In October of 1761, Ezra Stiles and a companion, Rev. Nicholas Street, explored the remains of an old Quinnipiac fort, which once stood on a hill at the east end of East Haven’s burying yard. As the pair walked through the cemetery, Stiles measured and made two sketches of the depression in the ground where the fort had been, one of the fort’s position within the town, which is shown above, and another more detailed plan of the ridges at the fort’s base.
The construction date of the Indian fortification is unknown. The forty-foot rectangular depression indicates a shape similar to a fort depicted in Willem Blaeu’s map of New Netherland and New England (1635). Stiles notes that it was used in defense against the Mohegan and the Mohawk, which suggests continued existence into the late 16th – 17th century. Nearby was the fort’s water supply, a pond, that tradition says was spring-fed.
Sometime after the Quinnipiac sachem Momauguin sold the land to English settlers from New Haven in 1638, the land on which the fort stood became part of East Haven village’s town green. In 1707, village authorities dedicated a part of the Fort Hill commons on the south side of the pond as the community’s burial place. According to the historical record, the cemetery was often overrun with cattle, horses, geese, sheep, and calves.
Stiles’ drawing, fifty-four years after the burying yard’s establishment, includes as a reference the grave of the Jacob Hemingway (December 6, 1683-October 7, 1754), the first minister of the Church of Christ in East Haven, and the first student at the collegiate school that would become Yale College. The pond near the fort’s remains was drained in 1895 when the cemetery underwent improvements, but the depression in the ground (left), often called the “Indian bowl,” and Jacob Hemingway’s gravestone can still be seen.
Stiles’ jottings are part of the Ezra Stiles Collection at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. For a transcription of the materials, click here and here. For a more expansive view of East Haven’s Old Burial Ground, click here. Historical information from Sarah E. Hughes, History of East Haven (The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1908). Images courtesy of the Town of East Haven, Google Maps, and Suzanne at Find A Grave.