Friday, December 22, 2017

The Mystique of Quinnipiac Cemetery

This post was written during the late summer to early autumn of 2017 and is published posthumously.

Recorded history indicates that until 1733 there was only one cemetery in Southington:  Burying Grounds Hill. In 1726, the founders of the United Church of Christ in Southington and the State, built a Meeting House, designating it later as the town’s burial ground. Today that site is known as Oak Hill Cemetery.

Forty years later, upon the death of Martha Wheadan Barnes in 1773, Stephen Barnes arranged for her burial at that cemetery. But, on the day of the funeral there was a major snow storm resulting in severely blocked traffic between the Barnes residence in Plantsville and the town’s only cemetery... Oak Hill.

When the funeral procession reached the residence of Captain Josiah Cowles, 184 Marion Ave., it was unable to travel further. Captain Cowles, a man of considerable influence in town, swiftly came to the rescue, donating a parcel of land across the road from his home as a burial site for Martha Barnes (1710-1773).

Almost 100 years later, November 30, 1863, at a meeting held in Cowles Hall in Plantsville, the legal Articles of the Quinnipiac Cemetery were agreed to by Captain John Cowles and a committee of community leaders forming the Quinnipiac Cemetery Association.

By then, the Union Army was sending huge numbers of Civil War Dead on their final journey home. The priority became the burial of 322 Southington War Dead, with 102 of them interred at Quinnipiac Cemetery.

In time, Southington heroes of 9 wars—from the Revolution through through Vietnam—have been lost. A startling number in itself, but the stunning number of fallen Southington citizens in all those wars was 3,707, a figure equal to 24% of Southington’s 2010 census.

How did this story reach me?

Following a recent meeting, Sen. Joe Markley, invited me to take a tour of Quinnipiac Cemetery. It began with a visit to Civil War graves in a rear section of the cemetery. Astonished, by the details revealed by the markers, e.g. where they died, prison camps, and more, we continued on a tour of other military and family burial sites. Joe pointed out to me at least three dozen graves inscribed with the name Cowles.

Turns out, Captain John Cowles was the great, great, great grandfather of Joe Markley. Before leaving, Joe drove us to a red barn house across the road, dated 1733, which had been the home of his great grandfather and the owner of the Quinnpiac property. Impressed with my interest, Joe suggested I contact Phil Wooding, one of our town’s most knowledgeable local historians and a past chairman and member of our town Council, our Library Board and Ethics Board.

Wooding and I met and spoke on the phone several times. He invited me to a second, meticulously detailed tour of the grounds and burial sites of Qunnipiac. Along the way, Wooding shared some great family stories of the town, past and present.   The excursion was remarkably instructive as I learned more about the memorial markers, from the simplest flag-marked military sites to the tall obelisks.

One particular detail I still reflect upon is that all the inscribed markers on the east side of the “Quinnipiac” face west … toward the sunset, reminding me of the final sentence of the epitaph of Martha Barnes: “I am the first brought here to the dust."

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