Richard Roberts inspects the headstone on Seth Smith's grave. Smith died Aug. 23,1832 at 67 years old. He was buried in the family plot along with others including his wife Prudence , and daughter Nancy .
Photo by Alex von Kleydorff.
Copyright © 2007,
The Hour Newspapers
The following is a story discussing old cemeteries, courtesy The Stamford
June 10, 2007
Richard Roberts tracks Stamford's lost graveyards
By Steve Koback,
STAMFORD – Although neglected cemeteries are deteriorating in Stamford, Richard Roberts ensures their memory does not fade.
"There are little cemeteries tucked away in woods that contain the remains of Civil War veterans and veterans of the War of 1812," Roberts said.
Roberts, 77, maps forgotten local cemeteries for The Stamford Historical Society.
"I've been making a survey of as many of these cemeteries as I can locate," he said.
He began surveying graveyards after visiting the historical society while researching his family's genealogy. During that time, he developed an interest in cemeteries and Ron Marcus, librarian at the society, asked if he would make a permanent record of his findings for the historical society's files.
"He is performing a tremendous service," said Marcus.
Roberts makes plot plans of each graveyard, photographs the tombstones, copies legible inscriptions on the back of each photograph and compares his findings to other cemetery surveys conducted around the United States. He estimates Stamford contained 44 cemeteries at one time in the 19th century. He surveyed 33 of them in the past two years.
"The photographs are absolutely invaluable for a number of reasons," said Marcus.
The cemeteries are often out of view, deep in a wooded area. Some of them contain only three or four headstones, according to Roberts. A few of the sites contain a stone marker, telling of all the plots but many do not have engraved headstones. The grave sites marked with field stone's often identify a child's burial site.
"It gives you an idea of what conditions were like at the time," he said.
The Works Progress Administration [WPA] made a headstone index in the 1930s, focusing on veterans of the Civil War, and The Stamford Historical Society constructed "Poll of Stone" study in the 1980s to map of neglected family graveyards. Still, the index has some oversights, according to Roberts, as many old family cemeteries did not make the large list. In his field studies, Roberts uncovered many Civil War-era, small family graveyards not listed by the WPA.
"These old family cemeteries are disappearing," he said.
Some graveyards were bulldozed over and buried, making way for new developments. Vandals damaged headstones in a few. Others were victimized by weather conditions like acid rain, disintegrating marble and sandstone tombstones from the 18th and 19th centuries and wearing away their inscriptions.
"I don't try to do preservation work," he said. "I usually just map cemeteries and map interesting stones."
Robert Bromley, of the Historical Cemetery Preservation Society, restores old cemeteries. Though not directly familiar with Roberts' work, Bromley sees the value of the study.
"We feel that the old and abandoned cemeteries are something we want to revive and take care of," Bromley said.
Roberts, Bromley and Marcus stress the importance of a community's role in preserving old cemeteries.
"The average citizen can help out in a number of ways," said Marcus. "The average citizen can make sure cemeteries aren't being vandalized or used as a place of refuse."
For more information about Roberts' study, contact The Stamford Historical Society at 329-1183 or visit them at 1508 High Ridge Road Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. (Webmaster's note: 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.)
Copyright © 2007, The Hour Newspapers
All Rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Mapping Lost Graveyards in Stamford