Scout helps preserve Wilton’s oldest cemetery
During an Eagle Court of Honor on Jan. 30, Troop 125 Boy Scout Elliot Connors received his Eagle Scout Award — the highest advancement rank in Boy Scouting — for helping preserve and honor Wilton’s oldest burial ground, St. Matthew’s Cemetery.
Elliot, a Wilton High School senior, spent a year and a half documenting and photographing gravesites at the 242 Danbury Road cemetery, and launched stmatthewscemeterywilton.com, an interactive website where people may view pictures of the gravestones and search for their locations.
St. Matthew’s Cemetery was founded in the early 19th Century and is owned and maintained by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. There are more than 900 individuals interred in the cemetery, the oldest being Sarah Williams, who was buried in 1802.
Elliot said he knew documenting the cemetery would be “an arduous project, since the cemetery has over 700 tombstones,” but he “readily accepted the challenge.”
“Many of the cemetery's stones were cracked or crumbling, their epitaphs nearly illegible,” said Elliot.
“I felt compelled to preserve the stories of the people buried in the cemetery before their stones were completely lost and their lives forgotten.”
Over the course of 160 service hours, Elliot led a team of 21 people in documenting the exact locations of gravesites in the old section of the cemetery by name, plot, row, and position and taking pictures of gravestones, which he then matched with their exact locations in the cemetery.
Elliot said he then “devised a unique plotting system to record the location of each person buried, so that people could easily find and pay remembrance to their loved ones.
“While the parish initially planned to purchase a complicated cemetery documentation system with limited features,” he said, “I proposed developing an easily navigable website that would store all the information and photographs at minimal cost.”
Now, Elliot said, “people around the world can quickly access the information and virtually tour the cemetery” via stmatthewscemeterywilton.com.
Elliot said St. Matthew’s parish was “extremely pleased with the final product” and he did not fully recognize the impact of his work until a month later, when he met a woman who was using the website to navigate the cemetery.
“This was her first visit and she was trying to find an ancestor’s grave. She was excited to explore both the history of her family and of the town,” said Elliot.
“I realized that my project had bridged a gap between generations and ensured that the lives of Wiltonians could be celebrated for years to come.”