This Portland woman bore 14 children in 15 years

Elizabeth Merrill Phillips, a mother of 14
Died 1833 at age 38

Happy October, folks. It’s time for lovely leaves, pumpkin beer — if you’re into that kind of abomination — and stories that open the door between this world and the next. All this month, I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side. I’m posting a video each day, telling the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”

Nobody knows much about Elizabeth Merrill Phillips. But researchers have discovered a marriage intention filed for her in Saco, Maine in 1818. Elizabeth was 23-years-old and her fiancé William Phillips was 28-years-old.

Sadly, according to her stone in the Eastern Cemetery, she died only 15 years later.

According to what’s written there, she gave birth to at least 14 children. Assuming she’d not had any children before marrying William, that’s almost one child a year.

Even more sadly, according to the headstone, they all died as infants.

Did she die of childbirth complications or grief? Ether one seems plausible.

Special thanks today to the folks at Spirits Alive who take care of the Eastern Cemetery and educate the public through outreach and walking tours.

Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture.

Elizabeth Merrill Phillips died in 1833, when she was 38-year-old. She'd been married for 15 years and given birth to 14 children, all of whom died. She is buried in the Eastern Cemetery. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Elizabeth Merrill Phillips died in 1833, when she was 38-year-old. She’d been married for 15 years and given birth to 14 children, all of whom died. She is buried in the Eastern Cemetery. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Elizabeth Merrill Phillips died in 1833, when she was 38-year-old. She'd been married for 15 years and given birth to 14 children, all of whom died.  The inscription on her stone reads: Weep not for me my love, prepare to meet me above. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Elizabeth Merrill Phillips died in 1833, when she was 38-year-old. She’d been married for 15 years and given birth to 14 children, all of whom died. The inscription on her stone reads: Weep not for me my love, prepare to meet me above. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.