Antientist Burying Ground; Denison and Dart Children

One of the intriguing features of the Antientist Burying Ground is the number of stones memorializing children who are buried there with no stones for any other family member.  They may have been part of a large family, one of many children, or may have ben their parents’ only child.  Most of the time the headstone tells us nothing about the cause of death.  Joshua Hempstead’s diary can be very helpful in determining the circumstances of the death, or in telling us more about the family, espeially the father.  In this newsletter I’ll talk about four of the children buried there, and tell a bit about their families.

The Denison family, large and complicated, is usually associated with Stonington.  However, it did have a branch or two in New London. The two children of the Denisons with headstones in the burying ground were a generation apart.

George Denison III was baptized May 7, 1699.  He married a Sarah Minor in 1721, then after her 1724 death married Joanna Hinckley on May 10, 1727.  He died January 16, 1736/7. George and Sarah had two children who both reached adulthood and married.

George’s second wife, Joanna, was not so lucky.  On May 8, 1731, Hempstead writes, “about break of day a Child of George Denisons about 3 year old died named Elijah 2 year & 9 months old.”  The same information, along with the names of his parents, is on his headstone.  Oddly, Prentis (see references) gives the father’s name as “Gool.”  On July 9 Hempstead notes “Geo Denison an Infant 11 weeks died the Son of Geo & Joanna.”  There is no longer a stone in the burying ground for this child, at least not one that can be identified. Frances Caulkins’s manuscript “First Burial Ground New London” says there was no headstone, but a footstone marked “GD” next to Elijah’s grave. The third child of the couple, a girl named Sarah, did grow up and marry.

Toward the back and left of the burying ground is a stone that reads:

Here lies the Body of Anne Denison, daur. of Mr. Daniel & 

Mrs. Rachel Denison, died Novr. 19th, 1767, aged 24 years, 2 mo. & 11 Ds.

Her body’s here, her Soul to Heaven is gone,their to Receive from God,its righteous doom.

(Doom here is used in the sense of judgment.  Spelling is as it appears on the stone.)

Anne was the eighth of the ten children of Daniel and Rachel Denison.  Daniel was the son of George and Mary, born June 27, 1703.  He married Rachel Starr November 14, 1726.  On April 20, 1729, Hempstead records “Daniel Denison and Wife Rachel took into ye Church and a Child Baptizd Mary.”  Mary was the oldest; all of the succeeding children were also baptized.  The Denison genealogy, while not listing all the baptisms, has an otherwise detailed list of the children:

Mary b Aug 19, 1728

Daniel b Dec 16, 1730

Thomas b Nov 4, 1732

Rachel b Sept 20, 1734

Samuel b Nov 9, 1736

Hannah b Jan 2, 1738/9

Phebe b June 22, 1741

Ann b Sept 8, 1743

James b Apr 18, 1746

Elizabeth b Nov 19, 1748

Daniel (the father) died February 2, 1748/9.  Hempstead said he was “buried in his own Land near the highway by the Baptist meeting house.  a great number of People.  he is much Lamented being a good Comon wealths man a Sober orderly Liver and very good Government in his family. left 10 Children. aged 45½. he was one of the Selectmen of ye Town & a member of ye Church & Constant Attender when well. he was taken with what was Called the Rhumatism near about 3 Weeks ago & had lost the use of his Limbs at ye first but Seemed to be growing better dayly until about a Quarter of an hour before his Death.”  

Ten years later, his widow Rachel married Col. Ebenezer Avery of Groton.  Two of his children married two of the Denison children:  Daniel Denison m. Katherine Avery July 1, 1756;  Phebe Denison married Ebenzer Avery, Jr. (no  date given) and after his death, married Jonathan Fish.  All but two of Daniel and Rachel’s children married, some more than once.  The two who did not marry were Samuel and Anne.

We have very few details of Anne’s life, or the lives of her siblings, after her father’s death.  Hempstead twice mentions calling at the Widow Denison’s house “to get a man to help mow the gutt Medow.”  On September 19, 1753, he got “Daniel Denison & his little Brother” to mow along with others.  Daniel would have been about 23.  He married Katherine Avery three years later.  The little brother might have been Thomas, then 21, but it was more likely Samuel, who was about 17.  In 1754 Daniel and two brothers were mowing for Hempstead in the salt hay meadows. 

