Cemetery Mystery and Discovery
Carpenter Cemetery, also known as Silver Street or Old Cemetery (see Hale Collection for the latter name), on Silver St. in North Coventry, CT, just south of Rt. 44 on the right.
By Jan (Wilson) Ramos, 21 May 2000
While revisiting the small Carpenter Cemetery on Silver Street in North Coventry, CT in early March 2000, I noted that many of the gravestones I had transcribed with ease in 1998 had become completely illegible. Concerned that they were deteriorating so quickly and wanting to learn more about gravestone preservation, I visited the web site of the Connecticut Gravestone Network. It provided the information and links I needed to protect and care for what remained of the stones. The information was so helpful and easy to understand that I took a moment to e-mail a thank you to the executive director, Ruth Shapleigh-Brown. Little did I know that this simple "thank you" would launch an adventure of mystery and discovery!
Ruth responded quickly and wanted to know exactly which burying ground I was referring to and wanted to meet me. My plan was to transcribe all the remaining gravestones in Carpenter Cemetery on 25 Mar 2000 for posting on the Coventry, Tolland Co., CT GenWeb Project web site. She agreed to join me there to meet me, to view my concerns for herself, and ....
After introductions, Ruth stated she was "going to walk the wall" referring to the stonewall that sets this burying ground apart from a farm field. I had no idea what she meant and continued my transcriptions. After a short time, Ruth called me over to see what she'd suspected all along - a piece of a broken gravestone was part of the wall! Further inspection of the wall revealed a few more pieces showing carving and others that were obviously the correct shape or type of stone to be gravestones, but with no carving visible. She informed me that stonewalls surrounding other Connecticut cemeteries had been found to contain pieces of broken gravestones, too.
This revelation set my mind spinning and I pulled Ruth over to the center of the cemetery entrance to see a rock in the ground that had often caught my eye. Like all of Connecticut, there was nothing unusual about a rock pushing up through the ground, but this one had always looked out of place to me given the location - a silvery glint in the sunlight and perfectly flat. Ruth's curiosity got the better of her and in a flash she pulled back the grass that semi-covered this rock revealing a perfect rectangle of silvery stone - too smooth, too perfectly shaped to be a natural phenomenon. With a few tools from our cars, we gently pried the stone from the ground and turned it over ...
The stone we had unearthed read --- Mr SAMUEL LYMAN --- it could have been carved yesterday it was so clear!
Why is this footstone here? Does this stone belong in this cemetery? Are there more gravestones buried in the ground like this one? What about those pieces of gravestones found in the stonewall?
Removal of the Lyman footstone revealed a inches a narrow stone curbing that bordered each side of this grass entranceway - unnoticeable during growth seasons. Clearing away a bit of dirt, we saw some letters carved in this "curbstone" --- NO / COOL / LO --- The curbing was made of more gravestones placed or hammered into the ground on their sides! This left one last question that was answered when we rolled back more grass in the middle of the entrance - more gravestones! It was apparent that the entire entrance from the street's easement to the wall was paved and curbed with old gravestones - an area about 15' x 8'. We did not know if they were all footstones like the first one or a combination of foot and headstones.
We replaced everything just as it had been and began discussing the potential significance of this discovery and what to do about it ...
Review of Discovery
The entrance path of Carpenter Cemetery is grass and wide enough for one car or wagon.
It was lined on each side with a narrow stone curbing that was barely visible in places through the grass.
The flat silvery stone in question looked nothing like other rocks seen in this area.
Pulling back the sod, a perfect rectangle of stone was revealed; The stone was pried from the ground & turned over. It read Mr. Samuel Lyman - a complete footstone - unbroken & free of the effects of erosion.
Removal of this footstone exposed a few inches of the narrow "curb" - another footstone!
Because this stone was buried so deeply on its side, we could only read part of the three lines of carving - "No/ Cool/ Lo".
Studying the ground carefully, we determined that at least 12 stones lined each side of the entrance as curbs.
Lifting a bit more sod in the middle of the entrance revealed more gravestones used as pavement. The pavement appeared to extend from the wall entrance to the street's easement, about 12-15' and wide enough for one car. The Samuel Lyman footstone and sod was replaced that day.
Coventry, Connecticut's Records Certified "Missing" in 1846
Spanning the years 1770 - 1802.
Following two years of thorough research, Jan (Wilson) Ramos publicly documented a 32 year gap in the Coventry town and church vital records in March 2000. This gap spans the years 1770 - 1802 and had been briefly mentioned in two well-known books (SEE link above). These stones might help fill some of this gap. Finding previously undocumented gravestones was a possibility. Finding previously documented gravestones now presumed eroded or stolen was a definite possibility. Replacing footstones documented as missing in area cemeteries was a distinct possibility. Finding well preserved examples of colonial funereal art was definitive.
Ruth Shapleigh-Brown would obtain authorization from the appropriate State and local cemetery authorities to excavate/rescue the gravestones from the driveway. If required by state statute, Jan (Wilson) Ramos would provide her signature as a proven direct descendant of four of the deceased in this small burial yard. 7 May 2000 was chosen to unearth the stones that form the path. Volunteers would be needed to help with this project. Ruth and Jan would see to that.
25 Mar 2000 - 5 May 2000
Who were "SAMUEL LYMAN" and "NO COOL LO"?Susan Whitney Dimock, Births, Marriages, Baptisms, & Deaths From the Records of the Town & Churches in Coventry, Connecticut 1711-1844, (Baker & Taylor Company, New York, 1897).
Two children named Noah Cooley Long were born to Jonathan and Azubah (Cooley) Long and noted in the town records. No death records were listed for either child in church or town records.
1) Noah Cooley Long, b. 11 Dec 1755
2) Noah Cooley Long, b. 17 Apr 1765.
There is no record of the birth or death of a Samuel Lyman in the town or church records of North or South Coventry. However, a Samuel Lyman married Martha Long 7 Nov 1745 per the town records. (Where did we see the surname LONG before? Hmmmm...)
Where were Samuel Lyman and Noah Cooley Long originally buried? In Carpenter Cemetery or another Coventry cemetery?Linda Pagliuco, South Street Cemetery Survey, (Nov 1999):
Samuel Lyman, d. 4 Feb 1754, age 54. Noah Coolly Long, d. 5 Sep 1750, age 5, parents: Jonathan & Azubah.
(NOTE difference in spelling vs. the Coventry vital records.)
South Street Cemetery, aka Holy Grove, is just a few blocks south of Carpenter Cemetery at the intersection of Silver and South streets.
More Questions ...
Why are these South Street Cemetery footstones here in Carpenter Cemetery? Who paved this entrance with footstones and why? Were there many more gravestones in Carpenter Cemetery at one time? If so, are they serving as pavement and curbing or just pieces of the stonewall?Janet S. Aronson, Project First Cemetery Survey, Association for Gravestone Studies, 2 Jun 1986 (Booth-Dimock Library, Coventry, CT): Carpenter Cemetery (named as Strong Yard per Coventry First Survey of 1986), North Coventry, Tolland Co., CT. Just south of Rt. 44 on Silver Street. Cemetery on right. Incorrectly listed as #6 on Project First cemetery map of Coventry, CT in 1986. 24 stones facing east. Date range 1773-1810. Maintained, but not in use. Owned by town. Many worn stones. Re-set in 1930s by Thomas Moriarty (WPA Project) - SEE below. Previous recordings of this cemetery: C.R. Hale Collection, Headstone Inscriptions Town of Coventry, CT, indexed, (1935; CT State Library). Lulu Wright-Pike, Cemeteries in Coventry, Conn. (North Parish) Book II, (1928). Thomas Moriarty, WPA Project, 1930s: Re-set stones. Placed veteran memorial stones. "Built beautiful stonewall which surrounds small cemetery," Project First (above).
NOTE: The wall was built by the WPA in the 1930s and Project First surveys of other area cemeteries refer to similar projects at that time. No other reference to work of this nature has been found to date. The mortar between the stones forming the "pavement" was the same as that used in the stonewall. Given that, it is assumed that the "paving" of the entrance to Carpenter Cemetery was done at the same time the stonewall was built.
