The Damned Story: One of the oldest surviving cemeteries in the U.S.—and North America—Milford Cemetery is the final resting place for an interesting group of historical figures as well as allegedly home to the mysterious ghost of a woman in white.
The city of Milford is one of the oldest in Connecticut, dating to 1639, so it’s no surprise it has a cemetery of a similar age—if you have a place where people live, you’ll eventually have a place where people die. The first person to be interred in this cemtery was William East’s infant son, who was laid to rest June 18, 1644.
Since then, hundreds of Milford residents have been buried here, showcasing a wide range of monuments and memorials.
The best-known epitaph in the cemetery—or perhaps in all of Connecticut—is the stone of Mary Fowler, who died in 1792 at the age of twenty-four.
Molly tho pleasant in her day
Was suddenly seized and sent away
How soon she’s ripe how soon she’s rotten
Sent to her grave and soon forgotten
Who says those Puritans didn’t have a morbid sense of humor?
In addition to Mary, the cemetery serves as the final resting place for three governors of Connecticut: Charles Hobby Pond, who died in 1861; Robert Treat, who helped to found the city of Newark, New Jersey, and died in 1710; and Jonathan Law, who died in 1750.
Also in the cemetery is a large obelisk of red sandstone dedicated to 46 Revolutionary War soldiers who died of smallpox in 1777 along with Milford-born Captain Stephen Stow, who cared for them and subsequently died from the disease himself.
Additionally worth noting is the striking memorial of Nathan A. Baldwin, which features a large, glass-encased life-sized sculpture of a weeping woman. Some believe that like so many others, Baldwin, who died in 1898 at the age 74, wanted to leave a dramatic reminder of the grief that was to be felt in his absence; it is also speculated that the memorial was also a touching tribute to his daughter, who died before him—the weeping woman.
Speaking of women, there have been reports of a ghostly specter of a lady in white roaming the grounds at night. Of course, like with any ghost sighting, no one knows the supposed spirit’s identity. Given the history of this particular patch, there are plenty of suspects from which to choose.
Our Damned Experience: We visited Milford Cemetery on a sunny spring day in 2017. As with most cemteries during daylight hours, we were the only living beings to be seen.
We were immediately drawn to the aforementioned memorial for Nathan Baldwin at the center of the cemetery, which is fairly visible from any direction.
As you might expect, the main figure is a remarkable piece of sculpture, a life-sized woman consumed in grief.
Besides being grandiose and unusual, something about the statue being inside a giant glass case also sort of makes it a bit creepy.
Anyway, like many other Victorian-era memorials, it features ornate details. Each corner of the rectangular monument features a carving of a woman, each wearing a crown inscribed with a different characteristic: love, grace, hope and charity.
Modest, it’s not.
Exploring more, the oldest section of the cemetery is at the southeastern corner, close to the Metro-North tracks. This is where you will find the grave of former governor Jonathan Law and a few nice examples of the flying death’s head motiff, which was popular among Puritans.
After a little time in this section, we found Mary Fowler’s grave—except there was a replacement marker because the original was stolen by vandals a few years ago. The original was eventually recovered by police, but apparently has not been put back in place, so the replacement stone remains.
A little disappointing, but apparently necessary to protect history.
Finally, we saw the monument dedicated to Capt. Stow and the smallpox victims. Given the customs and history of the time, it’s very unlikely those killed by the disease would have been buried in the cemetery. A few searches have been undertaken by historians to determine the exact location of the mass grave, but we haven’t found any sources confirming it’s be discovered yet.
As for the white lady—during our daytime visit, we didn’t see anything otherworldly. Just a wonderful historic cemetery, open for anyone to enjoy.
If You Go: Milford Cemetery is located in downtown Milford, with access available from Cherry, Prospect and Gulf streets—if you’re setting your GPS, it’s 35 Gulf Street. It is open daily from dawn until dusk.