October 15, 2012

No right-of-way to historical cemetery

Westport seeks right-of-way to historic Old Burying Ground

WESTPORT — The Old Burying Ground is partially hidden in the center of town, just a few dozen yards off Main Street.

It’s in the center of Old Arsenal Road’s loop, a berm of land on the ridge overlooking Lake Champlain.

The old cemetery dates to years before Westport was chartered in 1815 and separated from Elizabethtown.

The 26 or so known souls laid to rest in the quiet earth might have called the settlement by its earliest name, Bessboro. 

The first burial in the wooded grove was in 1810, according to a gravestone survey of the site in done 1948.

The cemetery was abandoned sometime in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century; the last known burial was in 1881. 

The historic graveyard was unkempt and abandoned when Caroline Halstead Royce published “The History of Bessboro” in 1904. 

For decades, the town, it’s council, historians and others have tried to establish a right-of-way to reach the squarish half-acre or so.

Deeds show how adjoining properties were divided and sold, closing in the site in centuries of growth.

Stories the cemetery kept in silence might tell how Lake Champlain wilderness grew from pioneer homesteads into orderly village streets.

And now Westport is moving to reclaim its Old Burying Ground.


Resident Sue Frisbie is working carefully to sort and cipher, collect facts and find resources.

Her husband, Rick Frisbie, and their children have ancestors buried there — one stone is marked “Jabez Frisbie Who died March 16, 1844. In the 42nd year of his age.”

His infant child lies nearby, her short life remembered as: “Elizabeth daugh. of Jabez & Eliza A. Frisbie, died Jan. 23, 1828 Æ 6 months.”

Mrs. Frisbie sees the Old Burying Ground as a town treasure.

“Years ago, the cemetery was cleaned. But the gravestones were piled up on top of each other,” she said.

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