The Mitchell Brook Cemetery holds around ten graves, that we could count, possibly more. The burials took place in the 1830's and 1840's, from the gravestones that we could read. There are several gravestones that were almost totally buried.
Old Gravestones, Mostly Buried.
Here is a close look at the area where the old graveyard is located, or rather, hidden, in the woods today, as seen on the 1855 map of Windsor County. You're looking at Quimby Mountain Road in Sharon, as it becomes Mitchell Brook Road upon entering West Norwich. The cemetery lies in the woods, above Mitchell Brook, not far from the Sharon/Norwich town line. Sometimes, cemeteries are located and noted on this map as "Cem", but this graveyard is not shown. We were hiking somewhere near "B. Avery" on the map below.
1855 Doton Map of Windsor County
Here is another look at the area from the USGS topographic map produced in 1912, not long after "Mitchell Pond" was created by damming the brook. Today Mitchell Pond is known as Lake Mitchell, and all of the land around the lake is privately owned by the Lake Mitchell Trout Club, and is posted. (below, bottom, center).
The cemetery in question is located somewhere near Mitchell Brook, and Lake Mitchell. It is very difficult to find, in the woods, and on private land, though it is under the care of the Town of Sharon.
My host, Dave Phillips, President of the Sharon Historical Society, met me near the Beaver Meadow Chapel, in West Norwich, on a sunny Monday morning in June, and we headed down Mitchell Brook Road. We crossed the Sharon town line and soon parked. It was nice to be there on an official exploration with Dave, who had last visited the old graveyard a couple of years ago. Dave was there to assess the grounds keeping needs, and I was happy to observe, learn, and to photograph.
We walked along the road, keeping an eye out for the cemetery, off to our left somewhere, up in the woods. As we walked, we chatted about old cemeteries, and gravestone restoration efforts. We walked for almost a half hour, not finding what we were looking for, and returned back to our vehicles. We then turned around and started over. This time, it wasn't long before Dave spotted a gravestone in the woods, not too far from where we had started our walk earlier.
Dave Phillips Spots a Gravestone in the Woods
Below is a close-up made from the photo above. Can you see the gravestone? It's small and seen almost on edge, with the edge lit up in sunlight. I was amazed Dave could spot it!
Grave Stone in the Woods.
I followed behind, and soon I saw the small cemetery, ringed in old barbed wire.
The Old Cemetery in the Woods, Found Once More
The sun shone brightly through the forest canopy, playing on the stones and the undergrowth. Dave said he'd be back later this year with a weedwacker to reduce the undergrowth around the stones, and I offered to help.
Headstone of Chauncey Carpenter
Dave showed me how to help improve the situation by righting a loose stone that was falling backwards. Dave is experienced and cares a lot about the condition of these old, humble cemeteries out in the woods. It was exciting to see the stone carefully pulled up, out of the loose soil, so that we could make out the rest of the inscription, below where it had been buried, before setting it back in the ground, upright.
Pulling the Headstone up, in order to Make it Plumb Again, and to read the Inscription.
Dave turned the stone to the sunlight so that we could read the inscription better. That really helped. In the photo below, you can see a line separating the top from the bottom part which was recently underground. By pulling the stone up, we can see that Chauncey Carpenter was age 60 when he passed away. We can then infer that Chauncey was born around 1782.
"Chauncey Carpenter died Dec. 3, 1842 AE 60"
Here is a look at the design on the top of Chauncey Carpenter's headstone:
Top of Gravestone of Chauncey Carpenter
Chauncey Carpenter's wife Mary was buried next to him. Perhaps this was the Carpenter family cemetery, as Carpenter street is just down the road.
Headstone of Mary Carpenter
Here is a close-up, though hard to read: "Mary wife of Chauncey Carpenter"
Along with a headstone, a smaller footstone is often found at a grave. Here is Mary Carpenter's footstone, nestled among the christmas ferns.
"M. C." Footstone of Mary Carpenter's Grave
There were several gravestones just peeking out of the earth, the curves of the tops of them just barely showing. I don't know if their inscriptions could be read even if they were pulled back up above ground. Here is one of them:
Top of an old Gravestone, just barely peeking out of the Earth.
And three more:
Three old Gravestones barely poking out of the Forest Floor.
Dave also has experience restoring broken stones, and told me a bit about what is involved in that process.
I like like to see when interested groups of people pull together, and restore a small old cemeteryin the woods such as this one. They could remove all the old limbs and debris that has fallen, clear the ground of saplings, help with any research, to find out who was buried here and when, and document that for future generations. They could repair the broken stones, and clean up the border, that is currently old barbed wire, some of which is attached to dead trees that will soon fall down. Dave suggested maybe a girl or boy scout troop would like to help with such a project, in one or more of these small, historic, rural cemeteries.
Dave Phillips contemplates the Past, and the Future of this Old Cemetery in the Forest.
Sharon, Vermont, June 24, 2019.
Dave Phillips and others, have been doing cemetery preservation and restoration efforts on this cemetery, and others like it, for years. If it wasn't for efforts of dedicated folks like Dave, these cemeteries may have been totally buried generations ago. For more information about Sharon's cemeteries, Dave Phillips can be reached at (603) 252-7363.
Thanks for hiking along, once again on "Old Roads, Rivers and Rails". < Click the link then, scroll down for more adventures. While there, feel free to subscribe to my blog if you have not already, for free email updates. Thanks,
- Bob Totz, June 24, 2019
Comments are always welcome.
Map Sources: 1855 Map of Windsor County by Hosea Doton, can be found here:
USGS Map, Strafford Quadrangle 1896, updated 1912:
Suggested Reading: Exploring a Large Map of Windsor County:
The Historic White River Valley and its Settlements:
In Search of the Old Four Corners Cemetery in Sharon Vermont: