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Congregational Burying Ground

Established 1678

Congregational Burying Ground
Early History

   The Burying Ground is located behind the Stratford Library and access is through the driveway, once known as Cemetery Lane.
   The Congregational Burying Ground was established on undivided town land in 1678 by a Town Meeting. Some additional land was added from time to time by gifts and purchases. It was known as the "Cemetery" for a number of years because the Congregational Church was the only church in the town. Anyone was buried there, regardless of color or religion.
   When other religions were established in the town, they set up their own cemeteries. By default, it fell to the Congregational Church to maintain it, hence the name. In the early 1920's a number of prominent citizens agreed to relieve the church of that responsibility. The State Legislature passed a special act establishing "The Congregational Burying Ground Association, Incorporated", as a non-profit corporation.
   The earliest count of the number of burials is based on a headstone count in 1883. That count was about 900 stones and it is estimated that another 300 burials are without markers. In 1966 a memorial to Rev. Adam Blakeman, leader of the Town's founders, was installed. An area that seemed clear was selected for the six feet by five feet foundation. Workers found three skeletons in the excavation. They were replaced at a lower level and the work was completed.

Foregoing courtesy of Carol Lovell

Click on any illustration below to enlarge

Photo courtesy of Carol Lovell

Rev. Adam Blakeman: Memorial stone to first minister who, in 1639, lead the original families who settled at Mac's Harbor (a much later name)...graduated college in England in 1617...died 1665, previous to this cemetery

Rev. Israel Chauncey: came to assist Rev. Adam Blakeman, ministered in Stratford for 38 years...died 1792/3 at age 59
The Congregational Burying Ground

   The town of Stratford was settled in 1639 at what is now the area at the intersection of Elm St. and Shore Rd., later called Mack's Harbor. The original burying ground would have been in this same area. By 1678, the town had expanded northward to Watch house Hill (now known as Academy Hill). In that same year one acre of the current cemetery was set off from common land by action of the Town government. It was enlarged by a strip of about 25 feet along the western boundary, consisting of land deeded in 1802 to the First Ecclesiastical Society of Stratford, and later by small areas deeded to the Society in trust for certain family burial plots. The total area is now approximately 1.5 acres.
   The burying ground was long maintained by the Ecclesiastical Society as part of the work of the sexton of this church; such maintenance was little more than mowing with a scythe once or twice each summer. Beginning in the 1800's, a man was hired for $50 to cut the grass, remove poison ivy and brush, and straighten gravestones.
   In 1907 the wrought iron gateway was presented to the Ecclesiastical Society by the Mary Silliman Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. Later, members of the Burying Ground association paid the cost of the rubble masonry wall which surrounds the cemetery.
   In 1916 fourteen men and women associated themselves as members of The Congregational Burying Ground Association, Inc. They were: S. Elizabeth Judson, James A. Mallett, Frank E. Blakeman, Catharine M. Bunnell, M.B. Curtis, Georgiana Booth, Jennie A. Booth, Alice C. Judson, Carlos D. Blakeman, Howard J. Curtis, Frederick C. Beach, W.H. Judson and Mrs. Clarissa A. Lewis.
   The Association is an independent organization separate from the church and the Ecclesiastical Society. Its main purpose is caring for the burying ground; funding for its activities comes from its stock portfolio which is managed by the Association with guidance from a financial advisor who is not a member of the organization.
   There has been vandalism within the burying ground at variousTimes throughout its history: during the Civil War, World War I, World War II and in 1988. The newest vandalism occurred in August 2008! After each episode the Burying Ground Association undertook repair and restoration of gravestones.
   The Association continues today through the volunteer efforts of members of the First Congregational Church and other townspeople not affiliated with this church. If anyone is interested in joining the Association, please speak to any one of the current members. Nothing is required beyond interest in preserving one of the earliest records of the Town of Stratford.

Foregoing courtesy of Carol Lovell

Rev. Hezekiah Gold: 4th minister, died 1761

Rev. Izrahiah Wetmore: preaching at the end of the Revolutionary War..asked congregation to give 3 silent hurrahs...died 1798

Rev. Nathan Birdseye: lived in Oronoque, south of Oronoque shopping plaza. Prayer Spring story: found water on his farm during drought of 1752..ministered also in New Haven...lived to 103 years....died 1818

Capt. David Judson: militia captain, church leader, owner of Judson House (home of Stratford Historical Society)...died 1761

Phebe Judson: wife of Captain David Judson

John Hurd: only original settler known to be buried here...died 1681...age 68