Spirits of the past come ‘alive’ at cemetery

A tour of Wilton’s oldest burial ground, the historic Sharp Hill Cemetery, will be offered Saturday, Oct. 14, from 11 to noon.

Portrayed by re-enactors, six of the town’s early settlers — each of whom is buried in the cemetery — will describe their role in Wilton’s history. They include the thrice-married Sarah Lockwood Selleck Hickox (1678-1765), Matthew Gregory (1680-1777) and Hannah Keeler Gregory (1687-1767).

The history of the cemetery itself will be explored by Wilton history expert and former First Selectman Bob Russell.   

The Sharp Hill Cemetery, owned by the Wilton Congregational Church, is the oldest surviving cemetery in Wilton, dating from 1738. That year,  John Marvin gave 64 square rods (four-tenths of an acre) to the “Presbyterian or Congregational Society of Wilton” as the site of a meeting house for worship, as the society had outgrown the small building in which they had started 12 years earlier. The cemetery was to surround the new meeting house.  Although the church building which was built there only lasted until 1790, the cemetery was used actively until the mid-1800s and then was gradually replaced by Hillside Cemetery on Ridgefield Road, which had the advantage of more space.

The men and women who are buried in Sharp Hill Cemetery include founders of Wilton, church leaders, and 23 veterans of the Revolutionary or the French and Indian wars. Many of the family names found here are still familiar in Wilton today in person or on street signs, including Abbott, Belden, DeForest, Dudley, Fitch, Gaylord, Gilbert, Gregory, Grumman, Hurlbutt, Lambert, Olmstead, Raymond, St. John, and Sturges.

There are about 150 legible gravestones, including about 70 from the 18th century, plus another 150 or so stones no longer legible or graves marked only with common fieldstones. Many of the older gravestones have ornate skull carvings and other interesting designs. Because of the fragile nature of many of the stones, gravestone rubbing is discouraged.

The event is co-sponsored by the Wilton Historical Society and Wilton Congregational Church. Registration is requested: info@wiltonhistorical.org or call 203-762-7257. There is a suggested donation of $10.