Forgotten Waterford Burial Sites: Burial Grounds around Lake Konomoc (Lakes Pond area)

Margaret (Read) Lake is said to be the first European woman to set foot in “Pequot Plantation” (the settlement that became New London County, Connecticut). She had left England without her husband, and emigrated to New England with her two daughters and sisters. In 1645, she traveled from Boston with her brother-in-law, John Winthrop Jr., son of the founding governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, who had obtained title to lands in southeastern Connecticut. Margaret was part of the advance party, doing groundwork for establishing the settlement of New London the following year. Lake’s Pond was named after Mrs. Lake and a farm was laid out for her, between 300 to 600 acres, enclosing the beautiful oval Lake Konomoc. Within the area were hill-sides and glens, wood-lands and almost impenetrable swamps. This estate was bequeathed by Mrs. Lake to the children of her daughter, Hannah (Lake) Gallop. It was later sold to the Prentis brothers, sons of John Prentis.

Lakes Pond Baptist Church and Cemetery

The Lake Konomoc area Baptist community in the 1790’s was a mere “outpost” at which pastor, Zadoc Darrow, of the Mullen Hill Baptist Church preached. After he passed away residents attended services on Vauxhall Street Ext. from about 1812 to 1830 where Jonathan Ames was pastor.

Sometime in the 12 years, between 1830 and 1842, church meetings began to be held in the brick school house which stood nearby.¹ The site was almost in front of the present dam at Lakes Pond, now called Lake Konomoc. At that time, the road to New London, like all roads of the time, was unpaved and still rather slow traveling.

Gurden T. Chappell was ordained pastor in 1842 and the name of the group changed from First Baptist to Lakes Pond Baptist Church. The group of 21 males and 19 females, mostly from the Darrow Church on Mullen Hill Road, made an application for letters of fellowship and organized into an independent body. During the winters of 1843 and 1844, the Church was built near Lakes’ Pond. Amos Crocker was named ordained deacon in 1844 to assist Pastor Chappell.

Caulkins Burial Ground next to Church

Old records indicate that during the nineteenth century there were four burials near the northwest corner of the church. According to former Waterford Town Historian Margaret Stacy’s notes, the graves belonged to William N.M. Caulkins and his three children, who died as infants. Three small stones were said to have been inscribed:

Our Gussie

Our Georgie Caulkins

Our baby

While it is possible that the bodies were moved to the cemetery across the street, there is no record of such a move. It has been speculated that the graves are still in the green space in the middle of the parking lot.

Lakes Pond Cemetery

It’s easy to miss this small burial ground since it is located on a small hill on the north (right) side of the Hartford Road (CT Rt. 85), coming from New London. Traffic on the road tends to be fast. If you do visit, immediately turn left into the parking lot for the Lakes Pond Baptist Church a short ways ahead. Then park and walk across the road to the site. Partly surrounded by an iron fence, the cemetery contains about fifty gravesites, dating from the 1850’s to the 1920’s.

The cemetery was established by the Church in the 1840s. Although the early Baptist Churches in Connecticut encountered a great deal of opposition from the established religious leaders and the state, by the time this church was built, the Baptist faith had already been established in Connecticut so opposition was minimal.

A few years later, in 1850, a burial ground was sold to the church by Daniel Caulkins. It was established on land situated across the road opposite the meetinghouse.

Waterford historian Margaret Stacy told several curious stories about those buried in the graveyard: She wrote that Mr. Edmund Dart met his unfortunate end one night as he was walking home drunk from Capt. Ed Morgan’s Tavern on the Hartford Turnpike. The story does not mention if this drunken walk was a frequent occurrence for Mr. Dart; however on this unfortunate night, Mr. Dart stumbled as he walked across a small bridge that passed over Lakes Pond Brook. He fell into the brook and drowned, even though there was only two feet of water in the stream.

The inhabitants of the Lakes Pond District, very upset when they heard about this accident, circulated a petition that no more liquor should be sold in the district. Many people were in favor and immediately signed the petition. However, Stacy notes that a lot appeared to have “backed down”, as a number of names appear to have been later erased or crossed out. Perhaps when people thought more about the prospect of having no liquor readily available, they changed their mind about supporting the temperance cause!

Stacy tells another story about unfortunate end of dutiful housewife: eighty-three year old Margaret Douglas, daughter of Solomon and Elizabeth (Comstock) Dart. Margaret, who lived on Oil Mill Road, cleaned house all day one Saturday. It was a warm spring day so, after finishing up early, she decided to visit her friend, Mrs. Holt, who lived on Konomoc Hill. According to Stacy, Margaret barely make it up the hill when she collapsed and died. She was the wife of War of 1812 Veteran Elisha A. Douglas (see his grave below).

Two Caulkins family members, both veterans of the War of 1812 are buried in this graveyard on a small hill.

War of 1812

Ezekiel Caulkins

Capt. Crocker’s Co.

Died Oct. 2, 1850

War of 1812

David Caulkins

Capt. Crocker’s Co.

died Feb. 28, 1869

aged 83

Konomoc Hill and Lazy C-Y Ranch

Old records in Waterford indicate that there are two burial grounds on the eastern side of Konomoc Hill. Both are said to be on property of the Chaney ranch (Lazy C-Y Ranch.) Today the property is private and seems that active ranching is still being carried out on the land so thorough searches for grave sites were not able to be conducted. Others familiar with the property say that no grave sites have ever been found.

Lake Konomoc

The high hill now called Konomoc² was called Tauba-konomok by the Nehantics Tribe. That name translates to “thankful or gratitude in English. There is a legend that a hunting party of young Braves ventured inland from the coastal areas on an “un-approved” hunting trip to prove their manhood to the Tribal Elders. On the return journey, following the hunt, they became lost in the deep woods. They wandered about for a time and came upon the northern slope of the great hill, climbed to the top and, seeing the waters of the Sound to the south, knew their location. They expressed thankfulness to each other, “Tauba-Konomok’’ and the hill came to be called by that name during the time of the Indians. When the white man came to that region, he shortened the name to “Thank-you Hill.” and so it was called that by the early settlers.³

According to Herb and Marilyn Davis,⁴ Konomoc Hill was made a land grant to William Holt in 1734. No improvements were made by Holt. The land later became part of a large farm owned and operated by the Chappell family for several generations. It was later purchased by Morgan Chaney who ran the Lazy C-Y ranch, a horse farm for many years on its many acres.⁵ Ownership today is retained by the Chaney heirs, who preserved the land as open space and a nature sanctuary.

North Slope Konomoc Hill

On the north slope of Konomoc Hill, is said to be the location for another burial site. The only instructions found are “two stones located on the north slope of the hill.” These have not been found. At the base of the north slope is an old farm and house located far off the road. It is possible that the two burials may have been of residents of this property many years ago.

Lake Pond Brook Burial Site

Old records indicate that paupers were buried on an island in Lakes Pond Brook below the dam. The brook, originating in Lakes Pond, flows eventually into Oil Mill Brook that feeds into Banning Cove at the Head of the Niantic River.

This writer did not conduct a search of the property so neither the island nor this grave site has been found. Perhaps another researcher may find this burial site.

Notes

  1. Caulkins, Frances Manwaring. History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612 to 1852. p. 613.

2. The earlier recorders had no favorite spelling. Each used the one that slipped most easily from his pen at the moment.

3. This is the account was provided by local authors, Herb and Marllyn Davis. Brooks that Feed the Falls and Pirates Cove.

4. Herb and Marilyn Davis, Brooks That Feed the Falls and Pirate’s Cove, 2003

5. Location Lakes Pond Brook, By Best Books onCY Horse Ranch

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