Among the nearly two dozen cemeteries managed by the Town are the Trumbull, Exeter, and Goshen Cemeteries — each home to graves dating back to the 1700s and with unique historical significance. In addition to some famous figures who are buried here, the gravestones themselves represent some of the finest examples of the early stone carving tradition unique to Eastern Connecticut.
Trumbull Cemetery is the final resting place of several Revolutionary War figures, including Connecticut’s Revolutionary War Governor Jonathan Trumbull and Declaration of Independence signatory William Williams. This cemetery also includes 82 grave stones carved by Obadiah Wheeler, one of the most famous early stone carvers in the region. Several other significant carvers’ works can be found in this cemetery, including the works of John Huntington, Benjamin Collins, Lebbeus Kimball, the Mannings, and the old master John Hartshorne.
Exeter Cemetery is primarily at 19th century cemetery and is even still occasionally in use today (although no plots are available for sale any longer). However, there are also a number of very old stones in the rear of this location dating back to the 1720s. Carvers of these stones include John Huntington, the mysterious Bozrah Devil and the Upswept-Wing Carver, Collins, Bartlett, Haskins, and John Johnson.
Goshen Cemetery is also home to some of the best work by John Huntington as well as impressive stones by Wheeler, the Mannings, Kimball, the Bozrah Devil and the Upswept-Wing Carver, Collins, and two sandstones by John Isham.
The weathered old stones in the three ancient burying grounds in Lebanon tell many stories of the past. Their poignant inscriptions and symbolic imagery are eloquent reminders of the people who settled here over 300 years ago. The hand-carved stones are an early form of American art, reflecting the religious and social history of the colonial period. The historian, family researcher, sociologist, medical researcher, folklorist, artist — all find knowledge and inspiration from their wanderings among the stones. They are peaceful places, too, worth seeking out. The natural beauty of their settings among the rolling hills, valleys and streams provides a restful change from the hustle of daily life. Wind, rain and lichen have taken their toll, but the old stones are irreplaceable artifacts of the past. They are truly outdoor museums, as worthy of preservation as the museums that celebrate the town’s heritage around its equally ancient town green.
Images of many 18th century stone carvings throughout Lebanon cemeteries are available online through the American Antiquarian Society’s Farber Gravestone Collection. Records of the inscriptions from many 18th and 19th century graves are also available online through the Hale Collection. Much more information, including genealogical records, is available through the Lebanon Historical Society.