Those veterans are:
• Leander Frost (1847-1921), who served in Company E of the 30th Infantry during the Civil War and was wounded in 1864.
• Edward Gooding, who died in 1923 at the age of 82 and served in Company G of the 25th Maine Infantry, also during the Civil War.
• And Luther Baker, who served in the military from 1908-1912 and died in 1936.
Anyone who can aid in Grover’s project can reach her at Town Hall at 829-3705.
North Yarmouth Town Clerk Debbie Grover, left, with Dick Baston and Clark Baston, descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Winthrop Baston, whose new tombstone was dedicated on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, in Walnut Hill Cemetery.