Remembering Dorchester, Oct. 2, 2019

The following is an excerpt from and article written by Claude Gootee, originally published in the Banner’s 300th anniversary edition.

50 years ago
When Captain Wilbur Newcomb goes down to his 25-foot workboat at the Muir Street wharf, he can look a stone’s throw directly across the small body of water to a spot that holds very dear memories for him. Just across the Cambridge Creek, next to the plant of C.W. Thomas & Sons, is where he mother and father, Sarah and Levin J. Newcomb, landed exactly 60 years ago with eight of their children.

The exodus of the Newcomb family from James Island in the Chesapeake Bay to the mainland was not at all unusual. Many families around the turn of the century were heading for perhaps what they thought would be a more secure life for them.

To be sure, things must have been a little slower and less promising on the inhabited islands of the bay, and no doubt a lot of these folks were imbued with a pioneering spirit.

The Newcombs packed all their belonging and children aboard Mr. Newcomb’s skipjack, the “Cara Rena.” They set said from James Island and headed northward in the year 1909.

“It took us three days to make the trip,” Wilbur Newcomb said. “The first night, we stopped at Cook’s Point and the second night, we stopped at Castle Haven.”

On Feb. 17, 1917, young Wilbur joined Company C, 115th Infantry of National Guard’s 29th Division. War was declared on April 17, and Company C was mustered into federal service in July.

The unit camped on the Seminary School grounds on the west side of Cambridge Creek (on the present A&P store site) for three months.

Then it was off to Camp McClellan, Alabama.
Company C remained there until June 1918, when they were shipped to Brest, France. While serving in Europe, Mr. Newcomb fought in all the major battles, including the Argonne Offensive, the biggest one of them all.

In the summer of 1919 he came home, and on Dec. 13, he married the former Catherine Donnan of Cambridge.

During his military service, he sang with a quartet. The first time he sang with a quartet locally was when his son Wilbur Jr. was born 44 years ago.

That group consisted of Noble Cannon, Ogle Cannon, Curtis Thomas and Mr. Newcomb.
Adopting the name “The Cannon, Thomas, Newcomb Quartet,” they later went on the air for WIP Gimbel’s in Philadelphia and WBAL and WFBR in Baltimore.

In another venture, he worked on the Emerson C. Harrington Bridge across the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from start to finish. “I was there when the first piling was placed and when the Eastern and Western Shores met in the middle of the bridge for its opening,” he said.

Of all his activities, Wilbur Newcomb has enjoyed none more than singing in the choir of the Richardson Men’s Bible Class of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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