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The Missing Gravestone Of David Allis

David Allis headstone was to the right of the
other family stones. Click on images to enlarge.

David Allis was one of the most prominent men in 18th Century North Bolton (Vernon). Buried in 1789 in the Old North Bolton Burying Ground his gravestone vanished nearly 70 years ago and turned up recently in a most unexpected place. This is the story of Allis, his missing gravestone, where it was found, and how it is being restored.

David Allis was born in 1720, the year the town of Bolton was formed by Connecticut's Colonial government.

His father Nathaniel (1685-1751) was one of Bolton's first settlers and as such received a 100 acre Homestead building his farm in the northern section of town. As did most of the proprietors he took his part in establishing the church, the town government and building the new community.

David was one of 12 children including 6 sons, but was the only son to remain in North Bolton. When he married he bought property on the Tankerhoosen River where he established his Homestead, but also built a saw mill and the first grist mill in that section of town. There he flourished and became one of the town leaders.

In 2017 it was found as part of
a Vernon Center patio.

The population of North Bolton grew and the 5-7 mile journey to the meeting house each Sunday became more of a burden. The Colonial government was petitioned for a new parish and finally in 1762 this was granted. David was one of the leaders in this effort as his house was used for planning meetings and for church services until the new meeting house could be erected. David was also active in hiring our first minister, Rev. Ebenezer Kellogg, who would serve the parish for 55 years.

During the Revolutionary War period Bolton hosted many visitors as it was located at the junction of roads from Boston and Providence leading into the Hartford area. Troops, civilian representatives and military leaders passed through with many stopping for a meal or overnight. Among them were Washington, Lafayette, Rochambeau and Franklin. Of particular note Rochambeau's troops in 1781 camped in Bolton on their way to Yorktown.

David was 55 years old in 1775, and played many roles in town during this time. Over the next decade he served as a grand juryman, town surveyor, collector of highway taxes, selectman, fence viewer and town meeting moderator every year from 1777 to 1783.

As he was one of the leading citizens of Bolton David played a leading role in planning the war effort and support, and likely met and conferred with most of the dignitaries visiting town. In 1780 his grist mill, where farmers gathered to exchange news, was a location for public notices.

David did not live long after the war and died in 1789 at the age of 69. Having no sons his property was divided between his wife and daughters. At the time the only cemetery in the parish was the Old North Bolton Burying Ground on Bamforth Road, established in 1751. David's first wife Sarah died 8 years earlier in 1781 and was buried next to David's stepmother Elisabeth. David was buried alongside them.

The three distinctive gravestones were carved by the Manning family whose stones are in most of the 18th century cemeteries in Eastern Connecticut. As David was a relatively wealthy man the three gravestones had elaborate carvings. David's reads:

It has been removed & stored.
In memory of Mr. David
Allis, who departed this
Life, April 27th, 1789
In ye 69th Year of his Life

Death leaves a melancholy gloom
It makes an empty seat.
Ye living mortals all must come,
And join this long retreat.

For the next 150 years the gravestone stood in the now closed Old North Bolton Burying Ground as the only reminder that he ever lived and served the community.

And then it was gone.

During the 1930's a Depression era WPA project recorded gravestones in Connecticut's old cemeteries. David's inscription was also recorded, but sometime after that the stone went missing.

In September 2017 the Vernon Historical Society sponsored a history tour of Vernon Center concluding at the First Congregational Church. There we were approached by a neighbor who told us that when she bought the house she discovered David Allis' broken gravestone in the patio behind her Vernon Center house.

This summer the Vernon Cemetery Commission removed the stone from the backyard. Too damaged to restore, a gravestone restoration expert estimated the cost to replace the stone with the same design and inscription as the original. It will cost about $7,000 to recreate the stone and mount the broken pieces for display. We are currently raising the money to do this.

The new stone will be installed near the circle.

If all goes well David Allis' new stone will be installed in the Old North Bolton Burying Ground next to his family and will be dedicated in 2020 as part of Bolton's 300th Anniversary Celebration. David is representative of the founders of Bolton-Vernon who took responsibility for governing their new town and building and supporting their churches. Many of the other families buried near the Allis' plot were also prominent in town and no longer remembered.

The dedication and 300th Anniversary is an opportunity to remind both Vernon and Bolton of our shared history, the contributions of our first settlers and of the personal responsibility they took in community affairs. Perhaps we can inspire a new generation to become active.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to this project make your check out to 'VHS Cemetery Fund' and mail to Vernon Historical Society, PO Box 2055, Vernon, CT 06066.

» Read more about the Allis family.


(2014). Old Cemeteries of Vernon, Connecticut, U.S.A. 373 pages. An Eagle Scout project conducted by Zachary R. Kline and Michael J. Leonard supported by the Vernon Eduction Foundation. Photographs and GPS data on graves in the Bamforth Road and Dobson Road cemeteries.

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