Stones, Bones, and Lives Unknown, A Visitor’s Guide to the Old Center Cemetery, West Hartford, CT, provided by the Noah Webster House, Historical Society of West Hartford, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06107 860/521-5362.
Welcome to the Old Center Cemetery! Old cemeteries are some of the best places to encounter the past. Gravestones yield important examples of historical art and language, in addition to providing biographies of local residents. The Old Center Cemetery was established in 1719 when John Janes of the West Division of Hartford (today's West Hartford), deeded a plot of land to Samuel Sedgwick for the exclusive purpose of establishing a "burying yard." Stones located here date from as early as 1725 to as late as 1869, although the majority are from the eighteenth century. Later stones can be found in the Old North Cemetery on North Main Street, founded in 1790.
If you are in town, we suggest you take this information along with you as you tour the Old Center Cemetery. It highlights the important, the unique, and the not so well-known residents of the town from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, offering a glimpse into lives long forgotten. Few women are included on the tour because, unlike men, little information is available about them. Essentially, women lost their identities upon marriage. Thus, those included on the tour are either unique or important to the town's history. As you look at their markers, observe how women are almost always noted in reference to their husbands. The cemetery houses a wide variety and style of stones on which misspellings were not uncommon: American English did not become standardized until the publication of Noah Webster's Dictionary in 1828. Those buried here range from a stillborn infant to a 100-year-old man. Generally, adults in colonial New England could expect to live as long as we do today once they survived the perils of childhood. Of close to 200 people buried here, 22 were aged 80 or older at death, while 23 were 16 or younger. As you tour, see what differences and/or similarities to modern cemeteries you can observe on your own. This text describes 19 individuals and one monument. To the right of each person's name is the date of death that appears on his or her stone.