The Missing Headstone Of David Allis
|David's headstone was left of the other
family stones in front of his visible footstone.
Click on images to enlarge.
David Allis was one of the most prominent men in 18th Century North Bolton (Vernon). After Allis' death in 1789, his headstone in the Old North Bolton Burying Ground stayed in place until vanishing nearly 70 years ago. It was rediscovered in a most unexpected place. This is the story of Allis, his missing headstone, 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 for his farm in the northern section of town. As did most of the proprietors he helped establish the church, the town government and build 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 and 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 period. Over the next decade he served as a grand juryman, town surveyor, collector of highway taxes, selectman, fence viewer and town meeting moderator from 1777 to 1783.
As he was one of the leading citizens of Bolton David played a key 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.
|It was been removed & stored.
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 next to them.
The three distinctive headstones 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 headstones had elaborate carvings. David's reads:
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 headstone 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 headstones in Connecticut's old cemeteries. David's inscription was also recorded, but sometime after that the stone went missing.
Finding & Restoring David Allis' Headstone
|Randall Nelson next to the newly installed stone.
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 her house in Vernon Center, she discovered David Allis' broken headstone in a patio behind her home.
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 at about $7,000 to recreate the stone and mount the broken pieces for display.
Money was raised from the community as well as two descendants of David Allis. It was enough to hire Randall Nelson to begin work. Randall is one of the few people that can repair and carve old stones. He has done extensive work at Hartford's Old Burying Ground as well as other projects.
The last part of the funding was through the sponsorship of the Captain Noah Grant Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution; a grant for $1,500 permitting us to complete the project.
David Allis' new stone was completed and installed on June 16, 2020 in the Old North Bolton Burying Ground next to his family.
» See installation pictures.
|Members of the DAR visit the new gravestone.
The Coronavirus lockdown has effected our project as well as so many other things. We planned to dedicate the new stone in 2020 as part of Bolton's 300th Anniversary Celebration as 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 are no longer remembered.
Many of Bolton's 300th Anniversary programs have been postponed and we hope to hold a ceremony for David Allis in the spring of 2021. A grave marking by the Ohio Sons of the American Revolution will probably take place in September 2021.
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 responsibility they took in community affairs. Perhaps we can inspire a new generation to become active.
» 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 Education Foundation. Photographs and GPS data on graves in the Bamforth Road and Dobson Road cemeteries.
Updated October 2020