Cemetery of the Week #169: Grove Street Cemetery

IMG_0053Grove Street Cemetery
Also known as the New Haven City Burial Ground
227 Grove Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Established: September 1796
Size: 18 acres
Number of interments: 14,000
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm daily

In New Haven, an 18th-century campaign to close the overcrowded churchyards led to a new type of burial place. Thirty-two wealthy men formed a private association to establish a burial ground—and created the first incorporated cemetery in America. Its 1797 charter said, “Any person or body politic, their heirs, successors, or signs, who shall be the proprietor or owner of a lot which now is, or hereafter shall be located or laid out in said burying ground, shall be a legal member of said corporation and entitled to one vote for every lot he or they shall own or possess.” In other words, the lot holders owned the cemetery. That was revolutionary.

The 18-acre cemetery was laid out as a rigid grid, a design considered innovative, just as the cemetery was considered huge. The avenues and paths between the lots were named Spruce, Sycamore, and Laurel, names which have been echoed in cemeteries across the United States.

IMG_0088Also revolutionary: People could be buried with their families, rather than in the order in which they died. In the churchyards which predated Grove Street Cemetery, people were planted in the order in which they fell, filling up any available space. At Grove Street, families invested in large monuments with the family name—often an obelisk or an ornate marble confection—as the centerpiece for their plots: celebrating kinship, rather than individual achievement. Cemetery lots were large enough to bury family members for generations.

The landscape design combined the aesthetic of 18th-century English gardens with the flowering orchards of Connecticut. Tall Lombardy poplars emphasized the geometric design of the grounds and underlined the stability of the institution. Weeping willows, recently accepted as metaphors for grief, added movement and color to the grounds. Dogwoods, redbuds, and other flowering trees were added later.

Rhoads_GroveStgate_0122.jpgA massive brownstone Egyptian Revival Gate, designed by Henry Austin (buried here), greets visitors. The gate was dedicated in 1845, after the popularity of the smaller Egyptian gateway at Mount Auburn. Egyptiana became a worldwide fad after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt at the turn of the 19th century.

Many distinguished people are buried here: Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Noah Webster, lexicographer who standardized American spelling with his dictionary; paleontologist Othniel Marsh, who first reconstructed dinosaur skeletons; Charles Goodyear, originator of rubber vulcanization; Theodore Winthrop, a novelist who was one of the first officers killed in the Civil War; Hiram Bingham, pioneer missionary to Hawaii; and Roger Sherman, the only man to sign all four fundamental documents on which the United States government is based: the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.

Rhoads-GroveStMiller_0100A cenotaph stands to the memory of Major Glenn Miller, the swing band leader who went missing in action while stationed in Europe in 1944. Other cenotaphs line the back wall of the cemetery: the gravestones removed from the New Haven Green, where the Colony’s original burial ground lay. As I noted in the entry on the New Haven Crypt, all remaining grave markers were removed from the Green and lined up in Grove Street Cemetery in the early 1800s. Unless specifically transferred by their descendants, all the bodies were left behind, undisturbed, in the Green. At Grove Street, the monuments are aligned in alphabetical order, for ease of locating your ancestor’s name.

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The cemetery also encloses several figures important in African American history. Yehudi Ashman, an agent of the African Colonization Society, promoted the settlement of Blacks in Monrovia, Liberia. Mary Goodman, an African American businesswoman, established the first scholarship for African American students at Yale. She died in 1872.

Rhoads-GroveStRemington_0058The cemetery continues to be in use. Modern graves are marked with geometric spheres of granite, copies of Remington’s western statures, and cryptic epitaphs, including at least one that quotes The Little Prince. Members of Yale’s faculty have come to rest here under some of the most unusual modern stones. The cemetery has been called the Westminster of Yale.

