Monday, March 5, 2018

Boy Scout Cleans Up Godfrey Hill Cemetery For Eagle Scout Project

Godfrey Hill Cemetery
           Situated on a hill on route 85, between a couple houses and behind some brush and trees, lies the Godfrey Hill Cemetery.  There is no sign or parking spot to mark the cemetery, so it is rather unnoticeable to many drivers passing by.  Some people may see the graves on the hill if they observe as they drive by, but many people are unaware of the cemetery’s existence.  
The Godfrey Hill Cemetery is part of the Saint Peter’s Church, located right where the old church used to lie in the 1700’s, before it was replaced at its current location along Church Street in 1824.  While Saint Peter’s Church has its own cemetery next to its current church, the Godfrey Hill Cemetery is the church’s older cemetery that contains the graves of many of the original families who attended the church before it was moved.
Connor Garrity supporting his Eagle Scout Project at Godfrey Hill Cemetery
Connor Garrity, a Boy Scout in Troop 28 in Hebron, CT is finalizing his Eagle Scout project at the Godfrey Hill Cemetery.  Garrity led Troop 28 to cut down and clear trees, branches, and shrubs that had been overgrown in the cemetery area.  Connor inserted a sign post where he will be posting a sign of the cemetery which will include some history and a map of those who were buried.  Connor’s project not only benefits the Godfrey Hill Cemetery by maintaining its foundation, but also provides a record and history of those who were buried and once belonged to the parish in the 1700’s.
Some of the common names buried and known in the Godfrey Hill Cemetery include: Bliss, Haughton, Horton, Hutchinson, Jones, Mann, Peters, Phelps, and Shipman.  Many of these were the earliest attendees of the church and are familiar names within our town’s history.  Particularly, John Bliss and Samuel Peters are two names that were essential in the creation of the Episcopal Church in Hebron, Connecticut.
John Bliss, a graduate of Yale in 1710, was called upon to be the town’s first settled minister.  He was soon resented by several southern Congregationalists.  In 1733, about fifty people were dissatisfied with Reverend Bliss, so they petitioned the town to be set off into a Congregationalist society and requested to secure a minister of their own.  While their request was denied, Reverend Bliss soon resigned, and in 1734, he and his followers became loyal to the Church of England.  Bliss had been brought up in the Church of England, and most of his followers were also of the English church.  The return to the church was only natural for Bliss under the current circumstances of his relationship to those of the Congregationalist Society.  
Bliss had been given a plot of land along Godfrey Hill, and this soon became the first site for Saint Peter’s Church.  While the construction of the site started in 1735, the church wasn’t finished until 1766 due to lack of funds.  Records claim the church stood at 58 by 30 feet in size.  While he did so much to organize the church, Reverend Bliss was not the first ordained minister, as his Congregationalist ordination was not recognized by the Episcopal church.  In 1741, just before he was to depart to England for the Holy Orders, Bliss died of smallpox.  He was then buried in the Godfrey Hill Cemetery, near the original church’s site.
Boy Scouts clear the area  of sticks at Godfrey Hill Cemetery
Samuel Peters was born in Hebron in 1735 and was a graduate of Yale in 1757.  He sailed for England in 1758 and received the Holy orders in 1759, before returning to Hebron the following year.  Samuel Peters would soon become the church’s first Reverend.  Peters was a Loyalist, being tied to the King of England.  He believed that the colonists who destroyed the tea in the Boston Tea Party had committed a “horrible crime” and should have consequences for their actions.  Peters soon became the target of attacks by the patriots of the Sons of Liberty from Windham and other surrounding towns.  On one occasion, Peters, with help from Reverend Benjamin Pomeroy (Reverend of the Hebron Congregational Church), barely escaped death from a mob of Patriots who had stripped him of his priestly robes and demanded that he longer side with the King of England.  Peters, soon fled to Boston and later took a ship to England.
While still in England, Peters was notified by the Episcopal clergy in Vermont to become a bishop, but the Archbishop of Canterbury chose not to consecrate him.  Later, Peters returned to America and settled in New York City.  In 1806, he returned to Hebron and was welcomed by the citizens.  He died in 1826 and was buried next to his three wives in Godfrey Hill Cemetery.  His remains were then moved to the present Saint Peter’s Church in 1841, which is his current marking place.  Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church was then named after Samuel Peters, the church’s first Reverend.
Over the years since it was erected, the church had grown to 58 families, 40 communicants, and a Sunday school of 35.  The 30 by 58-foot church on Godfrey Hill was soon becoming too small.  In 1824, a new church was constructed more appropriate to the parish’s size and importance within the community.  The church was consecrated on October 19, 1826 by Bishop Brownell, who claimed it as the second most beautiful church in the diocese.  This church currently resides on the southern part of Church Street heading toward Amston, Connecticut.  The old church on Godfrey Hill was soon torn down, and all that remains today are the cemetery, three wooden candlesticks, and the pewter baptismal basin.
Saint Peter's Episcopal Church
While the church has moved to Church Street, the Godfrey Hill Cemetery is still home to many of the deceased members of the original church.  The cemetery is a vital part of both Saint Peter’s Church and Hebron’s history.  Connor Garrity has done a magnificent job to maintain the church’s and town’s history, and his efforts to preserve the church’s records will be recognized for years and years to come.

Information about Saint Peter's Church and history from:

1 comment:

  1. What a great Eagle project. They did an outstanding job. I drive by that small cemetery quite often and I'm happy that this motivated young man took this on as his project. Thank you.