A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Cynthia and Fred Taylor of Apex, North Carolina. The Taylors had bought a pair of marble Civil War gravestones for two Chester boys at an auction in Ramseur, N.C. and wanted to know if the Chester Historical Society would like to have the gravestones as a donation. These gravestones are in their original wooden crates and were never used.
It seems a picker found these gravestones in a cellar of an old country store somewhere in Southern Vermont. The gravestones were then sold at the Brimfield Antiques Market in Brimfield, Massachusetts. They then made their way to Richmond, Virginia. From there the gravestones went to an auction house in North Carolina where they were sold in September of 2015.
The Taylors were taking an extended trip to the Maritimes of Canada and offered to take a slight diversion to Chester to deliver the gravestones. On Memorial Day, (how appropriate) May 30, 2018, Danny Clemons, Ken Barrett and I met the Taylors at the historical society.
The Adams brothers:
John Adams was born in 1841. Elmer his younger brother was born in 1844. They were the sons of Luther and Mary Adams who lived on the upper end of North Street. Luther was a successful lawyer in town with his law office next to his home.
John and Elmer were mustered into the 7th Vermont Regiment, Company G in Rutland on February 12, 1862, for service in the Civil War.
On March 10, 1862, the boys departed Rutland on the train and went to NYC. There they boarded decrepit sailing ships and sailed to Ship Island, Mississippi, arriving there April 5, 1862. Soon after, on May 23, Elmer died of disease.
John remained in the 7th VT. Reg’t throughout the war. Most Union troops were mustered out and sent home during the summer of 1865, but not John. He was sent to Brownsville, Texas with others in his regiment as part of the “Army of Observation” in Mexico. This unit was tasked with observing Maximilian and his Mexican Allies at the U.S. border. John Adams was mustered out March of 1866 and returned to Chester.
From: “Families of Cavendish and the Black River Valley of Windsor County, Vermont, Vol. 3,” by Linda Welch *Edited for brevity.
“John Sidney Adams was born 14 July, 1841, son of Luther and Mary (Campbell) Adams. John was a Civil War soldier serving in Co. G, 7th Reg’t Vt. Vols. He was not planning to enlist in an early regiment, but his 17 year old brother Elmer hastened his decision to join the Army. Elmer enlisted and John felt compelled to enlist in the same company to look after Elmer. But not even a brother’s love and care could save someone when disease takes its toll as in the case with Elmer. John was never the same after Elmer’s death. He served his term and re-enlisted. John was discharged March 14, 1866. He became extremely melancholy and unable to shake depression. When he became engaged to Miss Lizzie Fuller of North Chester, he began to find some joy and hope for his life. Still, at times, fits of despondency overcame him, and when in this mood he was often liable to seek liquor for its calming effect. On a Wednesday before his death, he went to Charlestown, NH to escort his fiancée home, she having been visiting there. He met some friends and at the hotel he became somewhat intoxicated. On Thursday the couple returned to Chester and they had a disagreement over his drinking.
“All day on Friday he visited with Miss Fuller at her sister’s, Mrs. Finley. On Friday evening, Miss Fuller told him she should not accept him for her future husband if he touched liquor again. She promised again to marry him if he would make her the pledge. He did so and everything seemed satisfactorily settled. He returned home about midnight. His father let him in the house, but they spoke nothing of John’s trouble. On Saturday morning, John was about home in seemingly good spirits and attended to duties in his father’s law office until about ten o’clock when he proceeded to Mrs. Finley’s. While there he conversed pleasantly with Mrs. Finley. In a few moments, he showed her something which he stated was poison, remarking that he was going to swallow it. Mrs. Finley was shocked. She endeavored to take it from him, but before she could accomplish her purpose, he had swallowed a fatal dose of citrate of potassium and fell to the floor in five minutes, and was a corpse in ten. The suicide at North Chester took place on Saturday noon, 29 April, 1876.”
The crated gravestones were shipped to Charles Larkin in North Chester. Research shows Larkin was an agent for Osmond Fletcher who ran a drug store and post office on the upper end of North Street near Luther Adams law office. We discovered Charles Larkin was also in Company G of the 7th Vermont, mustering in the same day in Rutland. The three men would have travelled to Rutland together.
John Adams is buried in the family plot in the North Street Cemetery. Elmer was buried on Ship Island, Mississippi. Later the Ship Island graves were disinterred and reburied in the National Cemetery in Chalmette, near New Orleans. Charles Larkin is buried in Simonsville.
Ken Barrett knew these gravestones were the first model government issue gravestones. They were issued from 1879 to 1903 when a second model was introduced. Charles Larkin died in 1898 so we know these gravestones were made between 1879 and 1898.
These marble gravestones have travelled many hundreds of miles in their 120-year existence as did our Chester boys. Now you know why I chose “Miles to go before I sleep” as a title for this article. I doubt Robert Frost would object.
Contributors for this article include: Peter Farrar, Ken Barrett, Danny Clemons and Springfield Art & Historical Society.
Historical sources: “1869 Beers Atlas of Windsor County,” “1883 Child’s Gazetteer of Windsor County,” “Peck’s Roster of Vermont Civil War Soldiers,” “7th Vermont Regimental History” and “1898 Springfield Reporter.”