Over 150 years after Jewett Williams military service, his ashes will be returned to his home state of Maine. The volunteers will endeavor on a cross country motorcycle trip to deliver Williams ashes back to his home. His remains will be rewarded with full military honors.
In 1922, Jewett Williams died in one of Oregon’s psychiatric institutions. Unfortunately, no one came to claim this veteran’s body. Williams, like many others, was then cremated and his remains were placed in a copper canister. His remains were shuffled around from place to place until they were finally locked away in a storage room in Salem. If this didn’t make matters worse, Jewett Williams name wasn’t even spelled correctly on the canister.
After these ashes had been stumbled upon, researchers decided to start investigating Williams. Jewett Williams was the first born to his family of nine brothers and sisters. As a young boy he lived in Hodgdon, Maine which at the time was a small farming community. As a soldier, Williams served his time as a private under Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Infantry Regiment. Despite joining towards the end of the battle, Williams did see plenty of action during the siege of Petersburg. In 1865, when the Civil War came to an end, Jewett Williams was able to return to his home in Maine. Over the years, Williams began to head west and moved from Michigan to Minnesota and eventually to Washington. Once he settled down in Washington, Williams began a family, but slowly began to drift away from them. In 1903, Jewett Williams was living by himself. Williams was later admitted into an institution on April 14th, 1922. He died very shortly after his admittance on July 17th, 1922 from cerebral arteriosclerosis.
Over the years, many had forgotten about Williams and many other canisters that have been locked away. Luckily, Williams ashes and 3,600 others were rediscovered in 2004 by Oregon’s State President, Peter Courtney. It’s been almost a century since Williams died, but now he will finally be able to be buried in his hometown.
Peter Courtney comments on this amazing discovery saying that, “He was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. At the end of his life, however, he was alone. When he died, nobody came. Nobody came to honor him. Nobody came to take him home. Nobody came…until today.”
A ceremony will be held in honor of Williams and the other forgotten soldiers. After the ceremony has ended Williams ashes will be given to the Patriot Guard Riders. These riders are a group of motorcyclists that volunteer to help honor fallen soldiers as well as attend funerals for veterans, firefighters, and police officers. The Patriot Guard Riders will wear their leather jackets that are adorned with military patches and carry a wooden box that contains a neatly folded American flag, while the veterans ashes will be placed onto the back of one of the bikes. Over two dozen motorcycles will take part in the Patriot Guards 3,000 mile long journey.
Once the Patriot Guard Riders arrive in Maine, Williams ashes will be escorted by a police officer to the Togus National Cemetery. The cemetery will allow Williams ashes to be buried near other soldiers who served under the 20th Maine. On September 17th, a ceremony will be held to give Jewett Williams his full military honors.