Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce is closing in on a 20-year quest to solve a 215-year-old mystery. With help from an author, he is tracking down the unknown burial site of a county deputy murdered in 1808 in Westbrook. Deputy Ebenezer Parker was the first law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in New England. “Before I retire, I want to honor Parker,” Joyce said. His pursuit to find Parker’s grave and decorate it with a state medallion has led to Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Meeting House Hill in South Portland, but he still awaits proof. Parker’s murder and the search for his grave prompted author-historian Lori-Suzanne Dell’s book, “A Fallen Star.” Joyce and Dell, who lives in Brunswick, will talk about the case at 10 a.m.
Saturday, May 13, at the Westbrook Historical Society. The event comes during Law Enforcement Memorial Weekend. “I never intended to write a book on this. It was only my intention to help Sheriff Joyce and then move on, get back to my writing projects,” Dell said last week. “But as this research project went on and on, and the information mounted and the story unfolded before me … well, I just had no choice but to publish.” Advertisement The deputy was murdered Jan.
11, 1808, at a blacksmith shop in Westbrook, then known as Saccarappa when Maine was a district of Massachusetts. The blacksmith shop was near what is now the intersection of Main and Mechanic streets and was the site of a diner in recent years. Parker went to the blacksmith shop to arrest Levi Quinby for a bad debt, according to Mark Swett of the historical society.
Quinby worked at the shop with Joseph Drew, and Drew struck Parker with a heavy object. Parker died from the injury a week later. Drew was found guilty, and a sheriff was paid $30 to hang him from a gallows at the base of Munjoy Hill in Portland, Joyce said. Quinby was acquitted. Joyce took up the challenge of locating Parker’s burial site two decades ago, when the state gave him a medallion to be placed on the grave.
He worked on locating it, but being the sheriff, it wasn’t a top priority to fit into his schedule. A few years ago, when Dell heard about Joyce’s ongoing search, she contacted him to offer her help. She has been instrumental in finding the grave, Joyce said. “She dogged it,” he said. Dell’s work pointed to the cemetery in South Portland, where Parker’s relatives are believed to be buried.
Joyce ordered a ground penetrating radar search of unmarked graves and is awaiting those results. He hopes they reveal a headstone to be unearthed. Joyce said Parker, who was the son of a Revolutionary War soldier from South Gorham, lived near the present-day Hannaford in Mill Creek in South Portland. His story and his murder is part of Westbrook’s history, said Michael Sanphy, president of the historical society.
“It’s not something we’re proud of. It happened here,” he said. Autographed hardcover copies of Dell’s book will be available for $29.99 at event at the historical society, which is located at the Westbrook Community Center. A portion of each book purchase, Dell said, is “earmarked” to a fund to cover any cemetery repair or headstone work. Send questions/comments to the editors. « Previous Next » filed under: