Redding cemetery tour unveils spies, militia captains and others

At a cemetery tour on Friday, Oct. 27, Redding Historian Charley Couch, dressed in an 18th-Century outfit, stands next to the grave of Jonathan Meeker, member of a prominent family in Redding at the time. ‘Jon Meeker was infamous. There was a little tiff between him and this church. Someone ran off with the records. Jonathan Meeker is the No. 1 suspect,’ Couch said.

In an historic graveyard tour that Redding Historian Charley Couch led Friday, Oct. 27, he spoke about some notable people buried in the Christ Church burial ground on Redding Ridge, including William Heron, a triple agent spy of the Revolutionary War, and Stephen Betts, a militia captain and tavern keeper.

Nearly 40 people attended the tour, despite the cold air and pitch darkness at the cemetery.

“I live here and there’s so much interesting Revolutionary War history,” said Erin Singleton of Redding.

The tour was part of the townwide read initiative of “My Brother Sam Is Dead.”

Couch was dressed in a complete 18th-Century outfit for the event, which Redding Historical Society and the Mark Twain Library co-sponsored.

“My costume reflects the style of the late 18th Century, with a tricorn hat, frock coat over a long vest with breeches and stockings,” he said.

According to Couch, wealthy Loyalist members of Christ Church had a lot to lose for treasonous acts if they went against the Crown.

Couch showed tour-goers a stone grave marker for Hannah Beach, who died at age 18 on Jan. 7, 1759, which reads “An unspoiled life is old age.”

“In April of ’77, 1,900 British Loyalists landed on Compo Beach [in Westport] with a mission to burn supplies in Danbury. They walked down through here on Black Rock Turnpike. Sixteen hundred were captured and put in ox carts. Three of those who died were from Redding. Stephen Betts was one of them,” Couch said at the Betts gravesite.

Redding resident Lisa Raymond was there with her daughter Grace, 11, who said she likes to take pictures.

“She loves spooky,” Raymond said. Their participation was so Grace could take photographs, which she did with her iPhone at many of the graves that Couch included in his talk.

“She’s working on a project to take pictures of abstract things,” Raymond added.

Couch pointed out other historical Redding sites and occasionally talked about  more recent town history.

Pointing out that Karraker Field is across from Christ Church, Couch said, “Francis Sanford had a successful business there. There was a Bible house, a store, an Odd Fellows hall, and an ordinary [which is a tavern].”

“Sanford lived here in 1873. Towns in that time period were expected to have an ordinary,” he added.

Betts’s house and tavern are at 228 Black Rock Tpk., though the story about him is unclear, Couch explained. He was a selectman at the time of his capture with other members of the Redding militia during Tryon’s Raid of 1777. Betts went on to serve with valor alongside Maj. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons during Tryon’s burning of Norwalk in 1779, according to Couch. Stephen Betts owned the town tavern in the period, not Meeker as in the townwide read novel, Couch noted.

 

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  • frustrated commuter

    “Sixteen hundred were captured and put in ox carts…” – check your facts. I think it was 16 Patriots captured, not 1,600.

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