Cemeteries are a necessary part of any developing town. Just like any other part of a town, they have a history too. Though due to records being lost and gravesites being removed it is sometimes hard to construct an accurate or complete history.
Cemeteries in Newfield and several towns in the area began rather informally. There are not many very old cemeteries because the deceased were often buried on their own property somewhere in the back. The older gravesites of the area are often unknown and unmarked today. Many early gravestones were small and crude. Usually they were made of slate. One of the earliest graves in the area lies in Van Etten. It provides a good example of how these cemeteries began informally.
It is almost certain that in 1799 when that grave was dug there was not a cemetery present. Slowly a cemetery grew around this one grave as more people were buried near it. Cemeteries were often neighborhood cemeteries. They were usually located around the schoolhouse as funeral services were held in them. Many cemeteries in the area were setup near a school house including one at Kellogg's Corners and one located on Bank street.
Cemeteries really began to take shape in Newfield in the 1800s. The oldest marked grave in Newfield dates back to 1818. In 1814 there were around one thousand residents in town. Many people must have died in those 4 years, yet there are no graves to show it. Many deaths went without being documented in any way. There are many instances of town records showing wills and other documents of people who lived in the town, but no records of their death. In 1881 deaths were recorded more regularly. Between the 1860s and 1880s cemeteries in Newfield began incorporating. The Bank Street cemetery incorporated in 1865 followed by the Trumbulls Corners cemetery in the 1870s and the Woodlong cemetery in 1881. Around the end of the Civil war people began decorating the graves of veterans on Decoration Day which is now known as Memorial Day. Also toward the end of the Civil War the embalming process began to be used.
There were many traditional ways that have changed over the years regarding cemeteries and how the deceased were buried. Traditionally people were buried east to west so that if they were to sit up in their casket they would face due east. Over time this began to change and more modern arrangements (such as circles) were used. Another tradition was that married couples were buried next to each other standing up, just like the day they were married. The type of funeral service for a person was usually determined by their church affiliation. Local stonecutters were hired to make headstones. One was located where the Covered Bridge Market is today. Today many headstones are brought in from out of town.
Cemeteries are as much a part of Newfield's past as any other part
of the town.
They have been around for much of the town's life and have an interesting history. Although they may be a grim reminder of where all our lives end, they should be treasured as an important piece of our past.
Content provided by John Finley (Cemetery list and black & white photo added by the Newfield Historical Society)
"Newfield in the Round, Cemeteries." Newfield in the Round are a series of tape recorded sessions with Newfield residents sharing their memories and recollections of Newfield. The tapes are available at the Newfield Historical Society. Much of the information for this page came from the information contained on the tape about cemeteries.
"A Historic Tour Through Newfield," undated, by Robin Andersen and Alan Chaffee. This is a pamphlet from the village file at the Newfield Historical Society.