This Open Space Is Deadly

Every spring, Westporters marvel at the “Daffodil Mile” that marks the long entrance to Willowbrook Cemetery on Main Street.

And the Saugatuck Congregational Church had made a strong commitment to the upkeep of its historic — though no-longer-accepting-bodies — cemetery on Evergreen Avenue.

But what about Westport’s smaller, lesser-known graveyards? Who is in charge of mowing the grass, raking the leaves, straightening the headstones? 

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith would like to know. He writes:

As I’ve been driving along Wilton Road to the Y, I’ve noticed an old cemetery behind a stone wall. It’s near #280. Recently I parked on Twin Falls Lane, and ducked across the road to explore.

A hidden cemetery off Wilton Road. (Photo/Scott Smith)

A hidden cemetery off Wilton Road. (Photo/Scott Smith)

It’s pretty cool, in the way that old cemeteries are. Many headstones are in disarray, and it seems that the most recent ones are from the early 1900s. Hard to say when the older graves first came to be. The family name Fillow appears on a few markers, though many etchings are worn away beyond recognition.

But as “06880”is filled with discussions about open space and other property issues, I wonder who owns and maintains the many small cemeteries around town. Are they private? Are they treated as open space? Is there an inventory of all these plots? And what’s the policy about walking among these memorials?

On a related note, I discovered a scenic (and pollen-covered) pond just beyond the cemetery, which is located on a bluff above the water. It’s a couple of acres in size. I never knew the pond was there, though I suspected it from the hole in the tree canopy you can just glimpse from the road.

The pond near the Partrick Wetlands. (Photo/Scott Smith)

The pond near the Partrick Wetlands. (Photo/Scott Smith)

How are these ponds treated on our property rolls? Are they all privately owned? Counted as open space as well? Are they taxed differently than land? And is there a census of the freshwater ponds within our borders?

The pond below the cemetery has a small dock at the far end. Judging from a Google map, this pond is close to the Partrick Wetlands, but separate fromt it.

Scott hopes that “06880” readers can answer his questions. Fire away!

I’ll add this: Westport is filled with tiny, forgotten cemeteries — from the Battle of Compo Hill-era plots on opposite side of Gray’s Creek (Compo Beach Road and Longshore) to the hidden-in-plain-view one on Post Road West, near the Norwalk line.

If you’ve got a story about any of our small old cemeteries, click “Comments.” This should be a lively (ho ho) discussion.   

18 responses to “This Open Space Is Deadly

  1. Bruce Nemirow

    Dan, you mentioned the “hidden in plain view little cemetery on the Post Road near the Norwalk border. It is the Platt family plot right next to Whole Foods which is now under the care of the Westport Historical Society. It is an amazingly tranquil spot despite the traffic buzzing by. It is little treasure for Westport.

  2. Matthew Mandell

    First of all, these are cemeteries, not graveyards. There is a difference. A graveyard is part of a contiguous church property. A cemetery is land where people are buried that may well be owned by a church etc, but is not part of the church property……. One caveat, there might have been a church there in the past that is now gone. So technically they might still be considered graveyards, but one would have to dig into records to know.

    The Patrick Wetlands is now owned by Earthplace and as a non profit it is not taxed. Land and ponds adjacent to it are private and are taxed at the accessed value of the property. Ponds can both increase and decrease the value of a property depending on whether or not is enhances it.

    They are not “open space,” unless designated as such, but clearly they can’t be built on and the area around them are protected under various rules and laws. Spiritually they are of course open space, but are not counted unless deed restricted as such by the private owner.

    • Good thing I didn’t call it a “boneyard.”

    • Happily, you are not running out of cemetery space. I read in my local paper today that construction on phase 1 of a three tier “necropolis” (with elevators) in Jerusalem has begun. Apparently, in making better use of the land, “the future is underground”.

      • Bobbie Herman

        Nancy — thanks for your comment supporting me on another thread. I didn’t say anything then because I didn’t want any more crap from that joker.

