Because of the urban downtown of Hartford, we encountered three problems that interfered with our genealogy tourism. See if you can pinpoint our rookie mistakes in the big city.
We wanted to see the Rev. Thomas Hooker Statue and the plaque to the first meetinghouse, which are both located on the grounds of the Old State House. I checked online, and the museum inside the Old State House was closed on Saturdays in April. That was OK with us, because we wanted to see the memorials and plaques outside the Old State House. So we found the location of the building and...
There was a locked gate and fence all the way around the Old State House grounds!
Well, we never would have guessed that this would happen. And the website said nothing about this. We were quite shocked to find that we could not stroll the park inside the gate. For two country bumpkins from New Hampshire, we were unhappy and surprised. I guess there must be a reason for the lockdown. It didn't look like a crime area, but the neighborhood was very deserted for a Saturday morning.
Even though we couldn't get inside, we were able to get a few photos (but not the first meetinghouse plaque):
Reverend Thomas Hooker, Founder of Hartford
Colonial Puritan Era Amusements
We decided to walk one block over to our next destination.
The Ancient Burial Ground is located behind the First Congregational Church. This cemetery has several of my ancestor's tombstones, plus various memorial obelisks to the founders of Hartford, first settlers and other interesting things.
This is what we found when we arrived...
Another locked gate.
OK, I should have known better. The only other time I ever encountered a locked cemetery was in South Boston. I now know that in big cities there is a chance that the cemetery is locked up behind a fence and wall. You can blame this one on me. However, we were able to still photograph a few interesting things here. (See the big white obelisk through the fence? That's the Founder's Memorial and it wasn't close enough to photograph)
Rev. Samuel Stone (1602 - 1663)
HARTFORD'S ANCIENT BURYING GROUND
WHICH WAS SET APART IN 1640 AND
CONTAINS THE GRAVES OF THOMAS HOOKER
AND THE OTHER FOUNDERS OF HARTFORD,
WAS COMPLETED IN 1952 BY THE
EDWARD M. DAY
AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE FIRST
CHURCH OF CHRIST AND CITIZENS OF
HARTFORD, WHO BELIEVED THAT THE
FAITH AND COURAGE OF THOSE WHO
FOUNDED THIS CITY WOULD ENDURE
THE BETTER IN SURROUNDINGS WHICH
ADD TO THE BEAUTY OF THEIR LAST
RESTING PLACE AND TO THE CITY
THIS REPLICA OF THE ORIGINAL PLAQUE HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY
THE LAW FIRM OF DAY, BERRY & HOWARD ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY
OF ITS FOUNDING BY THE LATE EDWARD M. DAY 1994
Sacred to the Memory of
the Three Hundred or more
Free People, Slaves and
five Black Governors
Who rest in Unmarked
Graves in Hartford's
Ancient Burying Ground
1640 - 1810
Hartford was named in 1637 after the English
town of Hertford. The Indian name was Suckiaug.
The first colonial settlement, called
House of Good Hope, was made by the Dutch
in 1633. The Reverend Thomas Hooker arrived
overland from Newtown (Cambridge)
Massachusetts with his congregation in 1636.
At first the settlement was called Newtown.
In 1639 the Fundamental Orders were adopted,
often considered the first written
constitution creating a government. Hartford
served as a capital of Connecticut Colony
until 1701, when after absorption of New Haven
Colony there were two capitals, Hartford
and New Haven. In 1875 Hartford became
the sole capital.
Erected by the City of Hartford
the Connecticut Historical Commission and the
Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford
I wanted to see the Traveler's Square Monument, which is a statue of a Puritan family arriving in Hartford. According to our map it was across the street from the church, so we turned around and this is what we saw...
Traveler's Square was under construction, closed to the public
OK, this was a problem that no museum or church website could solve. But it was not a total loss. Vincent was able to take a nice photo of the statue - sideways. You can't see the little boy figure in this photo, but it's not too bad. The name of the statue is "The Safe Arrival: He who brought us here sustains us still". The plaque on the wall behind the statue describes the arrival of Rev. Thomas Hooker's congregation in June 1635, and was dedicated by the Traveler's Insurance Company in 1964.
Yes, our rookie mistake in exploring this urban landscape was NOT CALLING AHEAD. If we had called the museum at the Old State House or if we had called the First Church we could have learned about the locked gates. Maybe someone could have unlocked the cemetery - like a church sexton or someone with the key. I don't think anyone could have helped us with the construction at Traveler's Square, but it all turned out OK.
We are planning a return trip some other year. We can laugh about our triple trouble now, but as you can guess there was no laughing that Saturday morning!
Founders of Hartford webpage for these downtown monuments:
* Check out Jill Ball's "Geneadictionary" for obscure words used by genealogists: https://geneadictionary.wordpress.com/
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Triple trouble during our research trip to Hartford, Connecticut", Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 19, 2016, (http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2016/05/triple-trouble-during-our-research-trip.html: accessed [access date]).