Both Samuel and Anne died in 1767. We know that Anne died in November, aged 24, but we have no details on Samuel, nor does he have a stone in the burying ground.  Clearly in 1753 and 1754 he was energetic enough to mow, a job which takes both strength and skill.  We have no clues about Anne’s physical or mental health.  Neither do we know if they moved with their mother to Col. Avery’s house, or went to live with someone else, or (in Samuel’s case) struck out on his own.  He has no headstone in Groton, Stonington, or Waterford, but he could have moved elsewhere. 

Two other children buried in the burying ground are Prudence and Hannah Dart.  Their headstone reads:

Here lyeth the body of Prudence Dart, aged about 7 years, and

Hannah Dart, 5 years.  Both died Jan. 27, 1724. 

Because this was still during the time when the year started on March 25, they actually died January 27, 1725.  This is confirmed by Hempstead’s notation on that date that “Roger Dart had 2 Children died ye Eldest about 7 year old ye youngest 5 or 6.”  On March 13 Hempstead “was at home all day Cutting gr stones for Roger Dart.”  Gravestones came in pairs, a headstone and footstone.

The parents of the two girls, Roger Dart and Prudence Beckwith, had been “published”, or announced their intention of marrying, on July 14, 1717.  They were married July 24th, and lived in a part of New London that is now in Waterford.  Hempstead mentions “ye great Hill near Roger Dartes.”  Apparently there was some confusion in the laying out of Dart’s farm, which must have been near part of the common land.  In June of 1734 Hempstead and other members of the committee for the commons spent a few days “Correcting the mistakes &c.”  One was “Correcting Samll & Peter Lattemers Comon Lots wch Interfered upon Darts farm.”  Surveying mistakes were quite common at that time, and kept the committee busy.

Prudence Dart would have been born in about 1718 to be seven years old in 1725.  She was probably the oldest child.  Neither she nor Hannah is listed in the Barbour vital statistics, but other Dart children are:

Lucy b May 10, 1722

Ann b May 31, 1724

Richard b Dec 20, 1728

William b Dec 12, 1730

Prudence b Dec. 5, 1732

Hannah b July 25, 1735

Margaret b Mar. 1, 1737

Solomon b Apr. 10, 1739

Roger and Prudence followed the custom of giving the names of deceased children to later born ones.  They did not have their children baptized.  Hempstead notes on July 25, 1742 “Anna the Daughter of Roger Darte almost a woman grown was Baptized.” Lucy was “took into ye Chh.” a week later, on August 1st.

Anna was published to David Daniels on January 7, 1749/50.  Hempstead “maried Peter Darte & Prudence Darte at my house” on May 13, 1756.  On July 11 he notes, “an Infant of Peter Dartes was buryed yesterday about a fortnight old.  he was maried May 13th last.”  While Hempstead has no mention of Richard’s marriage, on June 21, 1754 he writes, “Richard Darte, the Son of Roger Darte Buryed.  he Died yesterday. left a Widow & 1 Child. aged 20 odd.”  None of the other Dart children is mentioned in Hempstead’s diary.

Patricia M. Schaefer


Link to Barbour collection of vital statistics.  This is not a complete listing of people in a town, since it relied on family reporting, not modern birth and death certificates:

Blake, S. LeRoy,  The Later History of the First Church of Christ, New London.  New London: Press of The Day Publishing Co., 1900.  

Caulkins, Frances Manwaring,  “First Burial Ground New London,” manuscript in possession of New London County Historical Society.  Pre-1869 (when she died), and after 1853 (dated note in volume).

The History of New London, Connecticut to 1860.  New London, CT:  New London County Historical Society, 2007.

Denison, E. Glenn, Denison Genealogy:  Ancestors and Descendants of Captain George Denison. Stonington, CT: The Denison Society, 1963.

Hempstead, Joshua, The Diary of Joshua Hempstead, 1711-1758.  New London, CT:  New London County Historical Society, 1999.

Prentis, Edward, Ye Antient Buriall Place of New London, Conn.  New London:  Press of the Day Publishing Co., 1899.