  3. Matthew Mandell

    Yikes, Partrick Wetlands, even I can typo that one every once and a while.

  4. The Fillow family owned and operated the Fillow Flower Company. I don’t know much more than that, but the name was a staple when I was growing up in Westport.

    • Jacques Voris

      The Fillow Flower company was started by Everett Fillow. He lived on Clinton Avenue. The Fillow family is much larger and older than just Everett, the used to own a lot of property on and around Wilton Road.
      If you are looking for an index of graves, the website is very helpful. Interested volunteers work to catalog all of the graves in the US

  5. Bobbie Herman

    Interesting subject, Dan. Maybe you, or someone from the Historical Society, could lead a tour of some of these hidden cemeteries.

  6. Joni Andrews

    The town owns the cemeteries at Kings Highway, Wilton Road across from the Red Barn and the Platt Burial Ground next to Whole Foods. The Westport Garden Club, not the Historical Society, pays to maintain these cemeteries. Much of the money raised from our Annual Plant Sale goes to pay for mowing and spring and fall cleanups. Our club also plants and maintains many small park areas around the town such as the entrance garden to Compo Beach, the Lucas garden at Ned Dimes Marina, the winter garden at the Library, the garden at the entrance to Earthplace, the Grace K Salmon Park on Imperial Ave. and Nevada Hitchcock garden on Cross Highway. Garden Club members also contribute many hours of labor to keep these projects looking good for the town.
    Joni Andrews, President Westport Garden Club

    • Jo Dickison

      And a wonderful job you do — thank you! Isn’t there a lovely old Westport Garden Club metal plaque at the Wilton Road Cemetery?

    • Scott Smith

      Thanks, Dan, and all, especially the members of the Westport Garden Club, for whom I have new-found appreciation (as well as some new peonies from their annual plant sale that are doing very well in my own garden). These plots — especially the ones marked with flags honoring those who served our country — are sacred ground, indeed.

  7. Morley Boyd

    I believe this is the Poplar Plains Cemetery. It, like the Old Burying Ground at Kings Highway is deteriorating at an accelerating rate. This is NOT a criticism of the great work that the Westport Garden Club does. The Club does not, obviously, have the technical expertise or authority to deal with gravestone conservation issues. Fragile Town-owned historic resources such as the rapidly disintegrating West Parish Meeting House site on Greens Farms Road and the above mentioned burying grounds are really the responsibility of the Historic District Commission members to monitor. They currently don’t, but likely would if the person at whose pleasure they serve asked them to.The Town of Fairfield has done a really good job of restoring and maintaining its historic cemeteries using largely volunteers supervised by a professional – especially the one on Bronson Road at the top of Greenfield Hill where a number of patriots are interred.

  8. Joyce Barnhart

    The Greens Farms Cemetery is flanked by Greens Farms Road, the Sherwood Island Connector and Nyala Farm Road. It’s a lovely place that belongs to the Greens Farms Congregational Church. The first church, which was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, was just across Greens Farms Road. When the church was rebuilt, it was decided that it should be in the geographical center of the town (village?) of Greens Farms. That happened to be on a rock ledge on the south side of Hillandale Road so it was built across the street instead. There’s a “newer” cemetery across Colonial Road from the parking lot.

  9. Robert Mitchell

    There are 13 cemeteries in Westport, including the Poplar Plains cemetery that sparked this story and the others mentioned in the comments. The Westport Historical Society has conducted cemetery tours in the past and may do so again; in the meantime, there is a booklet for sale in the Historical Society gift shop, “Buried in Our Past”, that describes them all.

  10. sandy johnson

    WOW what a great history lesson all these comments are!!! I never knew the difference between words cemetaries and graveyards – really interesting!!
    A BIG THANK YOU to the garden club as I do often see these very dedicated people out there working to keep all our historical places nice and neat!!