Useful links:

Grove Street Cemetery’s homepage: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/

Grove Street’s history: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/history_of_grove_street_cemetery.htm

Tour schedule for 2018: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/tour_schedule.htm

Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1607917/grove-street-cemetery

Friends of Grove Street Cemetery on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grovestreetcemetery/

 

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Cemetery of the Week #168: the New Haven Crypt

IMG_0181The New Haven Crypt
Center Church on the Green
250 Temple Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Founded: late 1600s
Closed: 1821
Size: small
Number of interments: an estimated 1,000 people are buried here
Tours: can be scheduled at (203) 787-0121.

Originally people in New Haven, Connecticut were buried in the green in the center of town. The space started to be used as a burial ground by settlers of the New Haven Colony in the 1600s. Estimates range from 5-10,000 people were buried there before 1821, when the Grove Street Cemetery opened nearby.  At that point, headstones were moved to the new cemetery, but the bodies were left in place below the sod in the Green.

The original First Church of Christ in New Haven was built on a corner of the Green in 1639.  It was rebuilt twice in the same place, but when the congregation voted to expand their meeting house, there was no open space on the Green.  Instead, they decided to build on pilings above part of the graveyard on the Green. Construction of Center Church began in 1812 and was completed in 1814.

IMG_0137The graves beneath the church were left in their original places and enclosed in what’s called a crypt, even though it stands at ground level.  The surviving stones date from 1687 to 1812 and have been called the “last remaining evidence on the New Haven Green of the first colonists who settled here to establish a new life in America.”

IMG_0132An estimated 1000 people (or perhaps more) are buried beneath the church. Plaques inside the church’s foyer list names and death dates of people known to be buried in the crypt. In those days, it was common for a family to reuse the same name for a child over and over in the same generation until one of them finally survived to adulthood.

The first map of the crypt was made by Henry Trowbridge in 1880. 139 gravestones survive inside the crypt, some of which have been rendered illegible by time. The oldest stone marks the grave of Sarah Rutherford Trowbridge, who died in 1687.

Originally the floor of the crypt was dirt, which was replaced by concrete as a way to control the damp. In 1985, they (who?) realized that the concrete was too successful in trapping moisture beneath it. The gravestones were acting as wicks, pulling the moisture upward, which was leading to degradation of the stone.  In 1990, the concrete was broken up and removed by being passed though the little windows to the Green outside. Walkways of unmortared bricks were laid between the stones, allowing them to breathe.

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The ceiling is low down there. At one point there was talk of lowering the floor so there would be more room, but the bodies are not actually buried very deeply.  In the end, the decision was made to leave the skeletons in place. The crypt is plenty bright enough, but it did make me feel slightly claustrophobic when all our tour group gathered in one area.

Among those buried here include Benedict Arnold’s first wife, Margaret; the family of President Rutherford B. Hayes; Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale College, and many more. One of the stones remembers Sarah Whiting, “the painful mother of eight children, of whom six survive.” When she died in 1726, she was called “fruitful, virtuous, and weary.”

The New Haven Crypt Association preserves the site, trains volunteers as tour guides, and offers public tours most Saturdays from April to October from 11 am to 1 pm.

Outside the church is a cenotaph in honor of Theophilus Eaton, first governor of the New Haven Colony, who served for 19 years. He was also a founder of the First Church of Christ, from which Center Church derived, and is buried beneath the church’s foundation. The large marble plaque was placed on the church by the city when the gravestones were removed from the Green.

IMG_0179In what’s left of the churchyard, there are also plaques for General Edward Whalley and Goffe, two “regicides” who fled to New Haven to escape execution. Whalley and William Goffe signed the death warrant for King Charles I during the English Civil War. A tall monument remembers John Dixwell, one of the Regicide Judges, who settled in New Haven in 1665 under an assumed name.

