Virtual Cemetery Tours

Select one of the tours below to explore Sharon’s history from the perspective of the people who now reside in its cemeteries. Enjoy!

Sharon’s Street Names

The Jobs We Had

Sharon’s Civil War Veterans

Self-guided Tour of Hillside Cemetery

Entrance / Introduction: 

Welcome to Hillside Cemetery, Sharon’s primary place of burial since December 11th, 1739. Also known as the Historic Sharon Burying Ground, it is an active cemetery, with our very own Hillside Stoners here every Saturday morning cleaning stones. Hillside Cemetery has an active adoption program called Adopt-a-Grave which funds their efforts. This self-guided tour will introduce you to several of our Hillside residents, whose graves are marked with bright green ribbons. The QR codes at each site will link you to photos, objects, and additional information from the Sharon Historical Society’s collection. Please scan each code.

Stop 1:  Reverend Cotton Mather Smith 1731-1806

We begin with the grave of Cotton Mather Smith, who was educated at Yale (class of 1751) and was ordained as the minister for Sharon Congregational Church in 1755. He was the third minister of the church. Parson Smith proved to be exactly what this fledgling town needed and was an active member of the community. 

 He founded the Sharon Literary Club in 1777, believed to be the first public literary society in American History. The Club would meet just down the street at the Weatherstone Estate, the same home where the famed Noah Webster operated a small boarding school on the third floor. Parson Smith was also the founder of the first medical society in American history and was a staunch advocate of inoculation against smallpox.

He and his wife, Temperance Worthington Smith, had six children. Their son, John Cotton Smith, went on to become the Governor of Connecticut. A plaque on the Sharon Green notes the site of the Congregational Church and a sermon given by evangelist George Whitefield in 1770.

Stop 2: Ebenezer Gay 1726-1787 

 Ebenezer Gay moved to Sharon in 1774. Gay was a merchant with a growing family and built the Gay-Hoyt historic house at 18 Main Street in 1775. The house now serves as the Sharon Historical Society and Museum. Gay is most notable for his role during the American revolution. As a Lieutenant-Colonel in Connecticut’s 14th Regiment, he commanded the Sharon militia at the Battle of Ridgefield and the Battle of Saratoga.  Ebenezer Gay was also one of the three men in Litchfield County who financed the continental army. Unfortunately for Lieutenant Colonel Gay, these financial commitments proved to be ruinous, for he died insolvent in 1787.

Between Stops 2 and 3:

Hillside is an active cemetery and people are dying to get in here 😉 The oldest graves are all at the front of the cemetery, with many of the newer stones further down the hill. Two acres of this land were purchased from the King Family in 1812 for $244. The Kings lived on 12 Main Street, the brick house on your right as you first enter the cemetery. 

Stop 3: Dr. Jerome Chaffee 1873-1947

Dr. Jerome Stuart Chaffee founded Sharon Hospital in 1909, an institution that he dedicated his life to. Born in Amenia, NY, Chaffee was a Yale graduate who received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He went on to serve as a surgeon with the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War and was active during the Philippines campaign. For his service, he won three medals that are in at the historical society’s collection. Dr. Chaffee also served as the Captain of the Sharon Home Guard during World War I. After the war, when the new Sharon hospital building was erected, Dr. Chaffee performed the first operation – an appendectomy.

Stop 4: Judson Bostwick 1817 – 1859

Mr. Bostwick is most famous as the inventor of the Sharon mousetrap. The assembly of these traps was a veritable cottage industry that involved the whole community. It was a job that required small and nimble fingers. As an after-school activity, children would bring in extra income for their families by assembling traps from rough lumber and Jewett iron. By the mid-1800s, Sharon became known as “the Mousetrap Capital of the World.” Though others are credited with inventing the mousetrap, Bostwick’s traps are distinct from the spring-loaded design that became ubiquitous decades later. Sharon mousetraps come in many varieties, with some designed to leave the mouse alive (and to be let go later). Others can trap up to six mice at once. Judson died of typhoid fever at age 42. His son Albert inherited his father’s inventive mind and was referred to as a mechanical genius.

