Home > Uncategorized > The Old Graveyard in Middletown, Ct.

The Old Graveyard in Middletown, Ct.

Source: “The Old Graveyard in Middletown, Ct.,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 2:[1848], (reprinted from the “Sons of Temperance,” 17 July 1847, published at Middletown, Connecticut).

[page 70]

In our young but precocious country, where every score of years have done the work of centuries, we have already many sacred relics and venerable antiquities.  Changes and events prolong its brief history and though few of its towns number more than two hundred years, yet their early times are filled with patriarchal interest, and the light of their other days shines softened by the enchantment of distance.  Recalled to the colonial era by the voice of tradition and the impulse of piety, we hover around the chaste firesides of our fathers, survey their sober worship, and smile respectfully on their rigorous virtues.  Every year adds to the charm of those distant periods; the antiquarian haunts with increasing relish their dim scenes, joins the hardly discovered links of ancient pedigree, and hoards the dusty relics of the golden age.  And as with growing wealth, leisure and refinement are more diffused, the hearts of the multitude open to the increasing taste and admit with pleasure whatever illustrates the times and manners of their forefathers.

Nothing is more characteristic of the early state of New England than the old graveyards which solemnize her ancient towns.  Their monuments, epitaphs, and decorations show at once the prevalence of religion, the backwardness of taste, and the poverty of the times.  The number of buried octogenarians attests the steady habits and salubrious clime; while the superior funeral state of the ministers and the deacons bears witness to the social importance of those dignitaries of the church.

Among these honored abodes of the dead, none has more interest to the traveller of sentiment, than the old graveyard in Middletown.

The first settlement in this town was in 1650, though there are no monuments to be found earlier than about 1680.  The old graveyard lies in the northern part of the city, on the bank of the Connecticut.  It is terraced down towards the stream, leaving just room, outside the high wall which protects it from the freshets of the spring, for an unfrequented road.  The river here is broad, and turning abruptly about half a mile below, sweeps away to the east in a graceful and majestic curve.  Its current above is divided by an island that bends in a verdant crescent towards the further shore, while just beyond on the left a large tributary enters, spanned at its mouth by a picturesque bridge.  On the opposite shore of the river rise gently the green slopes and long pleasant village of Portland, enriched by extensive quarries, whose distant echoes ring and resound, mellowed to the ear.

Among the first objects that attract the eye upon entering is the simple monument of Com. Thomas McDONOUGH, who was a resident of this place, and whose wife and kin lie around his tomb.

There are but few modern graves in this yard; the space is mostly occupied by those who were laid here before the Revolution, and on every side long rows of sombre sandstones treasure the memories of good

[page 71]

wives and dear children and exemplary deacons.  As one wanders among them, he smiles reverentially to see the platoons of amorphous angels that grin and stare from the headstones carved in every variety of ugliness.  And at every corner strange, uncouth epitaphs excite mirth that he cannot suppress.  And yet, amid the inconsistency of merriment in such a place, he does not forget the reverence due to the stern and virtuous race whose tributes of grief have thus become jests in these modern times. […]

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