From The Proceedings of the VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY - January 1955
OLD BURYING-GROUND RESTORED by A RESIDENT OF POWNAL
The old God's Acres are lonely spots in many places in Vermont, seemingly forgotten by the living in spite of the stories of lives hidden within them. Now and then, as a labor of love, some one individual recovers the Acre from the fast. The author of this story of the redeeming of an old cemetery wishes to remain anonymous, asking no credit for his work, and we respect his wishes. Editor.
On the west side of the highway about halfway from Pownal Center, Bennington County, to North Pownal, Vermont, is a burying-ground labelled on a map issued by the U.S. Geographical Survey as the "Gardner Cemetery." In the autumn of 1951 a local citizen who had lived all his life in the area, having passed by it innumerable times but never having been in it, was fascinated by its picturesqueness with its three lovely maple trees and its restful fieldstone enclosing wall. He then and there made an exploration.
At first, there was a sort of repugnant feeling. Many of the old marble markers were flat down in the grass. The sumac and the elm brush were grown up, hiding the headstones and in one instance pushing over some fine granite stones. The poison ivy was every- where as he later learned when the stuff had had rime to identify itself on his hands, face, and other parts of his body.
After reading the names and dates on several of the stones, the explorer took time to compare them with data recorded in an old history of the town of Pownal. The result proved that this burial spot had historical significance so far as the town was concerned. In 1952. armed with limited physical power on his own part, with some of his own funds and some money and labor contributed by others, he, began work. It took two seasons of slow puttering to get the job done. It is now quite rewarding to see all the old brush removed, the ground graded and reseeded, and the stones all set up and repaired, many of them set in new concrete bases.
On record in the Pownal town clerk's office is a deed whereby on November 3, 1789, Benjamin Gardner, Jr., conveyed to Benjamin Card a one-half acre plot of ground to be forever used as a burial ground. There must have been burials in there previous to that date because on one stone one may read - Peleg Card - died in 1777 - age 36 years. His son also has a marble marker there.
The date when the stone wall was built is not available. Built out of fieldstones and pieces of large rocks drilled by hand and broken with black powder, it is a good example of the early workman's skill and persistence for permanency. The iron gate was made and set between the cedar posts, and the three maple trees in front were set about seventy-five years ago by Frank Pettibone, who came to Pownal about one hundred years ago from Lanesboro, Massachusetts, and married Harriet Gardner, daughter of one of the many Benjamin Gardners. In middle life he lost an arm in a grain thresher. All during the latter part of his long life of ninety-five years he caused this burial plot to be kept in a tidy condition. He died in 1923, and so far as any stones indicate, he was the last to be buried there.
On the back side of the area and facing the setting sun are four large marble markers which make for historical significance: George Gardner, his wife Elsie, Rev. Elder Benjamin Gardner, and wife Jemima.
George was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1707, the son of Joseph and Hannah Briggs Gardner. The histories say he bought up a large area in the west and north parts of Pownal from the original grantees who probably never saw the grants. They also state he was the first English settler in town. The record shows that at one time or another he held every town office. He was a surveyor and always bore the title of "Esquire." All this would add up to the fact that George was quite important, for the census of 1790 shows there were 282 families and 1732 people in Pownal, and that it was one of the most populous towns in the state. He died in 1801 at the age of 94. He had 11 sons and daughters. At this late date if one were to travel over the northern half of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he might encounter in most any place a descendant.
Elder Benjamin, a younger brother of George, came to Pownal with his wife Jemima soon after George died. He was an ordained Elder and a Baptist preacher. He can be said to have been the founder of the Baptist society in town. In the beginning a homestead was set aside for the use of the preacher. In Benjamin's case it was one of the best 18o-acre plots in Pownal. From what information that is available there was trouble between the Elder and the people over the manner in which the homestead was being used. "The town record book shows that on December 2, 1789, he deeded one whole unit of land to the selectmen, and that is what was the beginning of what is now known as ministerial land. The income from this goes to all religious denominations in town except the Episcopal.