Stop 5: Lawrence Van Alstyne 1839 – 1933

 Although he grew up in Amenia, NY, Lawrence Van Alstyne became Sharon’s historian in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. His work laid the foundation of the Sharon Historical Society and Museum’s collection, and his many books chronicle his own life and the town’s history. Genealogists are in his debt for meticulously organizing Sharon’s birth, marriage, and death records over a 150 year span. He wrote about Sharon during World War I, women’s suffrage, local merchants, and manufacturing. His most personal work, Diary of an Enlisted Man, is a memoir of his service in the Civil War as a second lieutenant in the 90th Regiment of Colored Troops (Union soldiers). While serving in Louisiana, he met Henry Holmes, whom you will meet later on this tour.

Mr. Van Alstyne is also very significant in the history of this cemetery. In 1915, as treasurer of the Sharon Burying Ground Association, Van Alstyne helped raised $2500 to build the wall around the cemetery which still stands to this day.

Stop 6: Sarah Juckett 1844-1888

We know more about Sarah Juckett than most of our Hillside residents because her journal, from 1878 to 1881, is part of the Sharon Historical Society and Museum’s archival collection. Sarah, her husband Elijah, and their two children, Mattie and Charlie, lived on West Woods Road in Sharon. They farmed, raised pigs, and churned a lot of butter. 

Sarah’s daily entries always started with the weather and covered various aspects of life on the farm with her family. One entry from Monday, January 20th, 1879, reads: 

“Clear and cold. I feel some better. I knit on Mattie’s mittens and Mrs. Griswold washed. Sant Wheeler and Henry Odel came up and got their ferret that they had lost and got another rabbit. They brought the ferret in the house. He was a pretty little fellow and gentle as a kitten. Lige went up to Sharon and got me some medicine. When he came back, he took a load of ore over to Cornwall.”

Sarah frequently refers to not feeling well or being sick in her journal. She writes about being in pain to the point that she sometimes needed morphine. It is not clear what Sarah’s illness was, but she died on March 30, 1888, at the age of 43.

Stop 7: Henry Holmes: unknown – 1887, approximately 70 years

Here is the grave of Henry Holmes, one of our most unique and important residents. His story is linked to Lawrence Van Alstyne, or Lt. Larry, as Henry called him. At that time, Second Lieutenant Van Alstyne was stationed in New Orleans, and one of his main assignments was to recruit freed slaves to serve in the Union Army. In 1863, a group of self-emancipated, formerly enslaved persons made the 90-mile trek from Baton Rouge to New Orleans in the hopes of joining Mr. Lincoln’s army. Unfortunately, Henry was declared unfit for duty due to having a limp. At Van Alstyne’s urging, fellow lieutenant George Gorton asked Henry to come work for him in camp to help with cooking, cleaning, and general chores – Henry accepted. As time went on, Henry expressed a strong desire to go north. Both George Gorton and Van Alstyne agreed that whoever got leave first, would take Henry with them, and bring him to Amenia. In early 1864, Van Alstyne was granted leave and, with Henry, boarded a steamer to New York City. After a journey fraught with misdirection and misadventure, Henry finally made it to Amenia where he most likely stayed until the end of the war. Soon after, Holmes moved to Sharon along with Lieutenant Van Alstyne. Though Henry Holmes does not appear to have owned any property, he is listed in the Sharon voters list of 1874. Henry worked as a laborer, was self-supporting, and a member of the Methodist church. He died in 1887 and had made such an impression on the local community, that three ministers took part in his funeral services. His epitaph, summing up a life of self-determination and self-emancipation reads: “Free at Last.”

Stop 8: Governor John Cotton Smith 1765 – 1845

To bring our tour full circle, we are ending with the son of the man we began with. This is the grave of Governor John Cotton Smith, the 23rd governor of Connecticut, who stewarded this state during the War of 1812. He is this state’s last federalist governor, ending that party’s dominance in New England politics. Before becoming governor, John Cotton Smith was a lawyer who received his degree from Yale University and went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Later in life, Smith retired from politics but remained involved in academic and religious organizations. He was a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Connecticut Historical Society, and was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813. He served as president of the American Bible Society from 1831 until his death in 1845.


As you can see, there are still many stones in need of cleaning and repair. Please consider participating in the Hillside Cemetery’s Adopt a Grave Program for $50.00, which helps purchase materials to clean the stones. The cost to repair broken or fallen stones is much greater, at approximately $1,000/stone. To adopt a grave or make a donation please contact Marel Rogers, president of the board of directors for the Historic Sharon Burying Ground/Hillside Cemetery at Thank you for taking the time to tour Hillside Cemetery, we hope you’ve had a wonderful time getting to know your neighbors.