Useful links:

A history of the Crypt on the Center Church site: http://centerchurchonthegreen.org/history/crypt/

Tales from the Crypt: https://ctcryptkeeper.wordpress.com/

Facebook page of the New Haven Crypt Association: https://www.facebook.com/newhavencrypt/

The Findagrave page: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1069578/center-church-on-the-green-churchyard

I meant to say that I know of at least one other church built above an earlier graveyard in the US. The graveyard where Edgar Allan Poe is buried in Baltimore has a church up on piers above the graves:  https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/10/09/cemetery-of-the-week-110-westminster-hall-burying-ground/

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Chicago Eternal

Chicago EternalChicago Eternal by Larry Broutman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amazing book. It’s huge, heavy, stuffed with full-color photographs — and some weird stuff too, including 3D photos complete with cardboard glasses. The book explores 31 cemeteries, some glancingly and others in great depth. It’s definitely Chicago-centric in the gravesites it visits (and even indulges in visits to the author’s relatives), but there is much to attract a visitor or someone with even less familiarity with the Windy City.

I’m not entirely sure what order the cemeteries appear in, but I think it’s geographic. A map would have helped to orient me.

I was, however, very impressed that one of the first gravesites to be featured in the book is the marker in memory of Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old from Chicago who was mutilated and murdered because a white woman said he flirted with her. Dinah Washington is buried in the same cemetery, but her story is told in less detail.

The book talks about the one-of-a-kind architecture and artwork that graces Chicago’s cemeteries, as well as exploring the city’s history from trappers to farmers to railroads and stockyards to gangsters to politicians. Famous names appear — from Jesse Owens to Al Capone — but smaller stories sometimes have more emotional weight, like the tale of the creator of Cracker Jack, whose grandson posed for the original image of Jack, or Cale Cramer, who died in a train wreck saving his passengers. It visits the graves of those killed in the St. Valentine’s Massacre and the victim of Leopold and Loeb, but it tells love stories, too.

The lovely landscapes are captured in every season from the first buds of spring to snow blanketing the graves. I can’t say enough about the beautiful statuary captured by Broutman’s camera. Chicago really does have a wealth of artwork, available to anyone who walks in the cemetery gates.

If you are interested in American statuary, history, or cemeteries, this book is a must-have. Amazon is having on sale on it now — and the price is a bargain: https://amzn.to/2uDyDlt

A good companion book would be Matt Hucke’s Graveyard of Chicago, which I reviewed here: https://wordpress.com/post/cemeterytravel.com/1093

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Graveyard Field Trips

Graveyard Field Trips

I’ve been working on a collection of my cemetery travel essays and publishing it on Wattpad.  It’s about halfway finished now.  You can read the first eight adventures for free here:  https://www.wattpad.com/story/151274118-graveyard-field-trips-a-memoir

Here’s the description of it:

Every day aboveground is a good day.

From nameless circus workers killed in a train crash to Marilyn Monroe’s grave at night, from the graveyard of a concentration camp in Northern California to the heart of Singapore City: join me and my friends in exploring cemeteries around the world.

This collection of my cemetery essays is drawn from Gothic.Net, Gothic Beauty, Cemetery Travel, Morbid Curiosity magazine, and more.

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AGS Conference 2018

IMG_9919I’m back from the Association for Gravestone Studies conference and slowly getting back to work. Last week was a wonder, full of beautiful things and interesting people doing fascinating work. I learned so much that I look forward to sharing with you in the next while!

Weather delayed my flights long enough that I missed the lantern tour of Wooster Cemetery in Danbury, but I was up and on the bus for Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in the morning. Woodlawn will show up soon as one of the Cemeteries of the Week, but I wanted to call out the absolute highlight of the place: I found the grave of my heroine Nellie Bly. In case you don’t recognize the name, Bly was the nom de plume of a crusading female journalist. Reading about her as a kid  inspired my career choice. It meant a lot to me to be able to stand at her grave.

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Thursday morning I gave my talk about 199 Cemeteries to a group of people who are as fanatic about cemeteries as I am. I was really touched when several people brought me their copies of the book to sign — that thing is heavy to carry on a plane! Even better, one of the longtime members read my dedication to AGS aloud from the book. They asked great, knowledgable questions and totally understood that 199 cemeteries is just not very many, if you’re going to be comprehensive.

