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Restoration planned for historic Greenfield Hill headstones

Updated 6:14 pm, Thursday, October 4, 2012

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  • Melanie Marks, chairman of the Greenfield Hill Cemetery Committee, is seeking permission to repair four damaged headstones at the historic cemetery. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    Melanie Marks, chairman of the Greenfield Hill Cemetery Committee, is seeking permission to repair four damaged headstones at the historic cemetery. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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For the second time this year, the Board of Selectmen has approved a petition to the Probate Court to allow restoration of damaged headstones in one of Fairfield's historic burial grounds.

Melanie Marks, the chairwoman of the Greenfield Hill Cemetery Committee, wants to repair four markers for the graves of the Jesse Nichols' family. Nichols, who fought in the Revolutionary War, is buried in the cemetery with his wife Mabel Bulkley Nichols, son Abel and Abel's wife Clarine. Their headstones were damaged by a tree that came down during Tropical Storm Irene last year.

"A descendant was upset that they were damaged and that there was no town money to cover the repairs," Marks said.

The cemetery is considered one of the town's "ancient burial grounds" and, as such, a person must first get approval from the Board of Selectmen in order to go to the Fairfield Probate Court for authorization to make any repairs.

In January, Bill Lee, the town historian emeritus, went through the same process to repair the headstone of privateer and patriot Capt. Samuel Smedley in the Old Burying Ground on Beach Road.

The selectmen unanimously gave approval for the latest headstone restoration project to go forward at their meeting Wednesday.

Marks, who conducted research for the gravestone repairs, said she waived her research fees in exchange for the repairs being done at no charge. But, she added, with the total cost to repair the four grave markers about $1,000, an anonymous donor has provided the $400 difference to cover all expenses.

Now, Marks will apply to the Probate Court for a hearing on the plan. If Probate Judge Daniel Caruso finds Mark's petition acceptable -- after a public hearing and appointing a guardian -- he can grant authorization for the repairs.

Jesse Nichols died Sept. 17, 1827, and his wife died the next year. Abel Nichols died in 1833, while his wife Clarine lived until 1854.

The Greenfield Hill Cemetery is the burial site of about 1,000 of the town's earliest inhabitants, according to the Greenfield Hill Improvement Society website, www.ghvis.org. There are 103 Revolutionary War soldiers buried there, more than in any other cemetery in the nation, along with three soldiers who fought in the French and Indian Wars, 25 graves of soldiers from the War of 1812 and six from the Civil War. There are also graves of Native Americans in the cemetery, according to neighborhood group.

The Greenfield Hill group has long been involved in helping to maintain the historic cemetery, and Marks spearheaded efforts initiated in 2007 to restore the burial grounds.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost.