A tour of the burial sites of interesting Norwalk women and men from the Revolutionary War era is one of the highlights of the Independence Day celebration organized by the Norwalk Historical Society. From 12-1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 4, St. Paul's on the Green, the oldest same-site organization in Norwalk, will host an open house that includes a tour of the church cemetery. The current church at 60 East Avenue is the fourth structure built on that site since its beginnings in 1737.
Historian Madeleine Eckert, who is a member of the Norwalk Historical Society board and a member of the Norwalk-Village Green Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, said, "Among the fascinating people buried in this cemetery are Connecticut's first licensed privateer (pirate) of the American Revolution. Attendees also will hear the story of a soldier killed in the Battle of White Plains in October 1776. His body was brought home 50 miles to Norwalk under a heavy guard that fought Tories all the way."
Based on their extensive research Madeleine and Ed Eckert also will recount tales from the lives of other local residents, including a renowned Colonial silversmith who also was a gunner in the local matross (artillery) company, the sister of one of the foremost Sons of Liberty in America and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's maternal grandparents.
The celebration will move to the historic Norwalk Town Green at 1:30 p.m. for Let Freedom Ring National Bell Ringing Ceremony, which will include singing of the National Anthem, reading of the Declaration of Independence and remarks by honored guest Autier Allen-Craft, the first African-American member of the Daughters of the Revolutionary War in Connecticut. Promptly at 2 p.m. bells will toll 13 times to commemorate the founding of the 13 original states.
From the Green, attendees will process to the Town House in Mill Hill Historic Park for musical entertainment and remarks by special guests. Led by Cheryl Kemeny, singers from Crystal Theatre will perform renditions of three Revolutionary War-era songs that have Norwalk connections -- "American Taxation," "Hale in the Bush" and "Yankee Doodle." Madeleine Eckert's "Did You Know? Little Known Facts About Norwalk During the American Revolution" will focus on the life of Captain Stephen Betts, who not only was the hero of the Battle of Norwalk on July 11, 1779, but also commanded the Forlorn Hope during the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.
Refreshments made from authentic Revolutionary War recipes will include "Muster Day" gingerbread, Aaron Burr cookies, tea cakes and meringue cookies from The Travis House in Williamsburg, Virg. (Madeleine Eckert is a descendent of the Travis family).
Past meets present
Throughout the afternoon, all three of Mill Hill's historic buildings will be open. Norwalk Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, portraying Revolutionary War Town Clerk Samuel Grumman, will greet visitors to the Town House (1835), where they can view the exhibition, "Collected and Cherished: Quilts Made and Collected in Norwalk" and talk with Norwalk Historic Commission Chairman Pete Bondi about his collection of Revolutionary War artifacts. In the Downtown District Schoolhouse (1826), "Schoolmarm" Samantha Kulish will amuse "students" of all ages with examples of early Norwalk educational practices. John Atkin will portray Norwalk's lively colonial governor and welcome visitors to the Governor Thomas Fitch Law Office (c.1720).
The Norwalk Historical Society was incorporated in 1899 with the purpose of promoting and encouraging historical research in Norwalk. After a period of dormancy, it was re-established in 1949 and continues to focus on "the research, preservation and promotion of interest in the history of Norwalk."
For information visit www.NorwalkHistoricalSociety.org or call 203-846-0525.