Born in North Stoneham, Maine in 1839 William Warren Durgin lived for the majority of his 89 years there in the rugged hill country of Western Maine. His mortal remains lie marked by a simple headstone nestled among the tough hardwood, fragrant fir trees and rough cut granite. Woodcutter and sometime spool maker in the local turning mill, Durgin’s mark in life is all but forgotten save for a his headstone inscription:
William Warren Durgin was 21 years old when the Civil War broke and he enlisted as a Pvt. of the 1st Maine Infantry. Upon his mustering out of the early war nine month Regiment the N. Stoneham native re-enlisted into Co, K of the newly formed 9th Maine Volunteer Infantry. In May of 1863 then Sgt. Durgin was transferred to the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps serving in and around Washington.
Quickly pressed into service upon the assassination of President Lincoln, Durgin was among troops ordered to surround the Mary Surratt house as it was believed to be the rendezvous location of the conspirators.
One of the early military bearers to escort the body of the president to the Capitol rotunda, 1st Sgt. Durgin was the first of eight VRC noncommissioned officers appointed as pallbearers to accompany the Presidents remains back to Springfield, Illinois.
The eight bearers would carry the Presidents remains as the coffin was removed from the mourning car to briefly lay in state during stops along the long trip from Washington. They would bear the coffin to the tomb in Springfield. The eight pallbearers were augmented by a number of Veteran Reserve Corps NCOs designated as Guards of Honor.
An early 1900s clipping offers proclamation of Durgin’s position as the last living Abraham Lincoln pallbearer and offers an image of the old man with flowing beard and Civil War musket. A crutch visible through the door serves as a reminder of an old war injury that plagued the veteran in his later years. A later clipping serves as a twentieth century reminder of a Mainer’s place in history and offers a photo of Durgin’s Lincoln Honor Guard Congressional Medal of Honor. Superimposed over a news clipping image of a similarly posed 1st Sgt. William W. Durgin is the Hayes collection Durgin tintype photograph. Per a 1913 published interview of the aging veteran, the photograph was taken during the 1st Sergeant’s stay in Springfield, Illinois for the Lincoln internment.
Durgin is identifiable above in a period stereo view
image by virtue of the 1st Sgt. device on his sleeve.