East Lyme historian helps others gain better appreciation of cemeteries
Halloween is the season when graveyards
take center stage, yet East Lyme town historian
Liz Kuchta is here to provide the real stories
of those gone, but not forgotten.
Showing a small group of students around
the Old Stone Church burial grounds, Ms.
Kuchta’s passionate interest in history and
reverence for the dead became apparent
within moments of starting the tour.
Beginning with the creation of the Old
Stone Church burial ground, it was said that
people who lived in this section of town got
tired of walking nine miles to church every
day, so they petitioned to create their own
accelsional society. One of the first things
they did was set out a burial ground. This
dates back to 1719— the oldest in East Lyme.
“Death was a part of life. They didn’t put
importance on having monuments in the
1600s and early 1700s.” Ms. Kuchta said.
Though this seemingly nonchalant attitude
may come off disrespectful to the deceased, it’s
important to keep in mind just how frequent
and even more so unpredictable death was
before the 20th century.
In lieu of a COVID-19 cancelled Halloween,
Ms. Kuchta suggests that people take a trip
to the local graveyard to take a break from
the stresses of daily life and get lost in the
life stories of some of those buried. Here are
some easily findable graves with the most
John Mack 1653-1721 (age 67)
John Mack was the father of Lucy Mack,
who married the founder of the Mormon
church, Joseph Smith. John lived in New
Hampshire and moved to Flanders at the
end of his life, sending a gravestone from
Vermont for his resting place in Old Stone
Mercy Raymond 1663-1741 (age 77–78)
Mercy’s husband, Joshua Raymond, came
from New London. They worked out of Block
Island during the time of Captain Kidd.
Legend has it, Mercy let Captain Kidd sleep
in their house, and when Captain Kidd was
getting ready to leave, he told Mercy to hold
out her apron. Kidd then filled it with all
kinds of gold and jewels. A couple years later,
Mercy’s husband passed away. She ended up
coming to New London and bought 1700
acres of land in what is now Montville. Where
did she get all that money from?
Marcela Miller 1804-1821 (age 17)
Marcela was 17 year old boy on a ship
heading to New York, when a squall arose
and caused a shipwreck. Three men died,
including Marcela, who’s body was never
found. The tombstone his parents erected
in 1831 read, “In vain are our unwary pains
in searching for his last remains. The briny
sea, the rolling waves must be Marcela’s
only grave.” The death of their son was so
disturbing that Marcela’s parents decided to
move to Ohio to escape the sea.
Dr. Vine Utley 1768-1836 (age 68)
Vine Utley was an East Lyme doctor who
kept a journal detailing the people he treated.
There was a man named Calvin Spencer with
a drinking problem. Calvin’s fate was sealed
when one of his neighbors had died in New
London of the Yellow fever. No one would get
the body besides Calvin and his friend, Vine.
They both caught the disease and died a week
later, on the same day.