William Stanley

If you drive into Shapleigh on the Back Road this spring, you may notice a small American Flag waving high above a few unremarkable stones where you never saw a flag before. If you do, please think with grateful respect of William Stanley, who served in our nation's first conflict with little latter day recognition, and of the many others who have served since to defend the nation he helped to establish.

Nearly 150 years ago, Shapleigh's historian, the Reverend Amasa Loring, referred to him as "William Stanley the first male, (white), child born in town," and from several other descendants who bore the name William. the Reverend Loring was not saying that William was the very first to settle in town, but that he was the first Stanley and among the first handful of settlers, his being either the third or forth family in what is now Shapleigh.

When he came to Shapleigh from Kittery in the spring of 1774, William would have been just turning 29 and his wife Mary (Emery) was probably a couple of years younger. The children would have been John (nearly 7), Joseph (just 5), and possibly Simon, (2 1/2). Mary's father, Simon Emery, who probably deserves the "First Settler" title, had established a water mill in 1772 near the present Village of Emery Mills.

All that remains at the site of the original cabin thrown up to shelter the family, is the well, now in a field on the easterly side of the Back Road, about midway between the road and Morrison Brook at about 1040 Back Road. Soon after settling in, they erected a permanent house just to the westerly side of the road and a barn on the easterly side of the road. The house still exists as the ell of the present home at 1039 Back Road. The original barn was torn down in about 1903, being replaced by the present barn on the westerly side of the road. Some timbers and planks from the old barn were salvaged and reused in the new structure. No doubt the pine and hemlock for these original buildings were cut to clear the fields and the boards and planks were milled at Emery's Mill. Even the roofing and siding for these first buildings came from the land, being white pine shingles.

In his book "early Families of Shapleigh and Acton, Maine," Frederick R. Boyle tells us that William served in the Revolutionary War. The Centennial Edition of the "DAR Index" lists our William Stanley as a private. Fischer's "Patriots of the Revolutionary War - Maine" also includes our William. It is hard to picture how he could have left his wife with an infant and two sons just into their teens to tend the new farm, but we know that many colonists did jut that. It may be that his Emery brothers-in-law assisted on the farm. The birth dates of William's children are consistent with Revolutionary War service, there being a gap between young William in 1776 and Edward after 1780. For the sake of Mary and the children, we have to hope that the new house was built before he answered the call to arms!

After the war, the farm appeared to have prospered. In 1818, William deeded it to his son Edward, describing its size as "100 acres, more or less." In 1844 Edward's heirs deeded the farm, with its now enlarged house, to Robinson and Lyman Hooper, who had married Edward's daughter's Laura Jane and Julia. In 1870, after Robinson's death, his widow, Laura Jane, along with Julia and Lyman sold the farm to Jacob Pillsbury, "reserving the graveyard as being that part of the field marked by not being plowed." This is the only known written reference to the graveyard.

We can only speculate as to when the graveyard was established. There is no record of the child Simon other than the fact of his birth. He may have died young, either in Kittery or in Shapleigh. William's mother, Hannah (Pope), came to Shapleigh some time after the death of her husband Edward in 1761. She died in Shapleigh in 1809 and may well have been buried there. William died in 1827 followed by Mary in 1831. Son Edward died in about 1842 while his widow Catherine (Tripp) lived until 1863. There can be little doubt that both couples were buried on the farm. Julia (Stanley) Hooper is known to have been buried there and her sister Laura Jane (Stanley) Hooper is probably also there, although their husbands were buried elsewhere. Also, possibly buried there are Caroline Hooper (unmarried sister of Robinson and Lyman Hooper) as well as Juliaette Hooper (third child of Robinson and Laura Jane). In later years, the Pillsbury's did not use this graveyard but established one of their own on the opposite side of the road, which was later moved to Riverside Cemetery in Springvale.

