CANTON — A Dixfield man, with the assistance of a group of living history reenactors who depict life in the pre-1840 era, paid tribute to his sixth great-grandfather Friday evening by placing a flag and Revolutionary War marker on his unmarked grave.

In October 2014, Nelson Coolidge, 71, discovered that his sixth great-grandfather, Simon Coolidge, who was the first settler in Canton and Jay in the late 1700s, was likely buried in an unmarked grave in an isolated 20- by 30-foot cemetery on the north side of Canton Mountain.

Simon Coolidge was born Dec. 29, 1741, in Watertown, Mass., according to genealogy information by Norman K. Mitchell on Ancestry.com. He married Mary Jameson on Dec. 25, 1764, also in Watertown.

The cemetery is labeled Canton Mountain Cemetery by the Canton Historical Society, but was more commonly known as The Burying Place to Nelson’s ancestors.

Shortly after Nelson discovered that his ancestor may be buried at the cemetery, American Legion representative Don Simoneau of Fayette wrote to Nelson and his wife, Beverly, to inform them that Simon Coolidge was a minuteman who had fought in the American Revolution in Cambridge, Mass.

It wasn’t long before Ray Hamilton, a member of the Ancient Ones of Maine, discovered Nelson’s story.

The Ancient Ones of Maine, a 17th-century reenactment group that portrays life in Colonial America, describes itself on its website as “a family of folks, both young and old, and from all walks of life.”

“We have two rendezvous every year: one in the spring and one in the fall,” Hamilton said. “One of the things we sometimes do is place markers and flags on any unmarked graves of veterans. When we heard about this cemetery, it ended up being perfect timing, since our spring rendezvous was happening.”

The American Legion donated a small flag to the Ancient Ones to use in the ceremony, Hamilton said, while the Ancient Ones used their club money to purchase a silver Revolutionary War marker.

They reached out to Nelson, and on Friday evening, they made their way along a winding path to Simon Coolidge’s grave.

Under a gray sky occasionally spitting rain, Nelson placed the flag and the Revolutionary War marker at the center of the cemetery, while his wife, Beverly, and daughter, Nicki Cook, watched.

Hamilton and six other members of the Ancient Ones, who were dressed in clothing from the 18th century, each loaded a Revolutionary War-era rifle and fired off a salute in honor of Simon Coolidge.

Nelson said he was “happy that somebody cared enough to do this.”

“(Simon) came up here in the late 1700s, and I haven’t been able to find much written about him,” he said. “Ever since that story was written about the cemetery, I’ve had distant people coming up and talking to me about him.”

He also lauded the efforts of the Ancient Ones of Maine for providing the flag and marker.

“If I was younger and in better shape, I’d probably join up with them,” Nelson said with a laugh.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.