New Fairfield Cemetery tour: historic, not hair-raising
NEW FAIRFIELD -- Cemeteries in October usually conjure up scary images of ghosts and ghouls, but on the New Fairfield Cemetery tour that Preserve New Fairfield will sponsor Oct. 4, the "spirits" are all friendly and just want to give you a peek into the lives and lifestyles of days gone by.
"We want to promote the history of the town and make it available to people," said Linda Decker, a member of the board of Preserve New Fairfield and co-chairman of the tour.
Cemetery tour proceeds will help restore the interiors of two historic homes the group rescued and is making into a historic district for the town.
The cemetery has more than 200 graves and is located across the street from Town Hall, on the site where the Congregational Church once stood.
"If you live in town," said Agnes Trimpert, another board member and tour co-chairwoman, "you pass by it hundreds of times, but do you know what lies beyond the gate"¦and what stories are buried there with its inhabitants?"
New Fairfield Cemetery is over 250 years old.
The earliest grave with legible writing dates back to 1757 -- only 12 years after the town was incorporated -- and on it is written, simply, Sarah.
Back then the population of the town was 700.
In the oldest section of the cemetery, graves were set out "facing the rising sun" -- east to west -- and many are marked with simple field stones picked up from nearby pastures.
As the years went on, more prosperous citizens remembered loved ones with elaborately carved gravestones of limestone and granite, like the one for Adella Stevenson, which bears the poetic epitaph: "A light is from our household home, A voice who loved is stilled, A place is vacant in our hearts, that never can be filled."
On this family-oriented tour, visitors will be able to "meet" some of the people laid to rest in the cemetery. Actors dressed in period costumes will provide the voices from the past, revealing details of their lives during different periods of New Fairfield history.
Visitors will find out what it was like to be part of the birth of our country and how it felt to live with fellow freedom fighters and a few "Tories," whose property was eventually confiscated.
Imagine the scandal of being a free-thinking woman in the late 1800s, who rather than follow the traditional route of marriage and raising a family, chose to go to Europe to study painting.
A wide variety of other cemetery residents will be highlighted as well, including veterans of the Civil War and World War I, farmers, a minister, and even a slave.
Children will hear what it was like to go to a one-room schoolhouse and live on a farm. It was often a hard life, said Decker, and many people were lost to illnesses that medicines can cure today.
The event will also feature live music and photo collages of the people and time periods represented on the tour. Refreshments will be available.
A complete listing of the graves and brief facts about the people buried there will be sold.
The cemetery is managed by the New Fairfield Cemetery Association, a volunteer group whose members are responsible for its upkeep and care.
Tickets for the tour are $8 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under.
It will begin at the small gate next to the post office. The rain date is Oct. 11.
For more details, go to
www.preservenewfairfield.org or call 203-746-5569.