Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Photo journal: Hartford's Old North Cemetery

A tattered American flag in the grass at Hartford's Old North Cemetery.

Toppled memorial for Private Joseph Matthewson
 of the  12th Connecticut. He was 22 when he
 died in New Orleans. 

Neglected for decades, historic Old North Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Hartford's leading citizens and Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale's fiancee, may be the city's finest outdoor museum. Scores of Civil War soldiers are also buried in the 204-year cemetery, including brothers Charles and Lewis Weld and many African-American soldiers from the 29th Connecticut.

On a quick drive-by visit to the cemetery Monday to check out the Weld brothers memorial,  I was stunned by the state of neglect. A more extensive visit this morning -- and really, what's a Fourth of July without a cemetery visit in hot, humid weather? -- only confirmed my first impression. Trash, including drug paraphernalia, littered the property, and weeds and uncut grass obscured  gravestones, many of which were toppled or broken. The good news: The city is making an effort to clean the place up. New benches were added and paths have been re-paved. The bad news: It's definitely going to take awhile.
    Nearly obscured by vegetation, the toppled gravestone of Sidney Basey, a private in
     Company F of the 29th Connecticut, a black regiment that served in Virginia and
     South Carolina.  His marker is one of  many neglected gravestones in
     Old North Cemetery.  Basey was from Wethersfield, Conn.
    The broken tombstone for Orrin J. Williams, a private in the  29th Connecticut, 
    a regiment  of  black soldiers. Williams was from Madison, Conn.

    The fiancee of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero hanged by the 
    British, is buried in Old North Cemetery.

    ABOVE AND BELOW: Close-ups of the artistry on tombstones
     at Hartford's Old North Cemetery.


  1. It is a year later from this wonderful post and I wonder if there is an update on progress to restore these headstones in the Old North Cemetery.

  2. It has been a year since you published this good summary of the conditions of the graves in the Old North Cemetery. Has there been any progress in the past year to restore these graves? It would be wonderful to have this all restored by Veteran’s Day 2013 or on November 25, 2013 which would be the 148th anniversary of the final muster of the 29th Regiment on November 25, 1865.

  3. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Unfortunately, I was there with my kids after church yesterday and the state of disrepair was so much more than I remembered that I notified the police thinking it was more recent vandalism. From the look of the picture above, perhaps not. Officer Tine indicated he will touch base with Public Works administration to see what work is scheduled; we have new Public Works administrators.

    On November 17th at the New Milford Historical Society we will be celebrating the contributions of the 29th regiment and others to the Civil War. I intend to honor some of those buried at Old North and certainly forgotten with photos from Old North Cemetery.