Ye Antientist Burial Ground in New London, Connecticut is one of the earliest graveyards in New England, and the oldest colonial cemetery in New London County. The hillside lot of 1.5 acres adjoins the original site of the settlement's first meeting-house. From here the visitor has a broad view to the east of the Thames River, and on the far shore, the heights of Groton.
Reservation of the lot for its purpose had been recorded in the summer of 1645. The first decedent "of mature age" was duly interred there in 1652. But it is the ordinance of June 6, 1653 that legally sets the place apart and declares, "It shall ever bee for a Common Buriall place, and never be impropriated by any."
A later record notes the appointment of the sexton —
Whose work is to order youth in the meeting-house, sweep the meeting-house, and beat out dogs, for which he is to have 40s. a year : he is also to make all graves ; for a man or woman he is to have 4s., for children, 2s. a grave, to be paid by survivors .
17th century New London was yet a rough and isolated corner of early colonial Connecticut. Private interments were not customary, and this was the only common burial place.
Few of the early graves ever had inscribed markers. The New London of that time possessed no skilled stonecutters, and those early planters simply had not the means. A few surviving families did, however, seek to address the deficiency in later years. At least four stones dated in the 17th century have been found that could not have been placed before 1720 .
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