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Connecticut Paranormal History and Legends

Farmington town cemeteries

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Picture of Farmington River

Investigating Farmington

 

 

Riverside, and Memento Mori Cemeteries

 

 

 

Like I’ve always said before in the past, I consider myself a historical researcher first, and a paranormal investigator second. Anytime anyone conducts a paranormal investigation of anywhere, a detailed investigation of a places history must be done as well. In my paranormal investigation of both Riverside and Memento Mori cemeteries, I found this area of Farmington Connecticut in which both cemeteries reside possess a long and detailed history. Looking at these two cemeteries, to tell there story, one must look at the story of the city of Farmington itself.

 

When walking down the street of what is Route 10 in Farmington Connecticut you cannot deny the feeling you get of what once was. Most of the buildings and structures on this street are very well maintained places hundreds of years old. 17th, 18th, and 19th century buildings still looking as well as the day they first went up. Now being a town of well established, somewhat rich people, it really goes to show how funding and a lot of innovation can do to maintain history. Walking in front of Miss Porters School, it’s almost as if you can just see the horse-driven stagecoaches going by. This area gives you a good look at what an old New England town once looked like due to the fact that much of it has not been changed. Old Colonial style houses with picket fences, hundreds year old trees on the side of the street, Victorian churches, it really is a sight to see for anyone who loves history.

 

Farmington’s History goes all the way back to the year 1640, making Farmington one of Connecticut’s oldest towns. It was originally purchased from the Tunxis Indian tribe by a number of men in Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield who were looking for larger area of land to settle. Originally this area was called “the plantation of Tunxis” getting it’s name of Farmington in 1645 by an act of the Connecticut General Assembly. A deed was drawn-up in 1650 and the Tunxis had moved to an area known as Indian Neck, at the east bank of the Farmington River. It was named Farmington for the obvious reasons in that it was a great area for farming, and because of this, it was able to attract a lot of craftsmen. By the year 1700, Farmington was 3rd most occupied Connecticut Town.

 

Later on in its history Farmington had become known as “The Mother of all towns” because it had contained, and had given birth to several of what are now several Connecticut cities. Sometime after the year 1650, several men from Farmington moved south in search of new land to settle and to create a new route to the Mattatuck settlement. Southington got its name because it was a place on the south route and it was south of Farmington. In 1672 people from Farmington started to settle in the towns of now Kensington, and Berlin. The west of Farmington did not get settled for quite sometime due to the fact that it was thick with forest and had many steep hills, and there were many arguments over land ownership, but in the 1720’s people started to settle in the West Woods of Farmington now the current towns of Bristol, and Burlington. Once all areas were divided up, the mother of all towns Farmington divided up and gave birth to the following towns as incorporated: Southington (1779) Berlin, Bristol, Kensington (1785) Burlington (1806) Avon (1830) New Britain (1850) Plainville (1869)

 

 

Now putting all this history into effect, one can deduce that the town of Farmington is the oldest section of what are now 9 towns with itself included, and the center of town where route 10 now is, the oldest section of Farmington today. Now why is all this important? Well in this section of town there are two very old cemeteries, Riverside Cemetery and Memento Mori Cemetery. One of them is considered to be a haunted Connecticut site, and is listed on the Haunted Places index, while the other is not yet very well known to supernatural community. Let’s take a look at both:

 

1. Riverside Cemetery

 

Riverside Cemetery is listed on The Shadowlands haunted place index as a haunted site and can be seen here www.theshadowlands.net/places/connecticut.htm what does this mean exactly? Well this haunted place index on the internet is now considered to be the internet’s most used map of where all supernatural investigations are done. If you see a place listed on this index chances are that they have been investigated by hundreds of people interested in the supernatural field, from the big to the small. Now if a place is listed here does it mean it is or is not haunted? That is up to your own personal perspective; however I can tell you this. Whoever publishes this list does not have the time or resources to check out every place submitted they have only the person’s word who submitted it to rely on. I can tell you that in the past a lot of incorrect information has been published, and with that, a lot of people believe the wrong information about these places and take what they write as fact. I took this into account in my research of Riverside and like anywhere listed on the index that I investigate I decided to draw my own conclusions.

 

Not too much can be found on the history of Riverside Cemetery, but what is known is that it originally was a native American burial ground for the Tunxis Indians. It was purchased with the town of Farmington as listed earlier in 1640. It was used occasionally by early settlers to bury people in unmarked graves until 1830’s when the old burial ground (Memento Mori) became full. By 1835 plots were being sold by its owner the School Society in Farmington for $1 each. In 1840 a monument for the Tunxis Indians was erected blessing the ashes of their fallen. Some of the well known people buried here are Sarah Porter, founder of the Miss Porter School for girls, Foote, an African who sailed on the Amistad Ship, William Gillette, actor and creator of Gillette’s castle, the list goes on.

 

As far as the shadowlands goes, I’m not going to list what they say because no evidence can be found to back-up there claims, and no one who summited the information is listed to contact. But if you wish to see what they say, check out the link above.

 

 

2. Memento Mori Cemetery

This cemetery is one of the oldest in central Connecticut. It was originally a small piece of land donated by Thomas Barns, (Father of Joseph, one of the first settlers of Southington, and Ebenezer, the founder of Bristol) just north of his house, back in 1660. Other Additional land pieces were donated to the town afterward, and today its total is 1.6 acres.

