A trip through time: Lantern Cemetery Tour Held

Friday, September 26, 2014 9:22 PM EDT


BRISTOL — Bristol’s history was illuminated Friday during the inaugural lantern tour of West Cemetery.

Over 100 people flocked to the historic cemetery at 49 Pound St. for the tour sponsored by the Cemetery Commission, The Bristol Historical Society and the West Cemetery Association. It was funded with a $500 grant from The Main Street Community Foundation.

Many arrived over a half-hour early, while the last rays of the sun were still sinking beneath the horizon. Chris and Darcy Busa of Bristol found out about the event via Facebook and were excited to come.

“My wife and I always like going to cemeteries,” said Chris Busa. “We like looking at the old stones and the history.”

Tom LaPorte led the second group, which was graced with the timely sighting of a bat swooping overhead just as the tour began.

“As long as it isn’t Dracula I think we’ll be alright,” joked LaPorte.

LaPorte then gave some of the history on the cemetery. The first burials, he said, began in the 1830s and over 15,000 people are now interred in the 28 acres of land. Only two plots remain unused.

As the tour commenced, people followed the light of a lantern LaPorte carried and green glow sticks which marked the trail. They stopped at eight monuments, including the Civil War monument and the graves of people who shaped the city’s history. Among them were the graves of the Gaylord, Welch and Mitchell families, the first female teacher Catherine Root, and a former slave who lived to the age of 102. At each site, an actor in period clothing told a brief story about the life and contributions of the person they represented.

As the journey over rolling hills and through history concluded, Elmer Madsen praised LaPorte for helping make the tour happen.

“This was a very nice tour and it I will be sure to be back next year,” he said. “The Root building was still here when I first came to live here but now a lot of the old buildings are gone and many younger people don’t know the history. This is a great way to teach them.”