Not on My Grave!
Angeline’s Revenge
By Dena L. Winslow, Ph.D.
Copyright 2021
York Cemetery on York Mountain in Sheridan, Maine -
the trees to the left of center in this picture are the 
location of the cemetery.

In a beautiful spot with a spectacular view, way back from the road sits a long-forgotten cemetery with nothing to mark the location except some Lilac trees and Tiger Lilies planted there in the late 1800’s by one of the people for whom this is the final resting place – Angeline Coro Oakes. She told her grandson that one day, someone would be glad she had planted them there to mark this burying ground. Having cared for it while she was alive, her spirit still protects the place today. 

Overgrown with trees as it is reclaimed by the forest, you won’t find this cemetery on any maps. And, if you ask around, no one will admit to knowing it even exists, including the landowner… but it does, and there are at least 18 people buried there in two rows – all without grave markers. The stories of these people are tragic and sad as you shall see.

The people who rest in this lost graveyard include (arranged by death date as nearly as possible):

  1. Sarah York (1854-1863). She was the 9 year old daughter of Daniel and Sarah (or Serena as it is sometimes written) York.
  2. Daniel B. York (@1820-@1880-1886). Daniel was the first settler in Sheridan/now part of Ashland, Maine and the cemetery is located on what was his original homestead.
  3. Freeman York (Sept. 5, 1887 – 1891). He was the 4 year old son of Acil Snow York and Louisa Oakes.
  4. Rosalee York (January 1899 - died young). She was the daughter of Acil Snow York and Louisa Oakes.
  5. Ancil York (born and died June 26, 1899). He was the son of John and Catherine “Cad” York.
  6. Oliver Oakes (@1859 – August 31, 1899). Oliver was 40 years old when his father shot and killed him not far from the cemetery. His grave is supposed to have had a pile of rocks put on it to mark the location.
  7. Serena (or Sarah) York (1825-April 15, 1905). She was the wife of Daniel York and the daughter of Stephen Morrison and Betsey Drew. She died of “LaGrippe” or the flu.
  8. Gertrude York (October 13, 1905 - November 15, 1907). She was the 2 year old daughter of Acil Snow York and Louisa Oakes, and died of Cholera.
  9. Electus Oakes (the second) (Dec. 3, 1821 – died Feb. 11, 1906). He is the father of Oliver (above) and killed his son on August 31, 1899 when he was 80 years old. Electus was a Civil War veteran having served in the 12th Maine Regiment, Company E. His wife and son Eli took care of him before he died at home in Sheridan.
  10. Angeline Coro Oakes (1825 -1911). Angeline was a full-blood Native American. She came to the US in the St. Francis, Fort Kent Maine area when she was two years old and records have her saying she was “reared among Yankee folks.” She married Electus Oakes when she was 18 years old on November 20, 1843 in St. Francis, Maine. Angeline gave birth to 19 children, although not all of them lived to adulthood. She said that 11 of her children were living in September of 1899 at the trial of her husband Electus Oakes for murdering their son Oliver, (above).

Angeline smoked a clay pipe that she kept in her dress pocket wrapped in a piece of cloth. It was a common practice for people to smoke clay pipes at that time (including women), and to keep them wrapped up in pieces of cloth in their pockets when not being used. The pipe was apparently not entirely out on one occasion when she was 86 years old and caught her dress on fire. Although her grandson tried to throw water on her to save her, he was not successful and she ultimately died from burns over nearly all of her body. The only part of her body that was not entirely burned was around her waist where she was wearing a wool belt. Dr. Hagarthy, from Ashland came to treat her with Unguntine ointment, but she did not survive. 

Because she died in the winter months, it was not possible to bury her in the graveyard so she was buried in the cellar of her house until spring when she was dug up and moved to the graveyard where she rests today. 

Angeline planted Lilacs and Tiger Lilies to mark the location of the cemetery saying that one day someone would be glad she had done that.

In addition to herself, and her husband Electus, she has several other family members buried in the grave yard, including her son Oliver. In addition, four of her young grandchildren, Freeman York, Rosalee York, Gertrude York, Carrie York (their mother Louisa was Angeline’s daughter); and one older grandchild, Sherman York (his mother was Louisa, Angeline’s daughter). It’s easy to see why Angeline’s spirit protects the graveyard.

  1. Carrie York (August 15 @1888-93 – living in 1906). She was the daughter of Acil Snow York and Louisa Oakes.
  2. Loel York (born and died May 20, 1914). He was the son of John and Catherine “Cad” York.
  3. Sherman York (April 20, 1905- died before 1979). He was the son of Acil Snow York and Louisa Oakes.
  4. Jessie Perkins (dates unknown). He was Sadie York’s son.
  5. Unnamed baby. Child of Christine York Bishop.
  6. Unnamed child. Daughter of Lizzy Theriault.
  7. Unnamed male. Brother to Stanley Page.
  8. Henry Beaulier (December 4, 1914 – May 17, 2001). Henry’s ashes were scattered in the cemetery in 2001.

Tragedy

On August 31, 1899, a tragedy unfolded that sent one man to this graveyard, and his father to jail before he joined his son in the graveyard.

Electus Oakes (the second) was the son of Electus Oakes (the first) who was born about 1792 in the Skowhegan, Maine area. Electus (the first) married Henriette Lavigne on August 17, 1818 in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. Electus (the first) died on September 9, 1870 in St. Francois, New Brunswick, Canada.

Electus (the second) was the grandson of John Oakes of Revolutionary War fame. John served for five years with at least four enlistments. He was a scout and took part in
Bennington and many other battles. He was once sent by General George Washington from Long Island to Quebec. After the war, he received a land grant to 200 acres in the Skowhegan, Maine area where he had a saw mill. In about 1812, he moved to Bangor, Maine where he built some of the old structures in that city. During the War of 1812, his son, John, was a prisoner of war. In 1819, he settled on a farm at South Exeter in an area still known as “Oak’s Hill” where he died at the age of 85 in 1842. 

According to his descendant, Paul Oakes, “though somewhat fond of his grog, as was proper for an old soldier, he was a zealous Baptist, and meetings were often held in his barn. He was noted for his fund of Revolutionary anecdotes, with which he enlivened even his religious exhortations. The old veteran was widely known and well liked. His obituary was published in the Bangor papers, and lines on the death of John Oakes are found in the works of the Maine poet, David Baraker. His descendants number over 1500 and are numerous in eastern and northern Maine.”   

Electus (the second), grandson of John, worked in the lumber woods as a river driver and canoe poler (both of which were very physically demanding dangerous jobs). He was a strong and healthy man by all accounts when he was young and middle-aged and living and raising his family in St. Francis, Maine.

Like his grandfather, Electus (the second) took up his gun and joined the Civil War, along with his son, also named Electus (the third but referred to as “Jr.”). Father (age 43) and son (age 18) both enlisted as Privates on February 8, 1865 in Company E of the 12th Maine Regiment of Maine Volunteer Infantry. They were both mustered out on April 18, 1866.

Electus (the second) returned home a very sick man, and remained so the remainder of his life. He was diagnosed with “malarial poisoning” in July of 1865 while in Blackshear, South Carolina and was treated (but not cured) and continued to have fever, chills, and chronic diarrhea for the rest of his life. After years of attempting to receive a pension for his disabilities, Electus finally received a pension of $4.00 per month in 1892.

Malaria, still a serious problem in the world, was the most prevalent disease among soldiers during the Civil War with approximately 3 million people contracting the disease. Of those, approximately 30,000 died of it. It is caused by a microscopic parasite that is transmitted by mosquito bites. If left untreated, it can cause many serious life-long complications, one of which is brain damage.

Electus (the second) and his family moved to Sheridan about 1884 from St. Francis, Maine. Due to Electus being so ill and unable to work – other than making axe handles from time to time, they were extremely poor and at times relied upon the town for “pauper supplies.”

While it is hard to determine 122 years later if Electus’ choices the day he killed his son Oliver were impacted by having Malaria, there are some indications that it may well have been. He was known to have behaved erratically at times. For example, he shot into the air at some boys who were across the road from his house breaking up a hornet’s nest and, “getting sassy with him.” His wife, in justifying his behavior, said he only used, “a little mite of powder (black powder in the gun), just to scare them.” 

On another occasion, he shot into the air to scare the boys as they were sliding down the hill, and again “getting sassy with him.” On a third occasion, a neighbor, Mr. Terriault went to Electus’s house to collect a debt and Electus threatened him with a gun, although he didn’t fire at him. And perhaps the most extreme example was when he shot his son Oliver’s wife’s brother, Sam York, through his hat, leaving a hole in the hat and a bullet in the inside wall of Electus’s house where he fired at him. Electus believed that Sam had poisoned his cow. Sam took the gun outside across the road and broke it all up so Electus couldn’t shoot it any more. Electus kept the gun that was broken up, but also got himself another one that would fire.

Living next door to Electus (the second) in Sheridan was one of his son’s, Oliver Oakes and his wife (Mary Jane York – called “Jane”) and their children. Oliver had also worked in the lumber woods and was seriously injured in 1893 or 1894 at a place called Cross Rock, six miles beyond St. Francis, Maine. While there are no records indicating how Oliver was injured, it can be presumed it was an accident in the lumber business. Oliver had both of his legs seriously broken in the accident and was not expected to live. He did live, however, but he was lame from it although he could walk - but only with a great deal of difficulty.