 

Its name Memento Mori is probably one of the most ironic parts of its story. Latin roughly translated to English it means “Remember that you die.” A simple phrase that reflects on how grim of an outlook on life the early colonists had. In these early days of American life, death seemed to always come too early, either from illnesses like Smallpox, Yellow fever. And Influenza, or by tragic accident. So in basic terms, Remember that everyone dies, and probably soon, and you’d better follow the word of god.

 

Its land was open to the dead for almost 250 years. In its early days, it was not kept very well. The grass was not cut that often, there was no fence or gate until 1840, and sheep were said to sometimes graze its long grass. In early American times, people didn’t give much attention to a person’s burial. During the mid 1600s people were usually buried in small family plots right on there own land in poorly marked graves. So if you live in an old American Town such as Farmington, Hartford or Middletown today, you could very well be sitting in a house that was built over one of these plots, just think about that for a minute. Plus marking one grave and bringing attention to it was considered a catholic tradition, and most early settlers were of protestant decent, coming to the new world to escape catholic only England.

 

There was in total 860 known people buried here.One of the first people buried here was a man by the name of Stephen Hart who had died in 1689, not very common to find a grave over 320 years old. Some other Famous people buried in Memento Mori are Thomas Hooker, (1633-1697) son of Samuel Hooker first settler of Hartford. Tomas Hooker was a rich Harvard educated man and slave owner, who was one of four men delegated to negotiate the union between the Connecticut Colony, and the New Haven Colony. Another famous name here would be Judah Woodruff, a French & Indian war veteran, and the builder of 21 Farmington houses, including its first meeting house in 1772.

 

There are other people buried here of strange interest. Such as Mathias Leaming, a Tory sympathizer who was buried in his grave backwards. Mercy Bidwell who died when she was struck by lightning. A person by the name of Bird whose stone was marked “Killed by an insane person.” But the majority of the people buried here met death threw tragic illness like 18 year old Julia Cowles who died of TB or her cousin Betsy Mix who died of Yellow spotted fever.

 

Like I mentioned earlier, the graveyard started to become full at around 1840, which is why the town started using Riverside as its new burial ground, and Memento Mori saw its last burials around the year 1900. It was around this time the town of Farmington turned ownership over to The Village Green and Library association, as nonprofit organization that also maintains the Farmington Library, and the Stanley-Whitman house, which they still control today.

 

 

 

Finally Our Investigation

 

On 11-2-2008 a few short day’s after Halloween myself an a group friends decided to do a paranormal investigation of Both Riverside and Memento Mori, even though Riverside is the only one of the two that is said to be haunted. Looking at the history of both places, I decided a trip to both might yield something at Memento Mori as well. We arrived at our first destination Riverside at around 12:20am. Just turning over into Sunday Morning, it was a somewhat chilly night, temperature at around 35-40F with a slight breeze. With us we brought some cameras to take pictures, and some recording devices which were regular, and digital recorders. When we entered, we proceeded to walk down one of the main paths. We then started to take pictures in various places, and started recording and asking questions out loud in order to catch an EVP. I would ask questions such as “What is your name?” “Who are you?” “How long have you been here?” “Do you want us to leave?” etc… We did this for about 20 mins threw out different parts of the cemetery. We did not notice anything out of the ordinary at this place. A few of us though had the feeling almost of being watched, although not giving this too much attention we moved on. Next stop was back to the car to warm-up. This took about 5-10 mins and then be decided to move onto Memento Mori across the street. Our goal was not to stay at Memento Mori for too long because we did not have permission to be there. I don’t recommend anyone go to this place or any other without doing so, what we did was asking to get arrested for trespass, yes, but curiosity got the best of us. When we got to the front gate, I decided to start recording on my recorder and keep it running continuous. As I put my hand on the front gate I noted that it felt as if it were vibrating like a big tracker-trailer was going by, but nothing was going by on the street at that moment. I found that strange. The team went in for about 10 mins. Again, recording and taking pictures, nothing out of the ordinary taking place after that.

 

The next day we went to review the evidence. Nothing really came up in the pictures, however, much to our surprise; the sound evidence came up with a lot of interesting sounds. In total, I found about 7 to 8 mysterious sounds or what sounds like talking that I picked up.I’m not going to post them all because the jury’s still out on some and if they can actually be called an EVP. (Electronic Voice Phenomena)

 

This first takes place at Riverside. When walking into a family plot with the Barney name I asked the question “Do you want us to leave?” and it almost sounds like the voice of a small child say the words “I don’t know…” very strange

 

The second clip was taken at Memento Mori when we first got there. When I first walk-in I’m saying to another member of the group, “Do worry, I’m not going in to far” and after a brief pause, you can clearly hear the words “Don’t Stay” probably one of the best EVPs I’ve gotten to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plot Where "I don't know" was captured

I Dont Know clip

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Area Where "Don't Stay" was captured

Don't Stay clip

This was our first Investigation done in 2008.
 
To read about our 2009 Investigation click on Farmington Revisited

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Above Riverside Cemetery Below Memento Mori Cemetery

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References
 
1. Farmington Historical Society "Memento Mori Cemetery" / By Lisa Johnson & Charles Leach MD / http://www.farmingtonhistoricalsociety-ct.org/mementomori.html / Copyright 2006-09
 
2. Farmington Historical Society "Riverside Cemetery" / Parts I,II,III / By Lisa Johnson & Charles Leach MD / http://www.farmingtonhistoricalsociety-ct.org/riversidecemetery.html / Copyright 2006-09
 
3. Phoenix Publishing / "Bristol Connecticut, A Bicentennial History 1785-1985" / By Bruce Clouette & Matthew Roth / Copyright 1984