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Cemetery Tours To Die For

Infectious Diseases Tour Among Many Themed Excursions At Cedar Hill

William Weir

July 16, 2010

George Capewell's gravestone doesn't immediately stand out at Cedar Hill Cemetery, a place full of remarkable gravestones belonging to the likes of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt, Katharine Hepburn and Horace Wells.-

But then you learn that the businessman not only made Hartford the "horseshoe nail capital of the world" but also instituted the first workplace day care when he learned that many of his women employees during World War II were leaving their children home unattended.

It's one of the odd and often fascinating things you learn during a guided tour of 277-acre cemetery. The tours are scheduled regularly, and the themes change. Earlier this summer, there was an Infectious Diseases Tour, looking at the many afflictions that plagued many buried in Cedar Hill in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, at 10 a.m., there's a tour of notable architects at the cemetery.

Among the most popular tours, happening around Halloween, is the Haunted History Lantern Tour, featuring character actors and some of the darker tales to be found among those interred at Cedar Hill.

The tours vary in length, but most are 90 minutes to two hours. The one we took Thursday was the Sunset Notables Tour. From 6:30 to 8 p.m., we visited the gravesites of such folks as former Gov. Morgan Bulkeley and Gideon Welles, Lincoln's secretary of the Navy.

Tour guide Wendi Fralick, director of the Cedar Hill Foundation, kept things moving briskly, but we never felt hurried.

The first stop was the grave of Horace Wells, who helped develop anesthesia. Fralick gave a quick account of the dentist's unfortunate life (his self-medication led to madness and death at age 34). She also noted that bronze sculptures of angels on both ends of the gravesite feature carvings of morning glories on one and poppies on the other, each used as hallucinogens.

Cedar Hill has been offering tours for seven years, so much of the research has been done for a while. But Fralick says she continually updates them with new research.

"It's amazing how much information there is about people in the community in the 18th and 19th century that you can find online," she says.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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