Saturday, October 24, 2015

The "Old Burying Ground" Cemetery Walk, Winsted, CT

For the last couple of years, we have heard of the Soldiers' Monument cemetery walks, but conflicting activities prevented us from attending. This year, once again, we had a choice of numerous activities, but we chose to go on the walk. We found out each year they feature a different cemetery so we may have to try to fit this in for future years. Today it was the "Old Burying Ground" on Park Place.

The walk took us to twelve different gravestones and standing by each was an actor dressed as the deceased who told us their life story. I will not go into detail about the persons' stories. I urge you to attend the walks in future years. I will just tell you a tiny reference about their life but they presented much more information, giving us a great picture of the times when they lived.

Our first stop was to meet William Phelps who was portrayed by Steve Silvester. Mr. Phelps was a banker and he was also responsible for creating East End Park.
Next Lynn Kessler portrayed Thomas M. Clarke, who was quite an ambitious man. He was newspaper editor and politician along with other business ventures. He was a member of the Prohibitionist Party which wasn't widely received and at times he was the target of aggression as the result of that. 

At one time there was a store called, Adams Dry Goods in Winsted. Deb Kessler, as Mrs. Normand Adams, told us about the store her family owned. It carried an interesting variety of items from apothecary items, to artificial flowers to freshen women's bonnets, to laces, material, men's hats and various other items. 

The Rockwell House which is the home of the Winsted Historical Society was once the home of Jerusha Rockwell. Karin Taylor told us of this wealthy woman's life. One thing of note, is that the Hinsdale School is named after her daughter, Mary P. Hinsdale for her work in teaching people how to read. 

Susan Zaczynski told us about Mrs. Eugene Potter and the silk mill that was once in Winsted.

Mike Mueller gave a quite detailed account of Frederic M. Cooke who was in the "War of the Rebellion". He served in the 19th Connecticut Infantry and later the 2nd Connecticut Artillery surviving the battle at Cold Harbor. 

Several of the presenters told of the loss of their children at very young ages. This presenter, Jake Taylor, represented the youngest of those highlighted today. William Hubbard died at age 18 in the Civil War The cause of death was typhoid. He described how prevalent typhoid was due to the unsanitary conditions. He felt that the unclean water was probably the cause of his death. William told us that 2/3 of the deaths during the war were due to illness and 1/4 of those were due to typhoid. Of note to us, was that before he went into the war, he lived at the Mallory Farm in Barkhamsted.

Sean Gavin told us about two different men who were in the service in the air. During WW II Henry Colt Fay went to training at Westover Air Force Base to fly a B24. We were told that training was not one on one, they learned in groups and were expected to heavily depend on the manual. He added that 15,000 servicemen were killed in various aspects of training in WW II. Mr. Fay died when the plane he was in crashed in Granby.

Walter Reichold also served in WW II as a B17 pilot in the 8th Airborne in England. He is buried in the Netherlands.

Edward Manchester ran the Prospect Hill Farm on Spencer Hill, a dairy farm and expanded to feed and grain, fruits and vegetables and ice cream. According to Ron Pfaefflin, portraying him, he was a prohibitionist and felt that Winsted would feel God's wrath from their approval of alcohol. His farm was later renamed E. Manchester & Sons, when his sons joined his business. Manchester Heights is named after him.
A lawyer and Lt. Governor, giving him the nickname of "The Governor", William Holabird had a very interesting role in American history. He was called upon to be the prosecuting lawyer in the trial of the Amistad. He was portrayed by Steve Dew.
Michael Miller told us as Ebeneezer Rowley what life was like as a fifer in the Revolutionary War. Serving in the 8th Connecticut Army, he was exposed to devastation caused by small pox during that time. Ebeneezer was a practical joker at home and he helped form a church in town but left it when it was decided that people would own the pews with the wealthiest sitting up front. He so despised the separation of classes that this depicted, that he left church and never attended another one.

Our final stop led us to Jack Bourque, a seasoned actor in the area, who portrayed John Boyd. A Yale graduate and lawyer, John Boyd served as secretary of the state and wrote the "Annals of Winchester, Connecticut". He enthusiastically told us of a fascinating incident regarding the Connecticut Charter. I am not going to explain it here so when they do this cemetery again another year, you may go and be informed and entertained.

For history lovers, it was a fascinating journey back in time. I have purposely left out many of the interesting details. I encourage you to attend a walk yourself. The Soldiers' Monument Association presented a wonderful program. We hope we can work it into our schedule next year too.

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