Scarborough Boy Scout restores cemetery, honors veterans

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SCARBOROUGH — An unusual Eagle Scout project has unearthed graves of 19th-century veterans, paid ceremonial tribute to the soldiers, and put the cemetery on the map.

Luke Thatcher, 18, a senior a Scarborough High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 39, said he has been fascinated by the overgrown graveyard down the road since he was a young child. His mother said he liked to visit there as a child, especially at Halloween. Little did he know that many years later he would restore the cemetery for his Eagle Scout project.

Seventeen people were buried between 1823 and 1926 in Larrabee Cemetery, at 1 Ottawa Woods Road, near the corner of Beech Ridge Road. Their names are mostly Larrabee or Libby, but there is also a Mary Fives and a William Fives. Their ages when they died ranged from 1 to 80 years old.

Two are veterans: Capt. John S. Larrabee, who died on Jan. 24, 1884, and Capt. Daniel Larrabee, who died Jan. 6, 1864. Thatcher found out the men served in the U.S. Army, thanks to members of his troop who helped him conduct research.

The cemetery, which was not visible from the road, was overgrown, with a few headstones in pieces, Thatcher said. Others were on their sides and looked like markers rather than headstones. Still others were buried, and many were precariously leaning on their sides.

This summer volunteers cleared brush, cut small trees and built a path. They raked, uncovering buried gravestones and footstones. They scrubbed moss and dirt from the stones. They also repaired some gravestones that were in pieces by using metal rebar and a cement patching compound.

The site now has 17 fully restored and cleaned headstones and a family monument.

On Veterans Day the Boy Scouts cleared debris from the Oct. 30 storm and held a ceremony to honor the Larrabee veterans. During the ceremony, the Scouts read the known history of the veterans, the troop chaplain said a Civil War prayer, a bugler played “Taps,” and the boys saluted the men.

Scoutmaster Scott Chase said Thatcher’s project was “quite unusual” and as it evolved it got much larger than anticipated.

The Scarborough Historical Society provided Thatcher with the cemetery name, and he added it to Google maps, which had mislabeled the graveyard as the Nonesuch Cemetery. Thatcher also erected a sign at the edge of the road to mark the cemetery.

The project generated 161 volunteer hours, which included labor by Thatcher’s fellow Boys Scouts as well his brother, Jayson, other family members, friends and neighbors.

“I am quite proud of them and I was impressed with the job (Thatcher) did,” Chase said.

He said they have discussed going back to the cemetery twice a year and tidying it up around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

“The scope of the project grew as we got into it … (after discovering many more stones),” Thatcher’s father, Brendon Thatcher, said. “He could have just stuck with the original project, but instead he kept expanding the project.”

A 25-foot long path grew to a 75-foot long footpath, and repairing two stones and cleaning the rest turned into repairs to 14 headstones, unearthing footstones and repairing the family monument.

“Everything is upright, including the one that was in four pieces,” Brendon Thatcher said.

Thatcher’s mother, Tammy, said it has been fabulous to watch the project come to completion and said it’s had a big impact in the neighborhood.

“The project took on a life of its now after we got started,” she said. “We have had people visit who haven’t been there in 50 years. We couldn’t be more proud of his accomplishment and it has been a lot of fun to work on it with him.”

Thatcher will receive his Eagle Scout Award on Jan. 6, 2018, in a joint ceremony with Cole Anderson, who completed his Eagle Scout project Oct. 5 by rebuilding steps at a local church near the Dunstan Fire Station.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Luke Thatcher, 18, a member of Scarborough’s Boy Scout Troop 39, restored Larrabee Cemetery at 1 Ottawa Woods Road as his Eagle Scout project.

A flag marks the Larrabee Cemetery grave of Capt. John S. Larrabee, who died Jan. 24, 1884.

Larrabee Cemetery before Scarborough Boy Scout Luke Thatcher and a group of volunteers restored it this summer for Thatcher’s Eagle Scout project.

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