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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Wreck of the Barque Isidore

Cemetery wanderings often reveal sharp and sudden flashes of local history.  Quite by accident, I recently came upon what is called the Village Cemetery of Kennebunkport.  Within, inscribed on a huge flat stone panel, was the following:

   Capt. Leander Foss d. 30 Nov 1842 aboard the Isidore

In an odd moment of synchronicity (which I am discovering happens more and more often if we remain "tuned in" to the details of our present moments!) a new restaurant called Isidore on the Rocks Tavern, recently opened in my home town of South Berwick I had wondered about the source of the name.  Now I understand it is in reference to the historic wreck of the barque Isidore which occurred off the coast of nearby Cape Neddick in 1842 - a wreck presaged by bad omens and ominous dreams of coffins, by the shipmates. The ship was built at the Landing in Kennebunk and embarked on it's maiden voyage to New Orleans November 30, 1842. After slack winds, the weather turned into a vicious Nor'Easter overnight, dashing the Isidore upon the rocks at the foot of the cliffs of Cape Neddick.

The only survivor of the fifteen man crew was her carpenter, Thomas King, who it is said, was so frightened by the omens preceding the ship's launch, hid in the woods on the day of her departure.(1)

Harvey Reid, a local historian, has written a book about the wreck, and includes a music CD: "The Wreck of the Isidore."

Returning to the legends that graveyards share with us:  This huge stone monolith, copiously inscribed, holds many clues to the local history of Kennebunkport.  However, even the humbler stones are worth reading carefully.  Even more important, if you are truly interested in piecing together the past, look not just to the individual stones, but to the dates and names of the cemetery as a whole.  These "stories" can tell us of tragedies, epidemics, peaceful living, family a genealogical/historical reference - I find - there is nothing like standing in a graveyard.

Village Cemetery (aka Bass Cove Cemetery) Kennebunkport.

{1. Source: Eastman, Dick; Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter; (; "Descendents of the Shipwreck Isidore Sought;" accessed March 27, 2012.}

Photos: J. Sweetland, March 25, 2012

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