Wilton spirits come alive at Sharp Hill Cemetery
WILTON — Jonathan Wood was a weaver from Long Island when, in 1706, at the age of 48, he bought some farmland above Pimpewaug and with his family that included seven children became Wilton’s first settlers.
Ezekial Hawley, another early Wiltonian, gave his life to freedom, dying during the Revolutionary War. His young wife, Sarah Betts, died earlier, in 1772, at the age of 19.
Mable Elmer was just 22 when she died in childbirth on Jan. 25, 1744. Her infant daughter died eight months later, testament to the fragility of life in 18th century Wilton.
All of these people are buried in Sharp Hill Cemetery and the lives of Jonathan, Sarah and Mable were told through reenactors in a program, Spirits of the Past, at the cemetery on Nov. 2. It was sponsored by the Wilton Congregational Church and Wilton Historical Society. Historian Bob Russell gave a history of the cemetery and answered questions about Wilton’s forebears.
Mable’s gravestone is the oldest one at Sharp Hill that is legible. It reads: She gives life, but O pitiable consideration, gives it at ye expense of her own, and at once becomes a mother & a corpse.” Sarah’s is marked the name of the stonecutter who made it.
Ezekial is one of 18 Wilton sons from the War for Independence buried there. Six veterans of the French and Indian War are also buried there.
Sharp Hill is Wilton’s oldest surviving burial ground. It was founded in 1738 when John Marvin gave 64 square rods — four-tenths of an acre — to the Congregational Society of Wilton as the site of a meeting house for religious purposes.
A church was built on the site — although it only lasted until 1790 — and the cemetery surrounded it and was used until the mid-1800s. It was replaced by the larger Hillside Cemetery, which continues to operate today.
A walk through the cemetery will reveal names familiar to those who live or pass through Wilton: Abbott, Belden, Deforest, Dudley, Fitch, Gaylord, Gregory, Grumman, Hurlbutt, lambert, Olmstead, Raymond, St. John and Sturges.
Russell led a tour of more than three dozen people on Saturday through the cemetery where about 70 gravestones from the 18th century are legible, as well as another 80 from later years. In addition, there are about 225 stones that can no longer be read and some graves are simply marked with fieldstones.
More can be read about those buried at Sharp Hill Cemetery, as well as Wilton’s history in general, in Rusell’s book, Wilton, Connecticut, available at Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society.