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The Old Cemetery Board

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See the Town Calendar for specific meeting dates.
Download the free Adobe Reader to view, save and print agendas, minutes, public hearing notices, Board & Commission members lists and report pdf files.

The Old Cemetery Board members are appointed by the Town Council
and meets the fourth Thursday of the month from 7:30PM to 8:30PM.
Meeting Location: East Haven Town Hall 250 Main Street .

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The Old Cemetery

Registered as a National Historic Place with the Parks Dept. in Washington, DC.
The land on River Street was sequestered on June 13, 1707.
In 1998 The East Haven Town Council appointed a board to oversee the care and preservation of the grounds and gravestones of The Old Cemetery. This committee known as The Old Cemetery Board continues to meet every month and raise money for the restoration of gravestones. There are approximately 200 gravestones in The Old Cemetery that require restoration. View Old Cemetery photo album.
The Old Cemetery Board graciously accepts donations of any size for the continuing maintenance and repairs of this historic place.
Please make checks payable to: The Old Cemetery East Haven, CT
Mail to: The Old Cemetery 250 Main Street East Haven, CT 06512

History of The Old Cemetery

For several years after the settlement of East Haven the inhabitants were compelled to carry their dead to New Haven and inter them in the ancient burying ground that was situated on what is now called the upper Green behind the Center Church. It was an arduous trip, especially during poor weather. Therefore, on 13th June, 1707, it was "agreed to sequester a piece of land for a burying place on the south side of the pond on the Forthill so called, as much as may be spared from highways and watering cattle." Thus began The Old Cemetery in East Haven, Connecticut, first called the "Burying Ground." The oldest stone in the Burying Ground found bears the date of 1712. It is doubtful if there are any earlier dates.

Plaque on the Old Cemetery Gates from the National Historic Register

Very little attention was given to the burying ground for many years until people began to let their cattle feed in it. In 1777 a vote was taken that a committee of Jacob Bradley, Samuel Shepherd and Joseph Hemingway take care of it and that no horses or cattle were to graze on the land. Only geese, sheep and calves were allowed to feed there.

A hearse house, which stood on the northwest corner of the Burying Ground housed a hearse used for funerals. However, the undertaker for East Haven for a number of years was from North Haven. In order to save travel, he always came a few hours before the funeral with his own hearse bearing the casket. This custom allowed the old town hearse to disappear and the hearse-house to fall to decay and be swept away with other refuse.

The Burying Ground was a free burial place, and after another period of fifty-two years, it was very evident that "what was everybody's business was nobody's." It was in a very sad state, overrun with sumac and other bushes, briars, and rank weeds of all kinds. The fences were old, broken and in places there were none at all, and not infrequently cattle were seen within its precincts. Everyone deplored the situation, but no one took the initiative to remedy the state of affairs.

In 1849, a society was formed by some young ladies, and it was decided that the Burying Ground was the most needy object in East Haven. Jeremiah B, Davidson handed out a new crisp five- dollar bill to start them off. The membership fee was 25 cents; the fine for inexcusable absence from meetings was 10 cents. This society of young ladies successfully canvassed the entire town for money and hired Asahel Bradley to clean up the grounds and build fences. The next year Reverend D. W. Havens of the Congregational Church, not to be outdone by the women, organized the men to build a gateway to adorn the Burying Ground and complete the fence.

Formally known as The Burying Ground, in 1868 the Burying Ground took on the name of "Old Cemetery." In October 5, 1868 it was voted that the sum of $50 be appropriated from the town treasury to be used for the removal of brush, etc.

In most cemeteries there are many quaint and striking epitaphs on stones. One which has attracted much attention, is that of Mr. Edmund Bradley with its seven outlined faces representing three pairs of twins and the eldest born:

"See death removes the eldest son Just as the family’s begun
And three pair of twins in a short space To quicken them in the Christian race.
Children of Edmund and Lydia Bradley

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East Haven Town Seal image and National Historic Plaque photos by FC Foley ©2008.
Web Designs by Frances C. Foley & Noisemakers Productions.
Copyright © 2008 Town of East Haven. All Rights Reserved. Updated January 5, 2009.