New life: Revolutionary hero's headstone restored

A grave problem has been corrected, with restoration of the headstone marking the burial plot of Capt. Samuel Smedley in the Old Burying Ground on Beach Road.

The picture of the toppled headstone was included in a book about the Fairfield patriot in the American Revolution by local author Jackson Kuhl, "Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer." Former town historian Bill Lee did the illustrations for the book and decided to spearhead an effort to repair the headstone.

Lee, who has described Smedley as "one of the most heroic" town residents during the Revolutionary era, said the book brought "attention to the disrepair and disgrace of Capt. Smedley's gravestone." For him, the restoration would be a "really wonderful tribute to that hero."

Smedley enlisted at age 23 as a lieutenant of marines of the defense during the American Revolution, becoming captain a year later. According to Kuhl's book, he survived smallpox, a shipwreck and was captured twice but escaped from prison. The two-hundredth anniversary of his burial will be this June 13.

Lee got the restoration project rolling by seeking permission from he Board of Selectmen and a brief hearing before Probate Judge Daniel Caruso. Lee wanted to see it done before the anniversary of the privateer's death later this year, and formed a small committee of local residents to support the cause.

Once the selectmen and Caruso gave granted permission, the committee also sought, and received, permission from the Parks and Recreation Commission.

In order to repair the historic headstone, it was removed from the Old Burying Ground and brought to Jim Bria for restoration at his Artista studio. Three rods were inserted into the gravestone, which was then epoxyed into a granite base for stability.

When the weather gets warmer, Melanie Marks, a historic researched and professional genealogist, said the committee will clean the gravestone with a biodegradeable solution.

"It is a product that has been used in many cemeteries and does not need any scrubbing of the stone," Marks said. "It will be ready for the celebration on June 13, 2012, to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of his death."

A book entitled, "The Old Burying Ground of Fairfield, Conn.," by Kate. E Perry, dated 1882, transcribes all of the gravestones in the cemetery, Marks said. Smedley's reads: "Samuel Smedley Esq. late Collector of Customs for the District of Fairfield died June 13, 1812, aged 59."

Now, Marks said, the committee is looking for donations to help cover the $525 cost to repair the headstone. Any donations should be made out to the "Town of Fairfield" and sent to: William D. Lee, c/o Fairfield Court of Probate, 725 Old Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.; 203-556-2771;