C.R. Hale Collection, Cemeteries in Coventry, Conn., (Connecticut State Library):
Old Cemetery, (aka Carpenter Cemetery and Silver Street Cemetery, and mistakenly called Strong Yard on the Project First Cemetery Survey and map dated 2 Jun 1986). Survey and transcription by G. B. Fallow, Oct. 2, 1935.
NOTE: A comparison of the transcriptions completed on 25 Mar 2000 by Jan (Wilson) Ramos and the Hale list revealed some errors and omissions on the Hale list, but also the presence then of a few stones not found today. Noah Cooley Long and Samuel Lyman do not appear on the Hale list or in the current transcriptions. SEE both lists on the Carpenter Cemetery page of the Coventry, Tolland Co., CT GenWeb Project.
Why Pave the Entrance?      Why Use Gravestones?
The ground within the stonewall of the burial ground is spongy from dampness even during dry spells and wetland ground cover plants are noted. The ground between the road & the stonewall is always very wet. Maybe "paving" was done to prevent cars, wagons, &/or feet from sinking into the mud. Since the cemetery sits on top of a hill, there must be a spring in the vicinity to cause these wet conditions. Footstones may have been considered unnecessary since corresponding headstones existed. Footstones were pre-cut rectangles and made for free of charge pavers (this was the depression after all).
NEW INFORMATION on 9 Mar 2008:
1912 DESCRIPTION SUPPORTS THE PRESCENCE OF SPRINGS!
17 Jul 2003 email, J. Fred Peterson of Atlanta, GA, a descendant of Benjamin & Rebecca (Smith) Carpenter (Carpenter Cemetery, Row 3 - #3) provided the following:
A 5 Jan 1931, Boston Transcript inquiry about Benjamin and Rebecca Carpenter netted the following 1912 description of the Carpenter Cemetery (aka Silver Street or Old Cemetery):
BOSTON TRANSCRIPT, 16 Feb 1931:
Benjamin Carpenter, born Northampton, MA, 1695, was the son of Benjamin and Hannah (Strong) Carpenter . . .
Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter died at North Coventry and were buried in the old Porter Farm cemetery at the Cross Roads, on North Coventry Hill. Interments were made in this cemetery from 1773 to 1810 when the people decided to abandon it because of the flooding of the graves by springs. Unfortunately no care was taken to preserve the place. Today (1912) the little cemetery is completely covered with trees whilst a thick tangle of underbrush riots over the prostrate tombstones. One large double stone bears the following inscriptions:
"In memory of Mr. Benjamin Carpenter who departed this life May ye 29 A. D. 1785 in the 90 year of his age"
"In memory of Mrs. Rebeckah Carpenter wife of Mr. Benjamin Carpenter. She died Feb. 3, 1788 in ye 83 years of her age" . . .
[end of reply]
This 1912 description certainly backed up our hypothesis about springs and it also explains why the WPA project was conducted - to clean up an abandoned cemetery and reset the existing stones. Today there are no trees or underbrush to be found.
The Connecticut Gravestone Network
Important information for anyone interested in gravestones and cemeteries
The Association for Gravestone Studies
Current Map of Coventry
(includes cemetery names and locations)
(aka Silver Street and Old Cemetery)
South Street Cemetery
aka Holy Grove, Silver Street, and South Yard Cemetery
Coventry, Tolland Co., CT GenWeb Project
EXCAVATION, 7 May 2000
PARTICIPANTS AND THEIR ROLES
Anthony Pagliuco of Coventry, CT, Nathan Hale Cemetery restoration committee member: excavation, liaison with Coventry Cemetery Sexton and Town of Coventry, CT. Linda Pagliuco of Coventry, CT, Nathan Hale Cemetery restoration committee member: cleaning, transcribing and sketching each stone. Jan (Wilson) Ramos of Norwich, CT (now of Ft. Myers Beach, FL), professional genealogist of eastern Connecticut, Coventry, CT GenWeb host; descendant of William and Sarah (Rust) Wilson and William's mother Dorothy, all buried in Carpenter Cemetery: research, supplies, excavation, and project report. Ruth Shapleigh-Brown of Manchester, CT, executive director and founder, Connecticut Gravestone Network, Association for Gravestone Studies member: consultant, research, supplies, excavation, and photography of the project. Wayne Skidgel of East Hartford, CT, graveyard conservation intern, Connecticut Gravestone Network: expertise and excavation. Dr. James A. Slater, professor emeritus, biology, University of Connecticut, author of The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connecticut and the Men Who Made Them, Association for Gravestone Studies member: expert consultant, observer. John Spaulding, Connecticut Gravestone Network: digital photography.
