With Halloween just around the corner, this seemed like the perfect time to take the rest of you on a "walk" through Norwich's oldest cemetery. To that end I put together the video at the end of this post and I even dug up another Alan Parsons Project song that I'm sure none of you have ever heard of just like you'd never heard of last week's choice! "Old and Wise" seemed appropriate, though, as it's about death and dying and those we leave behind. I've heard tell that a lot of people choose it as funeral music. Note to Amanda - should I kick anytime soon, remember this song!
Anyhow, quick background on The Old Burying Ground ... it was established on January 4th, 1700 on land that was conveyed to the town of Norwich for the sum of 90 pounds by then Lieutenant Samuel Huntington whose tomb is located in the "newer" part of the cemetery. The land was actually his home lot and a portion of it was to be set aside for community burials.
For those who have never heard of Samuel Huntington, he was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as President of the Second Continental Congress and later a Governor of the State of Connecticut. He's one of Norwich's claims to fame though probably not as well known as one of Norwich's more notorious native sons - the treasonous Benedict Arnold whose family lies buried in Colonial section of The Old Burying Ground.
The cemetery is divided into two sections - the Colonial section which contains headstones mostly from the 1700s located at the end of Cemetery Lane and another section that was used mostly during the 1800s. The back section can be accessed either via a small bridge which crosses a seasonal brook or through the old gates on East Town Street which are located right next door to some guy's house!
As was common during the Colonial period, the burying grounds were located on hilly land away from the local Meeting House that was not desirable for farming purposes and the graves were laid out in an east-west pattern with bodies buried with their feet to the east so that when Judgment Day dawned they would be able to sit up and face the rising sun.
Over the years, there were well over several thousands burials at The Old Burying Grounds but time and the elements have worn away at the grave markers and currently there are only about thirteen-hundred tombstones left to mark the final resting places of many of Norwich's earliest citizens. I was rather surprised to hear that there were that many there as it didn't seem like that many but I've yet to actually count them - maybe another day when I've got some time to kill I'll do it.
On a bright sunny day The Old Burying Grounds can be a pretty somber place so imagine how it might be in the dark of night ... yeah, exactly! My friend Amy, along with Amanda, Darci, and Cate, decided we needed to go check it out after our trip to Salem so one Saturday evening we 'took a walk' around the cemetery and took some pictures in the process. Funny thing was, we weren't the only ones there as there was already another couple with their kids in the cemetery when we got there!
Even though it was a bit eerie walking around amongst gravestones from the 1700 and 1800s by the light of a very pale moon, the thing I was scared about most was the cops showing up as cemeteries are officially closed after sunset in Norwich and I didn't exactly want an encounter of the law enforcement kind! I really do try to be a law-abiding citizen, it's the former police dispatcher in me!
Oh, and in answer to a question that was asked of me during our vacation trip and that I felt like a complete and total dope for not knowing at the time ... Norwich was settled in 1659 and incorporated in 1784. When you pride yourself on being a "junior historian" of sorts and then don't know the answer to something as simple as that, it's easy to feel a bit sheepish! I'll just use the excuse that technically I'm from Canterbury which was settled in 1697 and incorporated in 1703 and I'm no good with numbers!