Few Events of the early times in Standish so excited the interest and stirred the sympathies of the descendants of the settlers as the tragic death of Samuel Tarbox and his wife, who both perished in the great snow storm of March, 1819. The storm was one of the most severe recorded in our history and by a somewhat singular circumstance this EXPRESS nearly marks the eighty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the storm which commenced about 4 o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday, March 12, 1819, and continued for three days, during which time about four feet of snow fell, which was piled into enormous drifts by the furious winds that blew during the last two days. Samuel Tarbox with his wife and four small children, (the youngest but three months old), lived on Standish cape, which is the extreme point of Raymond cape, but which falls within the line of Standish where it crossed Sebago Lake. Tarbox left his home near the extreme point of the cape about noon of Monday to procure provisions for his family, having about five miles to travel on foot, as he was a poor man and kept no horse, and at the time the family was entirely without food. Procuring his supplies he started to return with his load tied up in a bag and slung across his back, but before reaching home the storm increased in fury and the winds completely blocked his path, and he was obliged to leave his load, which was afterward found hung to the limb of a tree. The unfortunate man staggered along through the cold and blinding snow and the freezing cold until he reached within a few rods of his house when his strength gave out, and he sank exhausted in the snow. It is not certain whether his wife heard his calls for help or went in search of her husband, but when his body was found his wife's cloak and hood were spread over it, and it would appear from the meager accounts of the tragedy that has come down to us, that after parting with her own garments to protect her freezing husband, she left him, whether alive or dead we know not, to seek the help of the neighbors. The wretched woman had not gone far before she also sank exhausted and perished, but how far she had gone or how near she came to reaching success it is impossible to determine at this late day. It appears that the children who were left alone in the house sounded a horn at frequent intervals to summon assistance, but it was not until the second day after that some woodsman hearing the horn started to the house and on their way stumbled over the lifeless body of the faithful wife frozen stiff and buried in the snow, without an outer garment to protect her. Some further search revealed the body of Tarbox, which was discovered by seeing a part of the wife's cloak or shawl protruding above the snow. Here the story of the sad affair ends other than that the unfortunate couple were "decently buried by men" and we are led to infer that the orphaned children were cared for by the grandparents. The poet Shaw immortalized this sad affair in a ballad of forty verses, which was full of tender feeling and sympathy. The verses would not meet all the highest requirements of modern poetic art. The ballad is called a "Mournful Song on a man and wife who both froze to death in one night on Standish cape" and then follows crude drawings of two somber looking coffins and the following selections from the verses will give an idea of the muse of the Standish bard of the early days in the history of the town: "Attend my soul and hear the sound That's solemnly a-passing round That strikes each heart and listening ear. To hear the solemn sound draw near. "Husbands and wives may now attend. And let your hearts to heaven ascend, While I unto you do make known A solemn stroke as e'er was born. "Let children, too, draw round and hear, With trembling hearts and holy fear. With all our neighbors all as one, And listen till my story's done. "Good Lord, confoud every one Who ever to these lines make fun. That they may hide their heads with shame, Or brought to praise Thy holy name. "And now the story I shall tell, Who am informed of it full well; And O, my soul, what can this mean, A real or a fancied dream? "O, yes. It is the truth I tell. On Standish Cape these two did dwell. Together lived as man and wife Until ended their day of life. "This man abroad for food did go In a snow storm, in a deep snow. At his return his strength gave way, Which brought him to his dying day. "Under his load he seemed to fall, And then aloud for help did call. His wife his dying sound did hear, Then for his help did soon repair. "She left her children then with speed To help her husband then in need. Through cold and wind in a deep snow, God knows what she did undergo. "She took her clothes from off her frame And on her husband placed the same. For help she cried aloud, and strong Was her last fierce and mournful song. "O, there she tended on her man When he could neither go nor stand. And when laid out upon the snow God knows what she did undergo. "Dead or alive we cannot tell God only knows the scene full well. And her great cries that God would save Her husband from a gapeing grave. "Her husband to God she did convey, And then for help she steered her way, With solemn groans ascending high. While her poor children heard her cry." And so on through the forty verses which this acount has generally followed but which the demands upon the columns of a modern newspaper in war times and a budding political campaign will not admit of publishing in full. Funerals in the country towns in those days were always well attended and it is hardly necessary to add that when the last act of the drama of life of this luckless couple occurred everybody for miles around was there who could get there and like the funeral of the neighbor who was bitten by a wild cat a few years before it was "a very solemn occasion" and the old time preachers failed not to draw the customary and salutary lesson of the "uncertainty of human life." W. H. McLaughlin NOTE-The ballad from which the above lines are selected was but one from among a number written by the poet Shaw upon the most prominent catastrophies of his time, but this ballad is believed to be the only one extant and was loaned the EXPRESS through the courtesy of Mr. John Davis of Sebago Lake, Standish.
The article includes an artists sketch of these sad events.
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