IMG_9960That afternoon, a couple of my cemetery role models invited me to explore the Newtown Village Cemetery with them. The lovely old cemetery spanned from sandstone monuments along the fence through Victorian marble to modern granite at the top of the hill.  Several victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting are buried there, which brought the three of us to tears and led to a heartfelt conversation.

We rushed back for a meeting of the AGS local chapters, then slipped out again for a pizza feast.  In the evening, I made it to a lecture about Native American mounds in Wisconsin cemeteries (the only ones I’ve seen were at Forest Hill in Madison), then jet lag and the emotional day sent me to bed.

IMG_9995Friday morning was spent poking around Danbury’s Wooster Cemetery, which has a wealth of white bronze markers.  I was meant to be participating in a photography workshop, but I was too wound up and wanted to roam. It was a pretty day, full of dramatic clouds. Squirrels, chipmunks, and a large flock of Canadian geese were out chasing around.  It felt good to clear my head.

That evening I attended lectures on sourcing epitaphs (thoroughly fascinating) and men killed while whaling (an impressive amount of work), followed by late-night talks on the Irish buried in Tolomato Cemetery, Pensacola’s rescued African American cemeteries, and a slideshow on animal headstones, followed by another on the Sandy Hook monuments.

IMG_0084Saturday was a rich, full day.  After breakfast, it was back on the bus to visit New Haven, home of the Grove Street Cemetery.  That one was featured in 199 Cemeteries, but I hadn’t had a chance to see it yet.  Unfortunately, my photos don’t do justice to just how lovely the cemetery was. Friday’s beautiful warm weather had given way to the threat of thunderstorms, so Grove Street’s colors were muted. Grove Street is the first cemetery in America to sell grave plots pre-need, so that families could arrange to be buried together.  It’s full of graves of Yale faculty members, famous inventors, and some remarkably lovely sculpture. It will show up soon as a Cemetery of the Week.

After much too short a time, I hustled over to Center Church on New Haven Green to see the New Haven Crypt.  In the early 1800s, the church was built above a portion of the old cemetery on the green.  When the headstones outside were removed in the 1820s, the segment of the burial ground beneath the church remained intact.  Old winged skulls still mark graves that date as far back as the 1680s. I’ll do a Cemetery of the Week about the crypt, too, just so I can show off some more of my photos.

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Finally, we stopped at the Milford Cemetery with only 45 minutes to spare.  That cemetery had a collection of sandstone monuments with skulls and deeply morbid epitaphs, as well as a forest of weeping willow stones, and an amazing sculptural monument unlike anything else.  The guides were very helpful in pointing me toward things of interest. I wish I’d had time to take some notes.

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After that, we rushed back to the dorms where we were staying, dressed up, and sped off to the Oakley Awards reception, which recognizes groups or individuals who have rescued endangered graveyards. That was followed by the Forbes Award, given to someone who’s spent their career saving graveyards.

Once the banquet was over, I made it through two lectures about Australia cemeteries, including the Rookwood Necropolis — which I would very much like to visit — but I was worn out and didn’t make it through the late night talks.

So six cemeteries in four days — and so many conversations with people whose names I know from their work in and around cemeteries.  For someone who has spent the last six months at home caring for a disabled kid, the conference was overstimulating and overwhelming and completely absorbing. My chief regret is that I didn’t get a chance to see the Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, which also appears in 199 Cemeteries. Who knows when I’ll be back in Connecticut again? But clearly I can’t do everything.

Next year’s AGS conference will be in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. I’d like to go, but that will depend on where I am with the Bay Area pioneer cemeteries book — and whether my advance will cover both a book tour and cross-country travel. I hope I can swing it, because I’d really like to talk with all my new friends again.

Besides, I didn’t come away with as much of a haul as I expected!

AGS souvenirs

 

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