Man Who Died Twice Offers Testimony From Grave
Adventist leaders visit an unusual Maine tombstone during a church heritage tour.
George Cobb is the man who died twice.
Little is actually known about Cobb, and no photos of him are known to exist.
But his grave has attracted attention for decades because his tombstone in a cemetery in Brunswick in the U.S. state of Maine bears a birthdate and two death dates. It reads:
Born June 10, 1794
Died Nov. 10, 1848
Fell asleep May 9, 1882
In fact, Cobb was baptized on Nov. 10, 1848, and he asked that the date of his conversion be carved on his tombstone after he was laid to rest in the grave on May 9, 1882, at the age of 88, said James Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate.
“This is one of the interesting examples again of the faith and the willingness and the determination of our pioneers to share their faith in whatever means possible, including having something engraved on your tombstone that will share your faith after you have fallen asleep,” Nix told a tour group of about 75 church leaders and spouses from the General Conference, the administrative body of the Seventh-day Adventist world church.
Nix showed the tombstone — which includes text from the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” — to the group on Sept. 13, halfway through a six-day church heritage tour in the U.S. Northeast. The trip aims to give church leaders a better understanding of Jesus’ leading in the past as they seek to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming to the world. Among the other stops on Sept. 13 were Gorham and Portland, cities where church cofounder Ellen G. White once lived, and the grave of White’s twin sister, Elizabeth.
Nix said he has sought to find a photograph of Cobb and to track down his descendants, but without success.
“I have looked high and low for a picture of Cobb,” he said. “I have asked up here, ‘Are their descendants of Cobb?’ I would like to know about this man who cared that much to leave instructions and money to carve all that extra text on his tombstone.”
Tour participants were visibly touched by Cobb’s unique witness from the grave.
“He recognized that he needed to die to self and then he truly could become alive,” said General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson. “So he lived his life in a beautiful demonstration of the contrast between living a life for himself and dying to the old self and becoming a new creature in Christ. What a privilege to see his tombstone.”
Karen Glassford, a third-generation Adventist missionary who works as education and communication coordinator at the Institute of World Mission, said that when she initially saw the tombstone she suspected that the first death date might refer to Cobb’s baptism.
“His tombstone has become such a witness to other people,” she said. “It has made them curious, ‘Why did he die twice?’ I’m sure there will be people in heaven because of that man’s tombstone.”
A closeup view of George Cobb’s tombstone with two death dates in a cemetery in Brunswick, Maine. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
The only house where Ellen G. White once lived that is still standing in her birthplace of Gorham, Maine. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
Karen Glassford, left, education and communication coordinator at the Institute of World Mission, taking a picture of a historical marker recognizing Gorham, Maine, as the birthplace of Ellen G. White. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
Merlin Burt, professor of church history and director of the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University, showing a photo of Ellen White, standing, with her twin sister, Elizabeth, at Elizabeth's grave in Gorham, Maine. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)