Meriden’s East Cemetery might as well be called its Lost Cemetery. The city didn’t even realize it owned the place — which hasn’t had an official caretaker since the 1960s — until 2009, when an 1845 deed emerged, and since then has done little more than mow the grass, at a cost of $5,000 a year.
The cemetery is certainly “historic,” since some notable local figures rest there, including the city's first elected mayor, two other mayors, and about 60 veterans dating back to the French and Indian War, well before the American Revolution.
But the city’s efforts to catch up with East Cemetery in recent years have been sorely lacking. A consultant, BSC Group, issued a 42-page report on it in 2017, but a volunteer task force created that same year seldom met, made little headway, and never issued a report or even a list of recommendations to the city.
This could all change soon, however, because City Manager Tim Coon has agreed to study the issue and make recommendations within 30 days. East Cemetery, one of four owned by the city, is on Miles Place, off East Main Street.
Among the issues that need addressing are establishing rules and regulations for cemetery operations; repairing damage to monuments, headstones and other features; and addressing a groundhog infestation. But perhaps the central question is whether to open the cemetery to new burials or to keep it closed, as a historic site.
Coon has said he favors the latter. Although new burials would bring some revenue to the city, that revenue would have to be balanced against the cost of necessary improvements to the grounds. Another possibility would be to establish a formal cemetery association that would oversee the city-owned cemeteries.
“Looking over the records of the (task force), I literally had nothing to work from,” Coon told councilors. “However, I’m sure there was a lot of good work done by the committee. It just didn’t land on my desk.”
But it’s on his desk now, and among the first items of business would be forming a cemetery association and appointing a sexton.
“I don't see any reason why this can't be accomplished before the end of this year,” Coon said.
A run-down cemetery, no matter how historic it may be, is neither a credit to the city nor a respectable place to honor the dead, so it’s good to see some movement on this front.
Read more articles like this and help support local journalism by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access just 99¢
Read more articles like this by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access for just 99¢