Sharon’s Street Names

The names of the roads here in Sharon are all uniquely tied to the history of their locations. In this tour we will explore the people connected to four roads: Calkinstown Road, Gay Street, Jewett Hill Road, and Williams Road.

Stephen Calkin (Calkinstown Road)

In the photo below, Board of Trustees member Charles Tomlinson (who lives on Calkinstown Road) shares the story of Stephen Calkin during our 2006 Hillside Cemetery tour. Calkin (1706 -1781) came to Sharon from Lebanon, CT, and was one of the original proprietors of our town. Stephen Calkin purchased two land lots in 1738, at an auction in New Haven.


These original Sharon Home Lots #31 and #35 were located near the intersection of Calkinstown Road and Williams Road, and west of Low Road (Rte 41) north of Beardsley Pond, respectively. The land sold at auction amounted to about 700 acres per lot and each lot cost about $1,000. In order to retain title to their land, the purchasers were required to clear and fence six acres of land, and build a house not less than 18′ x 18′.

Twenty-eight of the purchasers built houses on their lots and twenty-two resold theirs. Calkin was one of sixteen who chose to settle in the new frontier town, establishing a dynasty that stayed in Sharon for several generations.

Stephen’s first wife was Mary Curtis, who died in 1753, probably after giving birth to their 8th child, Elisha. After her death he married Elizabeth Heath, who bore him two more sons.

In his will, he stated that he had been a horse and cattle drover and had owned a sloop named “Ann”. He also noted that he had been fortunate to own land in Heron, Lebanon and Sharon, and that he was a patriot during the Revolution.

The earliest reference to the Calkinstown Road is in a deed from Stephen Calkins of 40 acres, including his house and barn, to his son Amos in 1780, the year before Stephen died.


Ebeneezer Gay (Gay Street)

Also buried in the old section of the Hillside Cemetery is Ebenezer Gay.

The house that Gay had built on Main Street is now home to the Sharon Historical Society, and is known as the Gay-Hoyt House, in honor of its builder and Miss Ann Sherman Hoyt, who donated it to the society.

Ebenezer Gay (1725-1787) was born in Litchfield , CT, the son of John Gay, Esq. and Lydia Colver Gay, who had lived in Dedham, Massachusetts. In 1743, John and Lydia moved to Sharon, purchasing Lot #39 from Israel Holley. The Gays had four sons: John, Ebenezer, Fisher and Perez.

Gay’s services to Sharon’s civic life were many. He was Constable from 1760-1769, served as Tax Collector in 1763 and was re-elected six times to that position. He served as Selectman in 1766 and again thirteen terms after that. In 1770 and 1772, Gay was a Grand Juror, served as Assemblyman from 1775 to 1778, and was the Town Treasurer in 1775 and for seven additional terms.

During the Revolutionary War, Ebenezer was a Major, in charge of Colonel Charles Burrell’s 14th Connecticut Militia Regiment, a detachment of 300 to 500 men.


In 1777, he sat on a committee to care for the families of those serving in the Continental Army, and in that year was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In 1778, Ebenezer was procuring clothing for the Continental Army, and used his own funds to pay for large quantities of military equipment and supplies. The Connecticut Promissory Notes were unsupported, and Ebenezer lost his fortune, as did many patriots who borrowed or posted their own funds for the Revolution. Ebenezer died intestate on July 16, 1787.

Caleb Jewett (Jewett Hill Road)

Mark and Liam as the Caleb Jewett family during our 2004 Cemetery Tour.

Caleb Jewett (1710-1778) moved from Norwich to Sharon in 1743. He first occupied the lot, where Governor Smith later lived, which is now Weatherstone (58 South Main Street). Caleb sold that lot to Deacon Elmer in 1744, and bought land from Samuel Chapman.

The Caleb Jewett house was built at what is now #1 Jewett Hill Road, the crossroads of Jackson Hill, Fairchild, Sharon Mountain and Jewett Hill Roads.

Jewett was married twice. His first wife, Rebekah, died on July 15, 1764 at the age of 46. His second wife, Faith, died on March 8, 1787 at the age of 65. The children of both marriages were numerous: four sons – Caleb, Nathan, Thaddeus and Alpheus; and five daughters – Mary, Jerusha, Rebecca, Irene and Sybil.

