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Westport Historical Society's Lantern Tour relives the town's rich history Photos and story By Serena Ye '20

Located just off of the Merritt Parkway at 395 Main St, Westport, Connecticut, the Willowbrook Cemetery is quiet, quintessential and beautifully situated in the midst of wildlife and nature. Established in 1847, this non-profit organization's mission is to maintain and ensure an elegant and peaceful cemetery that honors the members of the community. As of today, the cemetery holds 30,000 burial plots and is sprawled over 35 acres of land.
The 9th annual "Lantern Tour", guided by volunteers from the Westport Historical Society, provided a historical and interactive experience with some of Westport's most notable residents. While the tour was only an hour long, it enlightened families on the town's unique and rich past.
The first stop on the tour was Arthur D. Whiteside's tomb. During the 1900s, Whiteside was a businessman and president of Dun & Bradstreet, a company that specialized in information sharing. Some of his most famous clients were Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland and William McKinley.
The tour was led by the Westport Historical Society's Maggie Parkhurst, and attended by a diverse group of people including the elderly, adults and families with children.
The tour also noted on the tombstone of Anne Simbert (1828-1878), the first recorded burial to take place at Willowbrook. Simbert was a farmer who lived during the Industrial Revolution. White stone marble, as seen on this gravestone, is no longer used today because it is too soft and deteriorates over time.
While most of the attention throughout her life was focused on her husband James Earl Fraser, sculptor and artist Laura Gardin Fraser finally had the spotlight on the tour. Together they built a studio next to North Avenue, where Gardin worked on projects as small as coins and as big as life-sized pegasuses. She designed a number of medals for the US government, and was the first woman to design a coin for the US treasury.
This father and son duo reenact Edward T. Bedford and his son Frederick T. Bedford. The elder was an executive of the Standard Oil company and helped bring Vaseline to the market. His son ran a rival corn syrup company, although this did not effect their relationship as they played poker together on their way to work everyday. To this day, their foundation still supports the Norwalk Hospital, the Audubon Society and the Westport-Weston YMCA.
Here, the tourists head over to the next section of the vast Willowbrook Cemetery, which is twice the size of any other in town.
Alice Sherwood (1851-1921) was an average, normal citizen of Westport. Dating all the way back to the 1600s, the Sherwood family was very prominent and large. Having used the land for farming, the Sherwood Island State Park is Connecticut's first state park.

One of the last stops was at Cornelia Hurlbutt's family grave. Hurlbutt was the wife of Willowbrook's architect and founder, Ambrose S. Hurlburtt. He partnered with Frederick Law Holmstead, the designer of Central Park in New York, to create Willowbrook Cemetery. Together, the two envisioned a cemetery with a park-like setting.

The Hurlbutt family was also very large, occupying 20 graves. The Willowbrook Cemetery tries to maintain and keep many of the gravestones clean and organized.
Despite the cold fall weather, the cemetery was sprinkled with little candles and decorations to welcome visitors and families.
Many graves and memorials were dotted with small flags, flowers and memories from friends and family.

Credits:

Serena Ye '20

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