1:00 pm: Jan, Ruth, and Wayne arrived at Carpenter Cemetery, set up supplies, and planned their best course of action. 1:30 pm: Unearthed the first stone that Ruth and Jan had discovered in March as a starting point. Pulled back and rolled the sod from the cemetery entrance toward the street to reveal the first few feet of "pavement". Sod was cut, rolled, and laid on plastic sheets for replacement later. Close inspection of the "pavement" revealed that the same loose mortar used in the stonewall had been poured between these stones - relatively easy to remove in most cases. "Pavement" stones were laid just as you would a stone walkway or patio. All stones were face down which further protected them from the elements. All stones were very legible having been spared a lot of years of weather erosion. Many had been cut or broken on one end to make them fit. Unfortunately, the break or cut was usually on the top of the stone rather than the bottom which spoiled the artwork in some cases. This was probably done in this fashion because the tops were arched or curved. The first few stones were quite difficult to remove. As each was turned to face the sky for the first time in 66 years it revealed a complete name, but no dates - obviously footstones. Most stones were decorated with a simple border. Although the tops of many had been broken or cut to make them to fit, all names were intact. Stones were lined up in order of removal on the inside of the cemetery's stonewall. As we gained experience, excavation became easier. Even the "curb stones" were being removed with relative ease compared to the first few. 1:45 pm: Anthony and Linda Pagliuco arrived to assist. Linda cataloged the stones as they were removed from the ground: Logged the order in which they were removed. Transcribed inscriptions. Sketched each and included dimensions. Washed each with a soft spray of water and a soft brush. Linda recognized each as belonging in North Coventry's South Street Cemetery (aka Holy Grove, South Street, South Yard Cemetery) down the street from this location. She had surveyed that cemetery in Novemeber, 1999, so was quite familiar with the names. With Anthony to help us, Ruth stepped back from the physical labor to photograph the entire process. 2:00 pm: Dr. James Slater arrived to see our discovery for himself. He has spent years studying the early carvers and art of the old cemeteries of eastern Connecticut. He stated, "I've explored the stonewalls of area cemeteries for over 20 years looking for these missing footstones, I can't believe I've walked across them a thousand times in the process!" He noted carvers that he recognized which Linda added to her catalog. 3:00 pm: John and Elizabeth Spaulding came to see the project for themselves. He brought a digital camera to help record the project, hence "instant photos" for the participants that very evening. When the footstones of John and Jonathan Loomis were excavated, everyone was pleased! John and Jonathan Loomis were gravestone carvers of Coventry fame. They purchased an acre of quarry land at Bolton notch (very near to this location) in 1750 to provide stone for this purpose. Jan (Wilson) Ramos was thrilled to find a Wilson. Francis Willson was the brother of her ancestor William Wilson/Willson. This stone had the most remarkable folk art style of the bunch, but the carver was unknown to our expert on site. Another stone of great importance was that of Capt. John Bissel, a Revolutionary War veteran of Coventry.
All of the stones were significant finds and we were appalled that this occurred in the first place. The "silver lining" is how well they were preserved laying face down in the ground for almost 70 years - no weather erosion or acid rain problems like their corresponding headstones. We actually considered replacing them in the ground after cataloging each!
PROJECT PROGRESS, 7 MAY 2000: In less than 3 hours in 91 degree heat, we:
unearthed, washed, and cataloged 24 footstones from the "pavement & curbs" of that driveway! (This equaled almost half the length of the "driveway".) spread evenly the soil and pieces of mortar we'd saved where the footstones had been. placed a plastic sheet over the soil abutting the footstones where we stopped for the day to mark our place. rolled the sod we had preserved back into place - all of it fitting just like puzzle pieces.
