In 1811, almost 200 years ago, a public cemetery was established in the Buckland (northwest) section of Manchester,
by a vote at a town meeting. The cemetery was already quite old, with gravestones dating back to 1777, but it had formerly
been the Buckland family graveyard on their own land. This is a common way for graveyards to get started, and in fact
Manchester’s West Cemetery, off Spencer Street, our first cemetery in town, had similar beginnings. By the way, the East
Cemetery was our second; and so Buckland Cemetery (also known as Northwest Cemetery), was our third cemetery.
Early cemeteries provided a grazing place for farm animals, and, regarding Buckland Cemetery, in 1816 and 1818, voters directed that the Town Selectmen “cause all Burying lots to be suitably fenced…and that they rent out said lots to pasture Sheep and Calves only in the most advantageous way for the benefit of the Town.” No doubt the sheep did a good job keeping the lawn mowed. In later years, additional land was purchased to add room to the cemetery. Today, Buckland Cemetery has a western section where plots are still available for burial.
Of course, Manchester wasn’t incorporated as a separate town until 1823, and before that time, the deceased may have been buried in the Center Cemetery in East Hartford or across the river in Hartford, so if you are doing research about ancestors, your search may take you far afield.
Fortunately for researchers, a comprehensive index was created, listing inscriptions on graves in each of Connecticut’s
cemeteries. The collection is named for researcher Charles R. Hale, and includes Connecticut cemetery inscriptions,
newspaper marriage and death notices, ca. 1750-1865, a collection of newspaper abstract volumes, and a Connecticut veterans’
death index. These are all available for research at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, a free library that in my
opinion is priceless.
The Hale Collection contains information from headstone inscriptions in over 2,000 Connecticut cemeteries. The records are bound in volumes for each town and indexed on slips alphabetically. Unfortunately, they are not available online.
The Connecticut State Library web site, http://www.cslib.org, calls Mr. Hale a devoted worker and “an extraordinarily dedicated and persistent individual. He began his unusual vocation in 1916, when he made a chart of veterans’ graves in a Rocky Hill cemetery for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, of which he was a member.”
He documented veterans’ information in Wethersfield, Newington, and eventually all of Hartford County. George S. Godard, State Librarian at the time, asked for Hale’s aid in locating graves of Revolutionary War veterans, because the State Library received many inquiries about them. During World War I, the Connecticut General Assembly appropriated funds and in 1934 the project received federal relief funds to provide paid work for jobless people – the W.P.A. project employed over 80 people. “Many cemeteries had been abandoned and long-forgotten when Mr. Hale began his research. For example, the town clerk in North Stonington knew of only nine cemeteries in the town; Mr. Hale found 95. He made house-to-house inquiries about old vaguely remembered plots, and then crawled through the woods to find them. In total 2,269 cemeteries came to light.”
The Buckland Cemetery information from the Hale Collection includes many Risleys, Keeneys, and Bucklands. A typical entry: “Buckland, Aaron Esq., born Dec. 9, 1755, died April 3, 1829, age 73 yrs.”
Sometimes Hale entries include additional information from the gravestone, such as “Jones, Mary F. Sherman, wife of Aaron, lost on Lake George by the burning of the Steamer ‘John Hay,’ July 29, 1856, age 38 yrs.” But the Hale entries for Buckland Cemetery don’t include the interesting epitaphs, such as this, from the gravestone of John Olds (1721-1796):
“As you pass by, stop and view
the place which soon will be for you.
As you are now, so once was I.
In the cold grave you soon must lie.”
Buckland Cemetery has examples of DAR gravestones. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) undertook a project to identify all Revolutionary War veterans and either provide a gravestone, or if a larger gravestone already existed, to add a plaque identifying a Revolutionary War veteran. In Connecticut, this project expanded to include veterans of all wars, who can be assured a gravestone through a State of Connecticut program. These gravestones are simple but elegant, with a graceful curved top. They contain the deceased’s name, rank, division, date of death, age, and sometimes, at the top, the name of the war. At Buckland Cemetery, these stones are scattered throughout the cemetery.
The largest display of memorial art is in the cemetery’s northeastern part, just at the top of the driveway on the
right as you go in. It memorializes Dr. Calvin W. Jacques (1822-1891) and his wife, Annah Griswold Buckland Jacques
(1825-1910). In a bequest, the Jacques also gave the brick chapel on the left of the driveway as you enter.