The Stanley graveyard is on a knoll to the north of the house at about what is now 1033 Back Road. The graves were marked wit natural flat fieldstones for head and foot stones with no engraving so our only knowledge of the occupants comes from written records. The area was never fenced or walled. When cattle or horses or sheep grazed the field, they also grazed among the stones. When men with scythes mowed the field they took care not to dull their blades on the markers as they trimmed the graves. Later the mowing came to be done with horse drawn mowers, then tractor driven mowers and now mower=conditioners, all of which lifted their sickle bars and gave the graves a respectful clearance. For a while, trimming around the stones was done with scythes but is now accomplished with a snarling string trimmer.

Several of Williams' progeny established farms on the same low ridge which in time came to be called Stanley Ridge and the road was sometimes called Stanley Ridge Road. The only present use of the Stanley name is for the Sanford portion of the road, which was recently changed to Stanley Road. Numerous descendants of William live on or near the same road and throughout the local area. Probably the best known to readers of this paper is Rick Stanley, Chairman of the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce who is the fifth great-grandson of William.

As William and his descendants rested beneath the peaceful sod other conflicts rocked the country and the world. About a century ago, we Americans took to marking the graves of our War Veterans with medallions of the conflict they served in and with U.S. Flags which were renewed before each Memorial Day. Somehow William was forgotten in his poorly marked grave, possibly due to confusion about the several alter William Stanley's who have lived in Shapleigh over the last 229 years, all descendants of our William. Mr. Boyle's book, plus recent deed research done concerning the farm that was once William's, led us to discovering this omission, so William's graveyard shall now have a flag for as long as we continue to respect and honor our Veterans.

Recorded deeds at the York County Registry of Deeds show the progression of ownership of the property:

  • Book 107, Page 46 - William Stanley to Edward Stanley (Son)
  • Book 182, Pages 55 & 56; Book 183, Pages 173 & 174 - Edward Stanley Heirs to Robinson & Lyman Hooper (Sons-in-law)
  • Book 347, Pages 471 & 472; Book 350, Page 379 - Hoopers & Heirs to Jacob Pillsbury
  • Book 477, Page 214 - Jacob Pillsbury to "Pillsbury Brothers" (Sons)
  • Book 860, Page 455 - "Pillsbury Brothers" to Maynard Pillsbury (Son, Nephew)
  • Book 1788, Page 48 - Maynard Pillsbury to Mike & Else Cook

This chain of deeds leaves no doubt that this is the property first settled by William Stanley, "The First Settler," in 1774. Confirming this is an anecdote told by both Maynard Pillsbury and Bert Stanley, first cousins and descendants of William Stanley. Maynard's mother was Nellie Frances Stanley, great-great granddaughter of William. They related that the well still existing across the road had originally served the first cabin on the property where William "The First Child" was born. This William (the fourth child and fourth son of William and Mary) was reputedly the first white child born in Shapleigh. The only written references to the Stanley/Hooper Graveyard are in the deeds to Jacob Pillsbury which reserve the "burying ground as it shows by not being plowed."

For many years the flagging of Veteran's graves before memorial Day has been done by Veterans volunteering their services, most recently by Elwin Lowe of North Shapleigh. In recent years another retired veteran living in Shapleigh, Ronald Rivard, volunteered to mow and otherwise maintain these Veteran's graves. In the course of his work, he found several Veteran's graves unmarked, even though they were apparently eligible for Government Issue gravestones. When Ron contacted the Veteran's Administration to see if William Stanley was eligible, they replied by sending him a gravestone! The stone was installed on May 12, 2005 and will be officially unveiled before Memorial Day 2005. Since there is not way of knowing just which grave is William's, a central location was chosen for his stone and flag on the theory that a mis-located memorial is far better than none!

Edward "Mike" Cook grew up in Alfred in "the last house in Alfred Gore." In 1967, he and wife Else have lived on the farm that was first cleared and operated by William Stanley and his descendants.

Written by Edward "Mike" Cook - 2003 and updated on May 16, 2005