Cemetery Sunday: November 16, 2014
What took me to this cemetery today was a Civil War Memorial; I saw it from the road the other day so I planned a return trip, although it was overcast. But often an overcast day is a perfect day for cemetery pictures. It was very sad to see that one of the name stones on entrance column has been broken or stolen – only one designating name of cemetery remains intact.
I will add the Civil War Memorial to my Connecticut – War Memorials page at:
After taking the monument pictures, we drove through St. Bernard’s Cemetery (280 Derby Ave.) looking at the beautiful old gravestones, which are truly pieces of art; the cemetery entrance is accessible from the Ella Grasso Blvd. I first thought this cemetery was located in New Haven, but further research tells me it’s actually West Haven, but I’m still not quite certain on that; I still find reference to it as of New Haven.
St. Bernard’s was founded in 1851 out of necessity, as the older Catholic cemeteries nearby were overflowing. The endless arrival of Irish immigrants to New Haven, which began as a trickle in the 1820’s but soon turned long-term when “An Gorta Mor” the Great Hunger struck Ireland, in the late 1840’s. The Irish community fled by a million or more and as Connecticut was deemed a halfway location between the major ports of Boston and New York, many settled here in the New Haven community.
Many Irish immigrants are buried in this cemetery and many are among those 290-plus Civil War Veterans. In wanting to prove their devotion to their new homeland, and as they had not been well received by Yankee citizens, this seemed to be perfect timing for the Irishmen to prove that they were willing to serve their new homeland and stand with their Yankee brothers in battle.
In 1886 this Civil War monument was erected in the middle of St. Bernard’s cemetery; three thousand dollars was awarded from the state for the purchase. It was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886 – ironically on the same day as the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York.
We never go to a cemetery without driving through reading names and dates on the gravestones and my husband never complains; he enjoys reading the dates and commenting on either how old they lived, or how young they died. But what intrigued me through my camera lens today, and prompted this story, was when I discovered their origin of birth or homeland in-scripted on many of the large gravestones. What a discovery if you found your ancestor buried here! One of the biggest discoveries you can make – is when you cross the ocean to their homeland – and it’s a process – and one I have not crossed yet. But to come to a cemetery and find it – in plain sight for you – this is history!
Gravestone of Bernard (d. 1872) & Mary (d. 1865) Conlan.
What so touched me about their gravestone was their children’s deaths listed on the side.
Children of Bernard & Mary Conlan
Annie Conlan – died 1849 at 18 months
Anne Theresa Conlan – died 1852 at 10 months
Joseph Conlan – died 1854 at 10 years, 1 month
Mary Conlan – died 1859 at 8 years, 6 months
How tragically sad for this Conlan family to have buried their children that young.
The “Shanachie” Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society published a history of the St. Bernard’s Cemetery in 2011. It is quite interesting, so please take a read. They also have transcribed all 290 plus names of the Civil War Veterans buried there. As I just discovered the Knight Hospital Civil War Monument recently in Evergreen Cemetery – just across from this cemetery – I found it interesting that Knight Hospital was also mentioned in this article.
(Complete listing of soldiers buried can be found in above link)
More Cemetery Sites of Interest:
Hale Collection of Cemetery Records: http://www.hale-collection.com/new-haven.htm
© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco