Connecticut Stories and Tips

Historic Cemeteries of Suffield, CT

Close-up, colonial-era gravestone art Photo, Connecticut, United States

Suffield, Connecticut, is a beautiful rural town on the west bank of the Connecticut River, approximately 20 minutes north of Hartford, CT, and ten minutes south of Springfield, Massachusetts. Originally founded in 1670 as "Southfield", MA, the town was annexed to Connecticut in 1749 and has a current population of just over 14,000.

If you are arriving in Connecticut through Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, follow signs to route 75 and follow it north; once you pass the northern runway, you are in Suffield. The town remains predominantly agricultural, with the landscape spotted with tobacco and dairy farms. Of particular note is the 4.3-mile stretch of Main Street that is designated as a scenic highway; most of the houses seen from the Windsor Locks/Suffield line to nearly the Agawam (MA) border date from the 1700 and 1800s, set back from the road behind lush lawns and huge ancient trees. Suffield is particularly gorgeous in the fall as the trees erupt in red, orange, and yellow.

However, as vibrant as the local live community is, we're going to look at its undead community for this article. Unfortunately, there is not much to report in terms of hauntings in Suffield; the only "known" haunted house in town is the old Kent mansion at the junction of Mountain Road and Sheldon Avenue. Although nobody lives there, the house has been seen with lights on and shadows in the windows. There are reports of poltergeist activity and for the back hallway to the second story having a "cold, chilling sensation" at times. Local lore has it that its benefactor, Sidney Albert Kent, is the local ghost.

Kent left other indelible marks on the town, including funding the library, which now bears his name. And the Kent name is only one of the many names that have carried down through the local population since colonial times; a walk through the local cemeteries will find tombstones liberally chiseled with names like Hastings, Orr, Fuller, Remington, Phelps, Moody, Spencer, Hale, Adams, Sikes (Sykes), Pomeroy, Miller, Patterson, Russell, Wells, Loomis, Fowler, Hathaway, Sheldon - names that not only defined the town, but the state and even the country.

The man who is likely Suffield's most famous son is not buried in his hometown: Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), who was an early advocate of vegetarianism and temperance in America, is best known as the man who created graham crackers. He lies buried in the town of Northampton, MA, approximately 45 minutes north of Suffield.

Woodlawn Cemetery is located on Bridge Street, about halfway between the town center at Bridge & Main Street, and East Street (Route 159). This picturesque cemetery is still in active use and has a small collection of mausoleums in addition to graves, which date back to the early 1800s. Howard W. Alcorn (1901-1992), who was a justice of the Connecticut state supreme court, is buried here. This old cemetery also has an interesting variety of carvings, including angels, obelisks, and one very lifelike tree stump. The oldest graves are in the areas closest to the main road, with the newest graves taking up the southeastern end of the cemetery.

The oldest cemetery in town, the Old Burying Ground (also sometimes known as the "first cemetery" or "the old cemetery") is located behind the First Church of Christ Congregational, just west of the junction of Main Street (Rte. 75) and Mountain Road in the center of town. Park along the town green and walk around the church; note that the ground can be quite soft here after a good rain, so wear sensible shoes when visiting. The oldest graves here date to the town's settlement (circa 1670), and visitors treated to beautiful views towards West Suffield Mountain, as well as north into Massachusetts. The Burying Ground is considered to have one of the best collections of gravestone art in New England, with many tombstones decorated with motifs such as angels and skull-and-crossbones.

If you head west along Mountain Road, and turn right/north up Hill Street, you will come to the junction of Russell Avenue. The rise to the west of this intersection is known as Hastings Hill, and here you will find the highly picturesque First Baptist Church (dating to circa 1769) and the adjacent Zion's Hill Cemetery, which dates to the mid 1700's. This cemetery, like the Old Burying Ground in the center of town, is full of colonial graveyard art and charming gravestone writing. The First Baptist Church is usually locked, as it is only open for special events. When visiting this site, navigate the steep driveway carefully, and be sure to not block the access for the private driveway next door; parking spaces are limited, but you will rarely have company here.

If you drive back down Hill Street and turn west (right) back on to Mountain Road, you can continue west past the West Suffield Cemetery, located on the north side of Mountain Road as you continue into West Suffield. Like Woodlawn, this cemetery also sees modern-day interments, and is a mix of older and newer tombstones. However, it is not nearly as interesting as some of the other cemeteries in town, although there are some nice sculptures here.

Continuing west, Mountain Road will turn to the right and start to climb over West Suffield Mountain. After you pass the entrance to Sunrise park on your left, but before the road opens up into more farmland, you will see Phelps Road on your left. Turn down Phelps, and just down the road you will find the Over the Mountain Cemetery. This graveyard is relatively small, and many of the stones show wear, as they were carved with softer stone, which has not aged as well. I actually find this particular cemetery at its most attractive on a drippy day, when the damp and the mossy stones give you the feeling of an archeologist.

There are several small family burial plots located around town, but these are generally not open to the public, so I have not listed them here.

If you enjoy history and have a fondness for graveyards, you will find a visit to Suffield very worthwhile. Should your time be limited, I would recommend a smaller circuit of Woodlawn, the Old Burying Ground, and the Zion’s Hill Cemetery.

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Local Lodging::
Should you be interested in visiting the area, I would highly recommend staying in the magnificent Spencer-on-Main bed-and-breakfast, which is located a renovated 1871 showpiece home along Main Street and considered one of the finest examples of the "Second Empire Style" architecture. (Room rates start at $115/night.)

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