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Shrinking Over Time

The Ancient Burying Ground - Hartford's Oldest Historic Site

Changes in the Ancient Burying Ground

The Ancient Burying Ground was originally much larger than its present size. However, it shrank steadily over the centuries as what was prime real estate in the center of Hartford was appropriated for other uses. 

In 1739 part of a new meetinghouse was built over some graves. When that meetinghouse was replaced with a larger one in 1806, the new structure covered more graves, with the monuments being moved.

As Hartford developed into an urban center, economic progress chipped away at the Ancient Burying Ground. The town sold parts for commercial use, sometimes resulting in the digging up and discarding of coffins and corpses. As late as 1902, excavation for a cellar underneath the chapel of the meetinghouse unearthed as many as 20 coffins, in a good state of preservation. The coffins were broken up, the bones shoveled out, and everything disposed of in an unknown manner. These multiple incursions reduced the Ancient Burying Ground to its present 1.3 acres.

The Ancient Burying Ground is listed, along with the 1807 brick First Church of Christ meetinghouse, on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Hartford owns the Ancient Burying Ground and maintains it with support from the Ancient Burying Ground Association.