This Veterans Day, I’d like to draw attention to the Revolutionary War veterans buried in the Old South Burial Ground off Maple Avenue, next to the Fox Elementary School. They include Thomas Y. Seymour, who helped the Americans win two game-changing battles near Saratoga, N.Y., in 1777. Seymour, then a lieutenant, led a regiment that included some of the only American cavalry of the war. Afterward, he was given the sensitive task of escorting to Boston the captured leader of the British troops, Gen. John Burgoyne.
Today, you’d never guess that men and women like Seymour are buried in Old South. The place is a shambles–just as it was when I wrote about it for the New York Times in 2000 and when the Hartford Courant followed in 2012. Some very dedicated volunteers have tried repeatedly over the years to get the cemetery’s owner–the City of Hartford–to take better care of it. But you can see which way things have gone in these photos, taken in early September. Even the chain-link fence the city erected as a half-measure to protect the tombstones has been knocked down.
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Other Hartford-related articles in
the issue include:
“Unburying Hartford’s Native and African-American Histories,” Katherine A. Hermes’ overview of the effort to tell the stories of an estimated 300-plus people of color who are buried in the Ancient Burying Ground, the city’s earliest extent graveyard. (It also the subject of an episode of “Grating the Nutmeg,” the podcast associated with Connecticut Explored. You can listen here: https://gratingthenutmeg.libsyn.com/.)
“The LeWitts Raise a World-Class Artist,” an adaptation of Larry Bloom’s new biography, “Sol LeWitt: A Life of Ideas.” LeWitt, who became one of the most important artists of the 20th Century though his pioneering work in minimalism and conceptualism, spent the first six years of his life in Hartford. He and his parents lived in a spacious house on the north end of Main Street, not far from the hospital that his father, a surgeon, co-founded: Mount Sinai. But when Sol’s father died of a heart attack in 1934, amid financial troubles brought on by the Great Depression, the boy and his mother moved to an apartment in New Britain. LeWitt’s connection to Hartford didn’t end there, however. He took art classes at the Wadsworth Atheneum, which would later display his work, though the LeWitt-Hartford relationship was usually, the Hartford Courant notes, contentious.
The Journal Inquirer newspaper of Manchester had a great article over the weekend on the “theme” tours being held at beautiful Cedar Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of such notables as actress Katharine Hepburn, gun maker Samuel Colt, poet Wallace Stevens, robber baron J.P. Morgan, and anesthesia pioneer Horace Wells.
Writer Tom Breen took the “What a Way to Go” tour, which–you guessed it–focused on the gruesome deaths suffered by some of the famous and not-so-famous residents. Among the former was Horace Wells, who “eventually became addicted to one of the chemicals he was experimenting with and cut his own throat after throwing acid at two prostitutes,” Breen wrote. Also on the tour was Walter Treadway Huntington, a Harvard junior who left his family’s home in Windsor one night in 1929 to buy a pack of cigarettes and never came home. Mysteriously, his body was found the next morning “with a gunshot wound to the head, his pockets stuffed with bloody handkerchiefs and Chesterfield Kings stubbed out around his body.”
Breen reports that upcoming tours include:
“Angels Among Us,” an examination of the allegorical figures that decorate tombs, on July 24;
“Sunset Notables,” a tour on the evening of Aug. 9 that looks at some of the famous residents of the cemetery; and
“Arts & Letters” on Sept. 25, which focuses on writers, painters, actors, and other artists.
Speaking of Horace Wells, his sad story is told in the August issue of Connecticut magazine by Erik Ofgang, under the headline, “How the Hartford Dentist Who Pioneered Anesthesia in Medicine Was Driven Mad.”