A MYSTERY PLAQUE
Rose Margaret Lunt Crosby – age 69 –
Memorial Plaque – The Church of the Redeemer – Sorrento, Maine
Memorial plaques commemorating the lives of many who have worshiped over the Summers in Sorrento's Church of the Redeemer line the walls of the chapel. Among these are ones for Eva Cochran, who endowed the construction of the church, and Chief Justice Melville Fuller who died in Sorrento and whose funeral there was attended by many of his fellow Supreme Court Justices. Pete (Andy) Richter asked me a few years ago if I knew anything about the woman named on a plaque located among those honoring his ancestors. I told him I did not recognize the name from my research over the years, but I would see what I could learn.
Rose was married to John Leland Crosby of Bangor. For many years, John served as the Bangor city treasurer for twenty years and in 1893 was appointed treasurer of the Bangor Savings Bank where he worked until his death in 1908 at the age of 74. It may have been John who commissioned the plaque in his wife’s honor.
John is buried in a family plot in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, along with his brother George and sister Anna, who both died while in their twenties.
In 1899 John and his brother James published a book to commemorate the death of their mother Eliza Leland (Adams) Crosby who had died the year before at the age of 92. Eliza was a published poet and the book includes some of her verses. It also includes details that Eliza and her husband had taken in three other children whose mother had died and left them orphaned. Two of these children also soon died and only a girl named Sarah survived to adulthood. In addition to John and James, Eliza had two other biological children. Both of these children, George her other son, and a daughter Anna, also both died prematurely in their twenties. John's sister Anna is described as the child whose "...mother's heart was bound up in her, and her departure was, perhaps, the keenest sorrow of the many bereavements which came to her during her long journey."
John’s bio from the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity indicates that he served on the board of overseers of Bowdoin College as well as many other organizations, including as a trustee of the Bangor Public Library. Fuller does not appear to have been a member of John’s fraternity, but their vacationing together in Sorrento may indicate a close relationship between the two men and their families.
A more in-depth Bowdin College biography for John Crosby describes his many public service activities in Bangor as well as his devotion to the college and his classmates in particular. A loyal son of Bangor, he died in 1908 in the same room of the house at 13 Broadway in which he was born.
Tragically, the year before Rose’s death, the Crosby’s 40-year-old son James and 7-year-old granddaughter Caroline were drowned in a canoeing accident on the Penobscot River. James and his daughter Caroline were swept down the river just short of reaching the Conduskeag clubhouse, while his wife was rescued by other club members.
In a search of Hancock County deeds, I was not able to find any records that either John or Rose Crosby, or any other family members, owned land or houses in Sorrento. But I did locate an article that describes the Crosby's as guests at the hotel in 1898 – so likely this is where they stayed when vacationing in Sorrento. If the plaque in the church is correct, the Crosby’s first came to Sorrento in 1894. This was the same Summer that Chief Justice Fuller's family first came to Sorrento when they rented Gen. Greely’s cottage, (Ziska's West View). That they both initially came to town in the very same Summer leads me to suspect the two families were well acquainted.
The quote on Rose's memorial plaque – “There shall be no more sea”– probably comes from a hymn written in 1898 by Alson Doak with its imagery of heaven as "...that land where there is no sea." Given Rose’s loss of her son and granddaughter only the year before, the second verse is especially poignant. For her husband John, Rose's death, coupled with the tragic death of his son and daughter, must have only renewed the sorrow he faced earlier in his life with the premature death of his siblings. We can only hope the words of the hymn were of some comfort at a time when his faith was tested most - "Trust and soon you shall see that I've called them to do nobler service for Me."