The Connecticut Trust’s Merit Awards for 2019 "recognize the grit, sweat, brains, and investment of the individuals behind the rescue, reuse and/or recycling of six historic Connecticut places. These projects have empowered volunteers, created jobs and homes, proclaimed civic values, and strengthened communities."
Ellen Gould, former Town Historic District Commission Chair and current board member of the CTHP, had nominated Jeffrey Taylor and his team for their work on this important preservation project.
Mr. Taylor, who lives near the cemetery in a home once occupied by Abraham Baldwin, whom Mr. Taylor refers to as the veritable “father of the Constitution,” had visited Baldwin’s grave in 2016 and found the overall cemetery had fallen into decay. It was then that Mr. Taylor decided to take it upon himself to repair headstones at the cemetery which is located at 2736 Bronson Road in the historic district of Greenfield Hill. In prior years, the Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Society (GHVIS) Cemetery Committee led by resident Melanie Marks had helped maintain and preserve the cemetery.
In 2017, Mr. Taylor began enlisting a team of dedicated volunteers to help with the restoration project. They include Fairfield resident Brian Hommel, the Town of Fairfield, Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, the Greenfield Hill Conservancy, the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and community volunteers.
Team members cleaned, restored, and reset 300 of the cemetery’s 980 gravestones, which can weigh between 160 and 1,000 pounds. According to the GHVIS, the cemetery, which is considered one of the town's "ancient burial grounds,” is the resting place of the Town's earliest inhabitants, There are 111 Revolutionary War soldiers buried there, possibly the largest contingent of named soldiers of any 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, six from the Civil War as well as a who’s who of recognizable names of families/community leaders from our Town’s past. The northwest corner of the cemetery was first used by native Indians and a few markers survive. Also buried there is Dr. Isaac Bronson who planted the first dogwoods on Greenfield Hill.
Mr. Taylor, whose goal is to slowly improve the cemetery with an eye toward Greenfield Hill Church’s 300th anniversary in 2025, said, “This project just keeps bringing people together. It’s a special mix of civic duty, historical significance, community friendships and a work out to boot. I don’t know who said this, but “when your hands are busy your mind gets right. More than 75 people have volunteered and look what we have already accomplished!” On April 4th, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Hommel attended CTHP’s Awards Ceremony in Hartford where they proudly accepted an Award of Merit. The Connecticut Trust noted that it was “very happy to select this excellent project for an award.”
Yesterday, the Fairfield Board of Selectmen honored Mr. Taylor and the many volunteers who assisted him in preserving and protecting the resting places of the 980 individuals who are an important part of Fairfield’s history. In attendance were Jeff Taylor, Brian Hommel, some of the dedicated volunteers, as well as CTHP board members Ellen Gould and Ed Gerber, and Jane Montanaro, Executive Director of the CTHP.
First Selectman Tetreau stated, “I commend Jeffrey Taylor for spearheading this important project and appreciate all of the research, planning and private funding he has generously provided to help honor and preserve the memory of the individuals who helped shape our community and fought so valiantly for our country. Our town is so fortunate to have dedicated volunteers like Mr. Taylor and his team who make such a positive and lasting difference.”
For anyone interested in helping Mr. Taylor with ongoing restoration efforts, there will be open house work days on Saturday, April 27th and Saturday, June 1st at the cemetery at 2736 Bronson Road from 8 am to 1 pm, rain or shine.
To learn more about the Awards, please click here.
The photo, taken at yesterday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, shows the CTHP’s Executive Director Jane Montanaro holding the Award that she had given to Jeffrey Taylor (to her immediate left) in Hartford, along with some of the dedicated volunteers, First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Selectmen Bateson and Tymniak whose mother, Cathy Tymniak, former State Representative and current DAR member, was also in attendance.