Dr. Jacques was a colorful figure, and was known for horsemanship as well as the medical arts. His Hartford Courant obituary on March 23, 1891 says that he was born in Tolland and was a self-made man. “He received a common school education and taught school to get money to enter college. After attending several medical colleges and studying with physicians, he came to Manchester in 1844 and had established a large practice…He has always been a democrat and represented this town in the Legislature in 1876, being one of the four democrats who have reached this distinction in the past twenty years. He was a member of the board of health and the board of school visitors, and was superintendent of the Northwest Cemetery [now called Buckland Cemetery] when he died. He took a prominent part in the social life of the community until his later years, when his strength forbade him to move about as freely. He was fond of horses and probably had more good animals in his stables than any other man in the town.”
If you travel west along North Main Street toward Buckland, you have passed his quaint house on the right side, dating from about 1850. Manchester’s 1998 Historic Resources Inventory calls the house “one of very few local residences with a substantial quantity of Gothic Revival-style detailing.” It also has Italianate features, a brick foundation, and “a large two-story tower block with steep pyramidal roof on the left, containing paired pointed-arch sash at the first and second levels, one-story connecting wing with paired round-arch windows flanking a pointed-arch doorway beneath a steep gable dormer with scalloped vergeboard and a two-story main block with prominent Carpenter Gothic vergeboards....”
When Calvin Jacques lived there, it was a “fine farm and country residence only a half mile from Buckland Station and a half mile from Manchester Depot, churches, schools, stores, hotel, post office, etc. …the farm contains 25 acres of A No.1 land, every foot suitable for gardening, tobacco, or any crop. The residence is a fine one, of modern style, and all right in every detail…splendid orchard…fine shade and ornamental trees, vines, shrubs, hedge fences, etc.”
The Buckland family, for whom Buckland is named, owned land in the area starting in the seventeenth century, with additional land granted to Aaron Buckland for his Revolutionary War service, and more land bought up over the years. The Bucklands were farmers, wool manufacturers, and store owners, and two of Aaron’s grandsons were famous stonecarvers, working with red sandstone either from the Buckland Quarry (up nearby Buckland Road, where the mall is now located) or other local quarries. These grandsons, William (1727-1795) and Peter Buckland (1738-1816), were famous and prolific gravestone carvers, and have representative work throughout the region. According to Ruth Shapleigh-Brown, executive director of the Connecticut Gravestone Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes the preservation of old graveyards, William and Peter Buckland created works of art that are beautiful as well as historic. “Although William’s stones date from a time before this cemetery was started, a few of the later sandstones are no doubt the result of Peter’s handiwork doing later styles of urns and willows or working in concert with a few other colleagues of his trade, such as William Crosby and Thomas Ritter. There is no doubt when studying the art styles that William and Peter worked with or at least were greatly influenced by Gershom Bartlett one of our first area carvers, who then owned the Bolton Quarry.”
Other famous people buried in Buckland Cemetery are: E. E. Hilliard, who owned Hilliard Woolen Mills in nearby
Hilliardville; Lorenzo T. Salter, owner of Salter and Strong paper mill, later sold to Lydall and Foulds, and still
remembered in the name Salter’s Pond – Salter’s two wives, Susan and Lydia, are buried near his grave; various Keeneys,
Hibbards, Bissells, Burnhams, etc.
Perhaps the most famous person buried in Buckland cemetery is John Olds, Esq. (1753-1831), known as the Father of Manchester, for his persistent work to get Manchester declared a separate town. The John Olds house still stands at the intersection of Tolland Turnpike and Slater Road, although its condition is deteriorating.
Buckland Cemetery’s graves have a wide range of styles and symbolism, including sculpted lambs and broken flower stems for innocents and young people whose lives were cut short. There are carved willow trees (symbolizing mourning and grief), garlands (victory over death), and columns (noble life).
The Manchester Historical Society periodically leads walks in various town cemeteries, but you can learn a lot by visiting the cemeteries on your own, or view the slide show and other information at the cemetery page of the Historical Society’s web site's "Cemeteries" page.
Click on each of these images, to see a larger version of it and additional information:
Susan Barlow is a member emerita of the board of directors of the Manchester Historical Society.