A mysterious gravestone was found face down in a corner of the Cooley Cemetery on East Street in spring 2018. It was discovered by Cheryl and Chris Klemmer when they stopped to take a picture of the new cemetery sign. The stone was not there in 2014, when they were involved in a Salmon Brook Historical Society project to photograph every Granby gravestone.
The letters are clear and sharp, not weathered, although there is some staining on the monument. The stone does not appear to have ever been erected in a cemetery.
The inscription is oddly spaced and also somewhat strange in the wording.
WAS ERECTED IN 1845
IN MEMORY OF OUR
– AND MARKS
THE GRAVE OF
APRIL 29, 1827
AE 44 Yrs.
We also have the mystery of where this stone has been for 174 years, since 1845 (most likely in someone’s basement). Some very strong people with a pickup truck or owners of a backhoe, probably deposited it in Cooley Cemetery.
Anybody with any information please call Carol Laun at 860-653-3965 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send an anonymous letter to P.O. Box 840, Granby, CT 06035. I would like to add the history and origin of this mystery gravestone to our files. It is not illegal to have a duplicate gravestone in your possession (this one is a duplicate). Several houses in Granby have broken stones or stones with mistakes stored in the basement or used face down at the back door for a step or used to support a weak board in the house. People would not throw away a useful piece of marble. However, it is illegal to have a gravestone that belongs in a cemetery.
The curious gravestones of Sterling Reed
Sterling Reed already has a monument in Cooley Cemetery, but on his stone he is called Starling and his date of death is April 27, 1827. The death date of April 29 appears in the records of the First Congregational Church and is probably correct. He is called Starling in the family Bible records and on one gravestone. He is Sterling in the church records and on the mystery gravestone.
Starling (or Sterling) is buried next to his wife Patty. They were married in 1806. Their gravestones match and share a base, both obviously erected in 1876 when Patty died. It seems that Starling did not have a stone when he died in 1827. Widow Patty (Cooley) Reed married again in 1829 to Robert Case, but chose to be buried next to the husband of her youth.
The wording on Patty’s stone is also a little confusing. It says Patty was the wife of Starling Reed and the widow of Robert Case, which sounds like she was still married to Starling. Actually she was the widow of both men. Robert Case died in 1861 and is buried in the North Canton Cemetery with his first wife, Clarissa.
There are other questions. Why was the stone ordered in 1845 and why was it never placed in a cemetery?
My theory is that, despite the awkward wording, the entire inscription refers to Starling Reed and was ordered by his children. However, finding the children of Starling and Patty was difficult. No births or baptisms were registered. Census records indicate that they had four daughters and one son and probably lived in the Granville Road area. The children were all born between 1806 and 1815.
One daughter was buried in the Cooley Cemetery. Mary (Reed) Pollard died in 1851, age 36. Society files list a son Dennis S. Reed (born 1811) and two daughters, information sent by a researcher. One of the names proved to be incorrect, but the other name provided a treasure trove of information. Almira, the oldest child, born in 1806, was married to Loyal Wilcox of Hartford.
Loyal Wilcox was born in 1800, the tenth child (of 12) of William and Mercy (Case) Wilcox of West Simsbury. He was an extremely successful businessman and when he died in 1879, his probate record covered 1,476 pages and his estate was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Loyal and Almira had four daughters, who all died young, so he left his fortune to his nieces and nephews and to his grandnieces and grandnephews. His will identified nieces and nephews of his wife, which proved that Dennis S. Reed and Louisa (Reed) Aldrich were her siblings and children of Starling Reed. With Almira Wilcox and the deceased Mary Pollard, we have four of the five Reed children.
This information also explains why no stone was ordered until 1845. When Starling died, his children were young and the family was poor. By 1845, the four known children were married and Almira was very wealthy. She lived in a house on Capitol Avenue in Hartford. Loyal and Almira probably paid for the gravestone.
Louisa (Reed) Aldrich died in 1848 age 40; Dennis S. Reed died in 1849 age 36; Mary (Reed) Pollard died in 1851 age 36. Perhaps all these early family deaths are the reason the stone was never placed in a cemetery. Or perhaps no one was sure where Starling was buried.