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Old Burial Yard Thirty Mile Island Gets a Facelift; the Art of Fencing

By Connie Farrington

Arnold/Brainerd enclosure before restoration

(May 12, 2022) — By the time you’re 154 years old, you need a fence-lift!  Or so thought the overseers for the Old Burial Yard, Thirty Mile Island.  Markings on the old wrought iron show the fence around the Arnold/Brainerd plot was created in 1868. Recent photos of the fence project have been provided by Cindy MacNeil Sola.

New Arnold/Brainerd enclosure

The far-reaching search for fine purveyors of wrought iron work led to the renowned Cassidy Brothers Forge in Rowley, Massachusetts.  Their impressive creations include work at Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts as well as the enclosure around Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford.

At the Cassidy Brothers facility in Mass.

Cassidy Brothers spent 180 hours restoring the first wrought iron fence for us at their Massachusetts facility, then installed it in the cemetery.  This fence surrounds the burial places of Capt. Jared Arnold (died 1845) and his wife Susan Brainerd.  Lucy Brainard’s 1908 Genealogy of the Brainerd-Brainard family (available at Walmart) tells us this: Captain Arnold “was a seafaring man from his youth and for a considerable period was commander of a vessel.  He sailed between New York and Liverpool, and New York and Mobile, Alabama.”

The inventory taken during his 1845 probate proceedings includes the following parcels of land: mansion house and adjoining garden, home lot and barn, two acres near the courthouse, one and ¼ acres in the town meadow, five acres pasture, and ten acres wood lot.  In addition to stocks and cash, he left one cow and two and ½ tons of hay.

Cook enclosure

The second enclosure, the Cook plot, was repaired and painted on-site by the Cassidy Brothers.  On-line research reports that Nathaniel Cook died in 1876 at age 84, preceded by the death of his wife Mary in 1862 at age 75.  Nathaniel’s pension application card shows that he served in the War of 1812.  In the 1860 Haddam census, Nathaniel was reported as a stone cutter.  (Perhaps he carved his own tombstone.)

View from the bench

You can now visit the cemetery and sit on one of the benches and just appreciate the beauty and the history of the fence and grounds.

The remaining enclosure to be restored is that of the Clark family. This plot includes the graves of Noah Clark, Jr. (died 1834) and his wife Charity (died 1867).  Noah Jr. had converted the house his father had built in 1791 into a tavern.  After Noah died at age 42, his wife Charity and their son Austin continued operating the tavern.  The property on which it sat was the land where Haddam’s first meeting house had been built.

Close up of new Arnold/Brainerd fence

Cindy MacNeil Sola, President of the Old Burial Yard, tells us that a Friends of the Cemetery group is being organized to raise $15,000 to complete the project.  Watch for their emergence.  Donations to this 501(c)(3) organization are tax deductible. Checks can be made out to Old Burial Yard Thirty Mile Island earmarking it for the fence project, and mailed to Melissa Gibson, 356 Candlewood Hill, Higganum, Ct. 06441. Meanwhile, you can stay tuned via their Facebook page.

Also stay tuned for the date of a presentation by the Cassidy Brothers Forge next Fall.  They will be describing their process of reconstruction and restoration.

Photos courtesy of Cindy MacNeil Sola

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