American flag finally flies above historic burial ground

The Congregational Cemetary in town now has its first flag pole and an American flag flying over the graves of veterans from many U.S. wars. Resident historians funded and installed the pole in January.

The Congregational Cemetary in town now has its first flag pole and an American flag flying over the graves of veterans from many U.S. wars. Resident historians funded and installed the pole in January.

One of the charms of Stratford is its history, which dates back to its founding in 1639. Now a major piece of historical ground downtown is proudly adorned with a new flagpole and American flag.

The Congregational Cemetery, established in 1672 and walled in behind Sterling House and the Stratford Library, had its first flagpole installed in January thanks to Stratford resident Todd Lovell and the Congregational Burying Ground Committee. The group funded the 34-foot pole and erected it on the property, which is owned by the First Congregational Church of Stratford on Main Street.

Lovell said it is fully appropriate for the nation’s flag to be raised where veterans from many of America’s wars were laid to rest.

The cemetery, which the Stratford Historical Society says was referred to over the centuries as simply the burying ground, was the second burial ground established in Stratford, following the original on Elm Street at Mack’s Harbor.

Records show 982 burials were listed as of 1906. The cemetery was closed to full interments in 1935, but a vault for urns containing cremated remains has niches available today.

Lovell’s wife, Carol, is director and curator of the Stratford Historical Society. She said a walk through the cemetery, including reading the headstones, provides insight into the history of Stratford. Among those whose final resting place is the burying ground are Moses Wheeler, 1698, age 100, ferryman across the Housatonic River and namesake of the I-95 bridge over the river; Capt. David Judson, 1761, age 61, militia; Capt. Gideon Tomlinson, 1766, age 35, fought at Ticonderoga; Lt. William Thompson, 1777, age 35, killed at the Battle of Ridgefield; and Gideon Tomlinson, 1854, age 75, lawyer, member of Connecticut legislature, speaker of the House of Representatives, member of Congress, governor of Connecticut, and U.S. senator.

Carol Lovell said gravestones in memory of early sea captains and others who were lost at sea in Stratford’s early days also are present. A full listing of burials and headstone inscriptions may be found at the Stratford Historical Society on Academy Hill.

Todd Lovell noted that the material used for gravestones continually changed over the centuries and that sandstone, slate, marble, and granite are all used in the burying ground.

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