The tomb of Gershom Bulkeley was discovered and after consultation with Bulkeley family members, the Colchester Historical Society called in Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, the State Archeologist. He and his team of volunteers which included genealogists, archeologists and forensic specialists spent a total of 12 days in the exhumation of the tomb.
The most interesting part of the exhumation was the discovery of the parts of some 28 coffin lids which enabled the researchers to specifically identify the family members. A few of these coffin lids are displayed at The Colchester Historical Society. Restoration of the tomb took place in the fall of 2002 and spring of 2003. Forensic studies of the remains were completed in early 2003.
In October 2003, the remains were reinterred and the tomb was sealed permanently. A granite marker over the stairwell lists the names of the interred Bulkeley family members.
Gershom Bulkeley was born in Colchester in 1708 and died here in 1788. He was the fifth child of John Bulkeley who arrived here in 1703 as a minister of First Church of Christ.
John and his wife Patience Prentice had 14 children, three of whom are buried in the tomb. Another of their children, also named John, is buried beneath a table top grave marker next to his father's marker at the upper end of the Ancient Burial Ground.
Gershom's tomb was built around the time of his death in 1788 (or perhaps as early as 1775) and this type of tomb has been found in a few other Connecticut cemeteries and date between 1780 and 1840. George Washington is buried in a similar tomb.
The first mention of the tomb was by a Colchester historian, who wrote in the 1920's that he had been in the tomb, and he described it perfectly. The tomb was apparently sealed in 1933 when the minister's son broke into it, extracted a skull and on Halloween paraded around town with the skull on a pole. The next day, four students at Bacon Academy were pressed into service and ordered to seal the tomb by the school's principal.
For the next 70 years the tomb was just a mound of earth that was completely overlooked in the cemetery restoration which began in 1991. In the spring 2002, while clearing the tree line to put in period fencing, town workmen discovered three pieces of a large marble tablet which, when put together, suggested that this mound with some exposed brick work was in fact "the tomb of Gershom Bulkeley and his descendants."
Visit The Bulkeley Room at The Colchester Historical Society Museum to get the whole story on the Colchester Burying Ground. For additional information call 537-3588 or 537-2151. Museum Hours: Saturday & Sunday 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and by appointment.