The gravestone of the Boston Tea Party patriot from Gorham reads “Esq. Ephraim Smith died Jan. 13, 1835.” The site also contains a marker for Smith’s wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1834. Contributed / Suzanne Phillips

The forgotten grave of a Boston Tea Party patriot has been found in Gorham but the site will likely remain tucked away from public view.

Ephraim Smith, a young sailor who helped dump British tea into the Boston Harbor on Dec. 16, 1773, later moved to Gorham, where he died at age 84 on a local farm in 1835, according to the “History of Gorham,” by Hugh Davis McLellan.

A brass Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum grave marker. Contributed / Evan O’Brien

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum representatives will come to Gorham Oct. 8 to place a marker on his grave in advance of the 250th anniversary of the tea party next year.

The Boston Tea Party was a political protest by American colonists against Britain for imposing taxation without representation. The patriots dumped 342 chests of tea imported by the British East India Company into the harbor.

“It will bring a very prestigious group to Gorham,” Bruce Roullard, chairman of Gorham Historic Preservation Commission, told his board Monday.

Gorham historians scrambled to find Smith’s burial site after records proved to be inaccurate.


Following an intense search, Smith’s gravestone was found last week on private property in an undisclosed location off Sebago Lake Road (Route 237). The land owner has requested anonymity, according to Gorham Historical Society President Suzanne Phillips.

Kristin Harris, research coordinator at the Boston museum, said Tuesday the property owner wants a private ceremony at the grave site. Ceremonies are usually public, with museum representatives wearing colorful, colonial outfits in events swarmed by media.

It’s unclear whether a brass tea party marker would remain permanently on Smith’s grave or placed elsewhere in town where it can be viewed by the public.

The mystery unfolded about three weeks ago when the Boston museum contacted Gorham historians, after which Roullard and  Phillips set out to find Smith’s grave.

This record says Ephraim Smith was buried in Smith Cemetery in Gorham. No road or street is given. Contributed / Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

The Boston museum, Maine Old Cemetery Association and town records indicated Smith was buried in the Smith Cemetery, believed to be on Wilson Road in the White Rock section of Gorham.

Cynthia Smith, the present-day owner of the farm adjacent to the Wilson Road cemetery, but not a descendent of Ephraim Smith, escorted an American Journal reporter to the secluded site. Only three gravestones were there for a reported 75 graves, and none of them was Smith’s.


It’s unknown whether the 72 other gravestones were lost when the road was widened decades ago or when gravel was extracted from a nearby pit. A search through the underbrush and among trees in the Wilson Road cemetery yielded no evidence of Smith’s grave.

Undeterred, Roullard and Phillips dug through old documents and probed obscure cemeteries all over town and in South Windham.

Then good fortune struck. A casual conversation about the quest between Phillips and a resident revealed graves were located on the individual’s property. They proved to be those of Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, and Phillips snapped photos.

According to the Boston museum’s information, Ephraim Smith was born in 1751 in Eastham, Massachusetts, and was a resident of Wellfleet in 1773.

Smith, who was a ship’s captain after settling in Gorham around 1780, happened to be in Boston with his vessel at the time of the tea party and joined a crowd in heaving the tea overboard from British ships.

Smith’s participation was recorded in a letter published Sept. 30, 1833, in the Portland Weekly Advertiser and in the “History of Gorham Maine.” The book referred to tea as an “obnoxious weed.”

He was one of up to 150 people who acted in protest; the Boston museum has placed 101 markers on graves so far, Harris said.

The tea party is considered a prelude to the American Revolution by historians.

“It was treason,” Harris said.

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