Identifying Historic Cemetery Boundaries: The Connecticut School for Boys Cemetery

    The grounds of a large hospital project in Meriden, Connecticut served to support the Connecticut School for Boys between 1853 and 1973, during which time between 86 and 156 adolescent males are known to have died at the facility. Outraged by the pending development, local citizens produced lists of many boys who were suspected of being interred throughout the facility without grave markers, although ACS successfully mitigated the controversy through extensive background research, varying field testing methods, and public communications efforts.

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An example of a late 19th-Century casket trimming or decorative hardware recovered from a grave feature at the site. The piece was manufactured by the Meriden Britannia Company as illustrated in an 1880 company catalogue.

    Through background research into available death records and cemetery indices, ACS was able to confirm that at least 23 burials occurred somewhere on the property, but was also able to document almost twice as many individuals on the submitted lists who had been buried in their hometown cemeteries or who had no apparent affiliation with the school. Excavation units were placed in relation to ground penetrating radar (GPR) results which revealed anomalies in an area thought to represent the principal burial grounds. The density of artifacts and interment features encountered in the excavation units indicated that the estimated 50 to 60 graves at the school may have been entirely contained within the burial grounds. Mass salvage testing of the adjacent 11.5 acre impact area also indicated that burials were not within this broader area.

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Ancient Burial Ground, Meriden School For Boys

    During the course of the project, ACS took extra time and care to provide concerned citizens and local media with explanations and eyewitness access to the various phases of the project. Thus through extensive research, various excavation techniques, and communications efforts, ACS was able to provide burial location information for those concerned with the final resting disposition of the young men who had died at the facility. In addition, ACS was able to submit recommendations to preserve the cemetery area and at the same time to allow this large scale development project to take place with only minimal alterations in its design.

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