Our final project before leaving the little cemetery on that day was to straighten a headstone that was leaning backward exposing its face directly to the elements -
this, a request from Dr. Slater. He explained to us that this particular headstone, that of Joseph Miner, is very important!
It is documented in the will of the deceased as having been carved by John Loomis. It is the only written documentation of the work and style of John Loomis found to date. This documentation has allowed for identification of other John Loomis works in the area.
These include all phases of the project and
close-up photos of all stones excavated on 7 May 2000.
THE PROJECT CONTINUES...
Tony Pagliuco, a Coventry resident and member of the Nathan Hale Cemetery Committee, was to call the Coventry cemetery sexton to see about having the footstones returned to their rightful places in South Street Cemetery whose correct name is Holy Grove Cemetery. All of us were concerned that they may be tempting to steal just leaning against the inside wall in the very exposed hilltop where Carpenter Cemetery is located. Jan (Wilson) Ramos compared the transcriptions against her copy of the Coventry vital records and discovered that most of these deaths are not listed in those records having occurred during the 1770-1802 record gap previously documented Jan. Jan also compared the names on these footstones to the current transcriptions of South Street Cemetery done by Linda Pagliuco and confirmed that all of the footstones unearthed from Carpenter Cemetery's entrance on 7 May 2000 belong in South Street Cemetery (aka Holy Grove) a short distance down the road just as Linda stated. The Nathan Hale Cemetery committee was to meet and arrange completion of the excavation project (hopefully during the summer, 2000). Linda Pagliuco and Jan (Wilson) Ramos agreed that the entrance to South Street Cemetery looks similar to this one. The possibility that it was also paved in gravestones is to be explored. Grant Hill Road Cemetery is to be checked as well, since there is a lack of footstones in that location, too. Dr. Slater and Ruth Shapleigh-Brown will continue to explore the issue of the stonewalls in Coventry cemeteries being made of a mixture of field stones, broken headstones, and apparently some intact footstones - How best to deal with this problem? Jan was disappointed that she would not be able to see the project through to its end due to a long distance move in June, 2000, but would continue to update the project on the via the Coventry, CT GenWeb Project site.
GRAVESTONES EXCAVATED 7 MAY 2000
Carpenter Cemetery, Silver St., North Coventry, CT
All stones are from the South Street Cemetery (aka Holy Grove, South Yard, and Silver Street Cemetery). Original spelling and punctuation is preserved here. Dates of death gleaned from South Street Cemetery are indicated in parentheses.Mr. Samuel Lyman (d. 4 Feb 1754, age 54) Mrs. Elisabeth Lyman (d. 28 Feb 1751, age 48) Mrs. Bettey Whelden (d. 6 July 1789, age 28) Mr. David Hibbard (d. 13 Aug 1800, age 84) Polly Loomis (there are 3: d. 10 Sep 1795, age 3; d. 16 Mar 1875, age 55; d. 17 Mar 1795, age 7 mos.) Mr. Jonathan Loomis (d. 7 Jul 1785, age 63; gravestone carver) Mrs. Abigail Skinner (d. 21 Mar 1801, age 71) Mrs. Tirzah Loomis (d. 26 Mar 1802, age 21) Mrs. Eunice Fowler (d. 9 Feb 1801, age 77) Daniel Skinner (d. 24 Feb 1808, age 80) Mrs. Olive Loomis (d. 9 Dec 1813, age 43) Mrs. Irene Badger (d. 20 Nov 1828, age 80) Noah Coolly Long (d. 5 Sep 1760, age 5) Clarisa Davenport (there were 2: d. 28 Oct 1777, age 3; d. 12 Jan 1796, age 19) Esther Fowler (d. 2 Jan 1776, age 16) John Bissel (d. 4 Dec 1783, age 91; Capt., Rev. War) Mr. Ezekiel Richardson (d. 8 Nov 1816, age 56) Lois Porter (d. 14 Apr 1766, age 25) Mrs. Sally Cole (d. 10 Jun 1806, age 33) Mr. Samuel Walbridge (there were 2: d. 12 Apr 1783, age 17; d. 17 Dec 1831, age 90) Mrs. Asenath Brewster (d. 21 May 1814, age 48) Mr. Andrew Crocker (d. 4 Jul 1787, age 63) Mr. Francis Willson (d. 15 Jan 1767, age 55) Mrs. Patience Jones (d. 24 Apr 1770, age 75) Mrs. Mary Atherton (d. 2 Oct 1796, age 84) Mrs. Lydia Tarbox (d. 7 Aug 1820, age 65) G.W.A./ A.A. (d. 20 Apr 1832, age 4 yrs, 7 mos / d. 9 Jun 1830, age 3 mo, 10 days)
(NOTE: Vital records & South Street Cemetery transcriptions identified the latter as the footstone of George W. Abbey, d. 1832 and his brother Albert Abbey, d. 1830 - both quite young. This stone is the newest of those excavated on 7 May 2000.)
