New Haven Green and Grove Street Cemetery, by Ellen Strong Bartlett

“When the forefathers marked out their famous nine squares, with that in the middle set apart as a ‘public market-place;’ they fixed the center of the life of the city of Elms. The Green has been called the heart of New Haven. In absence, the name calls up stirring memories; on return, the sight of it dotted by trees, divided by Temple street, crossed by many paths for the convenience of busy people; and enshrining three old churches. But the square has been there since Davenport and Eaton laid out the town in 1638; the trees have stood a hundred years; and around the churches are entwined the historic associations of the colony and the city.

The changes have been many. The alders and willows that over-hung pools of water, have gone; so, too, have the ‘market-house,’ the whipping-post, the buildings which one after another graced or disgraced its surface. The area is sixteen acres; it is not exactly square, because the surveyor who measured it in the midst of primeval wilderness, was unable to be strictly accurate, but to the eye this is not apparent…

As time passed, the Green was graded and cleared. Around it lived the Pierponts, the Trowbridges, the Ingersolls, and facing its upper side were the buildings of the infant Yale. They were very simple, and afford a great contrast to the elaborate and imposing array of today, but the forty boys were proud of their college…

In the latter part of the last century, the Green began to put on its present appearance. The county-house and jail were taken away in 1784. In that year, a market-house was placed near the corner of Church and Chapel streets, but in 1798, it was taken down. At that time, the square was fenced, under the direction of James Hillhouse, David Austin, and Isaac Beers. In 1799, permission was obtained to level the surface at private expense. Evidently public spirit was stronger in individuals than in common councils. About that time the great planting of elms began…

The zeal of Col. Hillhouse, who often took the spade in his own hands, inspired others. The Rev. David Austin was moved to plant the inner rows on the east and west sides of the Green, and many stories are told of the enthusiasm of boys in holding trees, girls in watering and tending them, all to help on the good work. The cool and shady streets of New Haven are a memorial of this widespread interest in Hillhouse’s plan…

A constant and varied succession of foot-passengers may be seen on the diagonal paths. There is no ‘age, sex, or condition’ which is not to be found there during the day. Babies in summer, boys skating in winter, wise professors and students with book in hand, at all times, are surely there. Many times, thousands of children have been massed there, to add to the festivity of Fourth of July, Sunday-school, and centennial celebrations, and their choruses have carried the swelling voices of vast choirs to the cathedral arch of Temple street.

Probably no famous man has ever visited New Haven without contributing his presence to the personal associations of this simple square. Nobles, scholars, poets, divines, statesmen, from all countries, have been there. Washington decorously attended church at Trinity. Lafayette reviewed troops here, and both were sometimes visitors of Roger Sherman who lived just above the Green. After the Revolutionary heroes, the place felt the tread of Madison and Monroe, of Andrew Jackson, of Van Buren. Then came the great men of the civil war; Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Hancock, McDowell, and many more, have bowed to the cheers of thousands crowded on the Green.”
-Excerpt and (top) image courtesy of Google Books, “The Connecticut Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly, Volumes 1-2,” Fourth Quarter, Vol. 1, “The New Haven Green,” by Ellen Strong Bartlett, 1895

“Sherman served as a senator until his death at home in New Haven on July 23, 1793. He was 72. Sherman was buried at the New Haven Green. A few years after his death, a new cemetary was started a few blocks away to deal with the overcrowding under the Green. By 1821, many of the families had moved their loved ones’ graves and headstones to the new cemetery. However, for thousands, this was not done. Only the headstones were moved, but the remains were not. Thus, perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 people remain buried under the New Haven Green. We believe some or all of Roger Sherman was moved to Grove Street Cemetery.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “Graves of Our Founders: Their Lives, Contributions, and Burial Sites,” by Lawrence Knorr, Joe Farley, Joe Farrell, 2018

“Entrance to the New Haven Cemetery by Henry Austin, architect.” -Image courtesy of the Manuscript and Archives Digital Images Database (MADID), Henry Austin papers, Design XXIX, Plate I, by Henry Austin, 1848

“One hundred years ago, in July, 1796, that public-spirited citizen, James Hillhouse, caused the purchase and preparation of the burial ground known as the Grove Street Cemetary. His own body was laid there when his work was over; and before him and after him have come to keep him company so many gifted and noble ones that with truth we read that ‘it is the resting-place of more persons of varied eminence than any other cemetery on this continent.’ The roll of the honored names on its stones represents brain-power that has stirred the world and has done much to make the nineteenth century what is has been.

The place seems to be dedicated to the fame of learning and of noble lives, and as it is still in use by the descendants of the original owners, the crumbling Past and the well-kept Present meet there very strikingly.

It was the first burial ground in the world to be divided into ‘family lots,’ and every visitor must notice the prominence of the family feeling. Parents, children, and grandchildren are together; those whose lives have been spent elsewhere have sought burial with their kindred, while the families that enjoyed sweet intercourse in scholarly pursuits and social courtesies are still neighbors in death.

The wall and gates are severely Egyptian in style, but over the massive pylons at the entrance, the words, ‘The dead shall be raised,’ testify that to the ancient yearning for a life beyond the grave has succeeded the triumphant faith of Christianity. Within is the mortuary chapel, and the golden butterfly on its front again points every passer to the soul’s release from the burden of the body.

The cemetery is a quiet little square of seventeen acres, separating college halls on the one hand from the stir of business on the other. It is a cheerful city of the dead, with tall trees, high-trimmed, and with evidences of scrupulous care. Thoughtful visitors are always wandering along its avenues, peering here and there for tokens of the olden time, or for memorials of revered instructors and loved classmates…

-Image courtesy of Google Books, “The Connecticut Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly, Volumes 1-2,” First Quarter, Vol. 2, “The Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Illustrated,” by Ellen Strong Bartlett, 1896

Is there a name more honored in Connecticut’s revolutionary history than that of Roger Sherman, one of the immortal five who presented the Declaration?

He is buried here. The lines on his monument show that his fellow-citizens left him little time for private life. He was ‘Mayor of the city of New Haven, and senator to the United States.’ ‘He was nineteen years an Assistant and twenty-three a Judge of the Superior Court, in high Reputation.

He was Delegate in the first Congress, signed the glorious Act of Independence, and many years displayed superior Talents and Ability in the National Legislature. He was a member of the general Convention, approved the Constitution, and served his Country with fidelity and honor in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of the United States.’

We know that there is no flattery in the quiet eulogium that follows: ‘He was a man of approved Integrity, a cool, discerning Judge, a prudent, sagacious Politician, a true, faithful, and firm Patriot.’ …the gates will close, and we leave the honored dead to their eternal peace in the midst of that city which they blessed by their lives.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “The Connecticut Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly, Volumes 1-2,” First Quarter, Vol. 2, “The Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Illustrated,” by Ellen Strong Bartlett, 1896

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