Benjamin was a patriot during the Revolutionary war. He served in the Vermont Legislature in 1779, 1781, 1782, 1784 and 1786. His death came in 1793 The title and actions of many of his descendants indicate that they were much more religiously inclined than those of his brother George, but actual facts prove that a lot of them, not only had no leaning that way, but were hostile to it. In these days when so many people are trying to trace out their family trees. New England is meeting sharp criticism because so many burying-grounds have been allowed to go back to the elements, and because a lot of town records are incomplete. One of the two prime motives for restoring the cemetery was to help searchers find what they were looking for. A lot of people in Pownal and in both Bennington and Berkshire counties can go in there and find data on their first ancestor in Pownal. The Cards, Mattisons, Stillmans, Bennetts, Brownells, Parkers, Welshes, Pitts, Seeleys and many others are resting there with the marble labels above their long-since disintegrated bodies.
Just previous to Memorial Day each year a United States flag is placed on the graves of Charles 0. Monty, Company E 4th Vermont Volunteers, who died June 26, 1866, at nineteen years of age, and Blackman Foster who was a 1st Lieutenant in Company F of the 11th Regiment of infantry of the State Militia. There are other names with military labels before them on other stones. Some people would like to know about Sergeant Jedidiah Purdy who died in 1851 at eighty- four years of age. Captain Abraham Gardner who passed on in 18I5 at sixty-seven, and Captain David Gardner who left in 1867 at the age of eighty.
There is an atmosphere of premature sorrow engraved on many stones. The list of young wives who never lived to see thirty years is quite long, and one Mary Jane Burgess, the wife of Sidney D. Ostrander, passed away in her nineteenth year. It is also quite evident that several of those buried there were of tough fibre and were able to stave off the "Old Reaper." There are six or more who lived to be more than 90 years of age. Besides Frank Pettibone, the ages of George Gardner 94; his wife Elsie 94; Abel Parker 90; Hannah Veiling, wife of John W. Pitt, 96; and the oldest of all, George Gardner, Jr., 102, stand out.
It is rather unfortunate that about the beginning of the 1900'S the granite memorials were put in, creating a marked contrast and somehow taking away something from the historical theme. The lot in front with the handsome monument labelled "Foster" and the ten granite markers were set up and financed by Blackman Foster, a North Pownal boy who along about 1875 went to Chicago, got into the grain exchange, and became well to do. When he died in 1905, he left a sizable contribution to the North Pownal church, and it was used for new pews in the church before it burned in 1910. In Captain David Gardner's lot is a large granite memorial to Lodieska, his daughter, and a marker for David Gardner, a grandson. The granite monument with its simple majestic design in the south front lot creates a request. It would be much appreciated if anyone who reads this and has any knowledge about relatives or descendants of John W. Pitt who died in 1828, and whose name is there in large letters, would write to the town clerk of Pownal.from DAR 8:116-118 Pownal Cemeteries 1938
|Gardner|| Enclosed in fence in North-West corner:
|Gardner|| Enclosed in fence in the North-East corner:
An Infant dau. of David W. & Eunice A. Gardner; d. March 10, 1845
Stone erected by son F.O. Purdy.
|Bovie||Mrs. Tabitha, d. Aug 12th AD, 1818, in her 27th yr.|
|Bennett||Stone erected by Soloman Bennet Esq. in memory of his father:
Rev Francis, d. Apr 9th, 1829, in his 82nd yr.
memory of his mother:
d. Nov 26th,1828; in her 76th yr.
|Additional data found in the Town Clerk's Office Pownal, Vermont on June 27th, 1938.|
|Brownell||Blackman T. 1805 - 1829
Diana 1807 - 1813
Abel 1812 - 1838
|Foster||Betsey Brownell, w. of Dwight Foster 1810 - 1852|
|Gardner||Albina D. dau of David & Eunice gardner; d. Jan 17, 1819; aged 2 y. 7 mo.|
|Mallery||Tabitha Brownell, w. of Isaac mallery, 1820 - 1851|
|Potter||Eliza, w. of Green Potter, d. Nov 30, 1832; aged 31 years|