The Nathan Hale Cemetery restoration committee completed excavation of the stones from the entrance of the Carpenter Cemetery during summer 2000. I've been told that several headstones were among them! They are all in safe storage along with the first 24. The Nathan Hale Cemetery group and the Town of Coventry are deciding the best course of action to return them to their proper location.
27 Mar 2008, I received the list of names on those additional stones. They are provided below. When replacement of the stones to their rightful places is completed, I should receive complete transcripts of all of them.
*** NEW ***
GRAVESTONES EXCAVATED LATER - Summer 2000
Carpenter Cemetery, Silver St., North Coventry, CT
(provided by Sherry Chapman, 27 Mar 2008)
All the remaining stones were also from the South Street Cemetery (aka Holy Grove). Spelling and punctuation is listed here as provided to me by Sherry Chapman.Nathaniel Gilbert Mrs Martha Crocker Demarais Ashbo Stephen Stiles Richard Elizabeth Porter & Mr Thomas Porter Chauncy Hibbard Chester, Son of Ebenezer & Prudence Hamlen Mary Rust Richardson ? Mr John Walbridge Mrs Esther Howard Mrs Mary Badger Mr Abraham Burnap Philanda Fowler Hannah Burnap Hannah Hunt Capt. Thomas Davenport Mr Hezekiah Hearich Mr Joseph Loomis Mrs Hannah Fowler Mrs Mary Davenport Mrs Mary Graves Mr John Tarbox Sarah Field Mrs Mary Wright Milo Loomis Elisabeth Rust Doctor Timothy Kimball Mrs Sibbel Andrews Mrs Mary Potwina Mr Samuel Loomis Mrs Lois Crocker Mr. Robert Turner Mrs Rachel Hunt Thomas Kingsbury Mrs Hannah Hunt Mr Asa Hendee Mrs Mary Strong Mrs Mary Hendee Doctr Elijah Lyman Mr. Peter Brewster Mrs Roxanne Hibbard Mr Jacob Brewster Mrs Mary Loomis Mr Daniel Loomis Barnabas H Tracy Mrs Michael Goer M. Simon Atherton Mrs Esther Lyman Mrs Abigail Lamb Mrs Mary Kingsbury Mr Timothy Loomis Mrs An_ Kingsbu__ Mrs Jerusha Fowler Mr Eal Terrill Mr Samuel Kingsbury Mrs Hannah Kimball Mrs Louisa Badger Mrs Del Brewster Doctr John Waldo Mr Roswell Prior Mrs Submit Bingham Elizer Talcott Mrs Dorcas Hibbard Ebenezer Lamb Mrs Roxana Hibbard Mr Ephraim Davenport Phineas Strong, Esq. Loomis Loomis ?
Project Completed Summer 2008
An 8 year odyssey
Click the Project Completed link above to view amazing slide shows of this huge undertaking (no pun intended)!
Carpenter Cemetery Project Photographs
Carpenter Cemetery Project COMPLETE!
Coventry, CT Cemeteries
Coventry, Tolland Co., CT GenWeb Project
Connecticut Gravestone Network
Coventry, CT GenWeb Project
Last updated 17 Oct 2009
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