There are no records to indicate if Oliver suffered any head injuries in the accident that broke his legs, however, his behavior would seem to indicate he suffered from brain damage that resulted from the injury. Today, it is known that there are personality changes that result from traumatic brain injuries in 30% of patients. These changes can result in serious outbursts of anger and aggression which can frighten their family and friends.

There is no question that Oliver had such outbursts which would indicate traumatic brain injury. At Electus’s murder trial, Electus and other witnesses testified that on one occasion the prior winter, Oliver went to his father’s window located next to his father’s bed one night and yelled at him, “I would like to get hold of your windpipe and haul your lights and liver out.”

Oliver was known to tell his wife’s brothers that he intended to kill his father and mother because, “they weren’t fit to live.” He told Acil Snow York, his brother-in-law that he “would kill his father before a year. He said he didn’t want his father there and wanted to get rid of him and didn’t know how to get rid of him unless he killed him.”

The morning his father shot him, Oliver had shot at his 74 year old mother early that morning as she was outside getting wood shavings to start a fire in her stove. He also threw rocks at her. She was afraid and ran for the house as Oliver was re-loading his gun, calling her terrible names, and saying, “You old ------ Virgin Mary, you will be crucified today.” He also yelled at her, “I will have your heart’s blood you old ------ -----.” Witnesses at the trial testified that Oliver did not seem to have been intoxicated as they smelled no alcohol. Thus, his bizarre behavior could well have been because of a traumatic brain injury. Something people of that time period knew nothing about.

What started the problem that day was that Oliver’s horse got away and went to his father’s potato field. The dog was sent to try to scare the horse into leaving and Oliver, angry about the situation, came after his horse – carrying his gun, he was intent upon killing his parents according to the accounts of the witnesses (although not all agree on this point). 

In the early morning of August 31, 1899, 80 year old Electus Oakes shot his 40 year old son Oliver, who died 4 or 5 hours later of his injury. Not only was Oliver shooting at his wife, Oliver’s mother, and threatening to kill her, but he was re-loading his gun and also threatening to kill his father when Electus shot him. It was tragically the perfect storm of Electus with his probable brain damage and behavior changes from Malaria, and Oliver’s probable traumatic brain injury and his aggression and violence resulting from that.

Unfortunately, Justice A. R. Savage, in giving his charge to the jury (all male at that time as juries were then), instructed them that they were not allowed to consider “self-defense,” nor were they allowed to consider “manslaughter” in their deliberations because Electus admitted that he shot his son, although he claimed it was in self-defense (and it certainly appeared to be from the witness testimony given at the trial). Electus was found guilty of murder in the first degree, just as Justice Savage had instructed the jury to find in his charge to them, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Subsequently, his lawyer filed for a mistrial because Justice Savage didn’t allow consideration of manslaughter in the case. A new trial was ordered. In the mean time, Electus was held in Jail awaiting his new trial. In 1901 the case came before Maine’s Attorney General. He realized that Electus had been held in jail for over 2 years at that time. Electus’s lawyers offered to have him change his plea from not guilty to guilty of manslaughter if the State would accept that. The Attorney General agreed after he reviewed the case and scheduled the new trial for September 1901. Upon his guilty plea of manslaughter, Electus was sentenced to 6 months in the County Jail in Houlton. This means that Electus would have been released from Jail and returned home to Sheridan in March of 1902. He was at home in Sheridan where he died on February 11, 1906 and was buried in the same graveyard with his son that he killed. 

Electus’s wife, Angeline died a few years later in 1911 after serious burns from catching her dress on fire. Her’s was a very tragic life indeed. But, she stayed the course and cared for her husband after he came home from the Civil War a very sick man; and through severe poverty because her husband was no longer able to work; her son’s violent and aggressive behavior towards she and her husband, including shooting at her as he tried to kill her; the death of her son at the hands of her husband; the deaths of her young grandchildren; and caring for her ill husband after the murder; and finally her own tragic death by fire. She was, no doubt, a very strong and courageous woman.

Angeline’s spirit protects the graveyard still. Neighbors in the area tell the hair-raising tale of how her ghost got revenge on a young man from the area who was parking his tractor on her grave in the old cemetery. He was plowing fields nearby and found the unmarked cemetery a convenient place to park the tractor when he wasn’t using it. But, he was warned that it was a cemetery and not to park there. 

As young men sometimes do, he ignored the warnings not to park the tractor on the graves, and one day there was a freak accident and the young man accidentally inhaled gasoline fumes that caught fire when he was filling the tractor with gas. The young man was severely burned in his mouth and throat as a result of the accident. People say that old Angeline got her revenge for him parking his tractor on her grave!