Feature Story

A BONE AND COFFIN HANDLE FOUND IN A CEMETERY

In 1875 political maneuverings forced the City of Rutland Vermont to establish a place for its indigent citizens. The city purchased land for a Poor Farm and used a portion of the unusable land on a hill behind the farm house as a burial ground. Boarders who died without relatives, financial assets, or other means to be buried elsewhere, were buried at the cemetery. A published report lists the names and ages of thirty boarders buried there. The farm was closed in 1966. The area on the hill became the city dump and later the county recycling center.

During much of this time the little Poor Farm cemetery on the hill was pretty much ignored. One previous cemetery commissioner said that a piece of bone and coffin handle had been exhumed by ground hogs and that she had given the bone to a local doctor for examination.


In 2006 a resident using the recycling center inquired of an attendant as to the purpose of a bent fence near the road that seemed out of place. The attendant said that it was a cemetery fence. Later a search through the overgrown brush by the resident and his father, a city cemetery commissioner, revealed more evidence of a fence. No evidence of a cemetery like bits and pieces of stones or markers were discovered and yet there had been a cemetery. The twosome decided that something had to be done as it was difficult to accept the fact that these persons buried in the Poor House cemetery because of their situation had been totally forgotten. It was as if they had never existed. An impediment to restoration of the cemetery was the low priority it held with city officials facing budget woes and little political implication to them by doing nothing. Meanwhile the cemetery commissioners had no money, no employees, and no authority; it was a slow slog for the project to gain traction. However, with persuasion, political pressure, and persistence on the part of the father and son. and the other cemetery commissioner, the little cemetery on the hill was restored. The restoration was completed on September 12, 2012.

The chronology of the work is approximately as follows:

2006 - The brush and trees were removed by a corrections department work crew which revealed the size of the cemetery and the remains of the broken fence. A scrap metal pile had damaged and partially covered the fence on the east side facing the recycling center.

2008 - A local memorial company hearing about the cemetery project donated and installed a granite gravestone. Meanwhile the site grew back to brush.

2010 - The area had to be cleared again and the city brought in some topsoil, cleared and leveled the area, and the city forester, planted six trees around the outside perimeter. Grass seed was also sowed.

2011 - When the grass came up in the spring, the city started including the site as a cemetery and included iy in its mowing schedule. The plan for a kiosk was developed with a display of persons known to be buried. Materials were purchased and the local high school shop class constructed and installed the kiosk. There was a dedication and blessing. Still no fence but the solid waste district moved the metal discard file further away from the fence.

2012 - The damaged fence was replaced by the Rutland County Solid Waste District. The memorial stone that had been installed by the road was moved to a more suitable place near the kiosk.


Tom Giffin