Jewett was active in Sharon politics, serving as a Representative to the State Assembly and as Selectman for 12 years. On August 20, 1755, Jewett, Stephen Calkin, and Jonathan Gillette were authorized to procure materials and build a scaffold for the ordination of The Reverend Smith. Each man was referred to as “Lieutenant”.

Jewett’s family continued to thrive in Sharon, and the Jewett Manufacturing Company made shot and shell for the Hotchkiss Company’s firearms. The company also produced malleable iron used to make a variety of items, from garden tools, to oxen shoes and belt buckles.


Sharon at this time was known as the “Mousetrap Capital of the World”, and Jewett iron was used in the manufacture of this invention of Judson Bostwick. Small children were employed to put the small pieces of the traps together, an after school activity which brought extra income to the families in Sharon.

Alpheus Jewett, who lived to the ripe old age of 86, was the father of the Reverend William Jewett of New York and also of the Honorable Judge Jewett. Methodist meetings were often held in Alpheus Jewettt’s home until the Sharon United Methodist Church was erected in 1835.

Caleb Jewett is buried in lot number 308 of the old section of the Hillside Cemetery, with the epitaph:


“Let not the dead forgotten be, Lest we forget that we must die”

Ira Williams (Williams Road)

Ira Williams (1790-1877) bought the house at 138 Calkinstown Road, at the corner of Williams Road, from James Calkins in 1833, and it remained in the Williams family for over 100 years. The original house no longer exists but is remembered by many people in Sharon today.

Ira was an important person in the construction and the life of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Sharon. He is listed as the first subscriber to the building of the church, the only one who promised $200. His brother Elijah (1788-1842) promised $100 and all subscribers promised to give one half of their subscription at the time they signed the list and the second half at the completion of the church building. At a meeting of the Episcopal Society of Sharon in January 1835 Ira was listed as a member of the church society and a trustee of the society. He was aIso appointed to the Building Committee as was Elijah. Elijah was chosen as treasurer of the Society. The two brothers were also noted as members of the group who bought land for a horse shed to be built next to the Church in 1839.

Ken Edholm as Ira Williams during our 2006 Cemetery Walk. Ira & Melissa Williams are in Section B, lot number 23.

Despite his obvious commitment to the Church, in regard to both time and money, his great-great nephew, Harris Bartram Moulton, in a 1967 letter, made fun of the plaque to Ira inside the church, saying “Uncle Ira was nothing but a damned skinflint.”

Nonetheless Ira was honored by the town of Sharon when Williams Road was named after him and his family. An elegant pair of portraits of Ira Williams and his wife Melissa, painted in 1840 by Ammi Phillips, hangs together in the library at the Sharon Historical Society.

That concludes our Tour of Sharon’s Street Names. Our next tour focuses on “The Jobs We Had,” a tribute to the men and women who lived and worked here in Sharon.

The Jobs We Had

In this tour we will explore the people connected to jobs and businesses here in Sharon: George Marckres, Nina Juckett Bartram, Henry & Edward Gillette and Adonijah Maxam.

Henry & Edward Gillette (Storekeepers)

Henry Martin Gillette (1827 – 1870) and Edward Franklin Gillette (1830 – 1906) came from Canaan, CT. Henry and Hiram Weed were partners in the Calkinstown area in an iron foundry which remelted iron for the manufacture of a wide variety of items. Weed, famous for his major role in the local iron industry, married the Gillettes’ sister Abigail. In 1859 Henry and Elijah Knight together operated a store under the name of Knight & Gillette but the partnership did not last long; Elijah Knight soon moved to Danbury.


The Gillette Brothers purchased the store at the head of Main Street on September 1, 1860. It soon became known as the Gillette Store, selling all kinds of hardware and furniture. The business thrived until 1865 when Henry moved to Salisbury to open a store with Henry J. Bissell, a former clerk in the Sharon store, under name of Gillette & Bissell. Henry Gillette died in 1870 at the young age of 43.

Edward continued to operate the Sharon store and in 1893 his son Edward Franklin “Frank” Gillette, Jr. (1875 – 1909) became a partner, at which time the store came to be known as E.F. Gillette & Son. The store was a grand emporium selling food, tools, bolts of cloth, furniture, baby carriages, patent medicines, rifles, shotguns, a variety of notions and many other things. After Edward’s death in 1906, his son continued the enterprise until his own death in 1909 when it was left to his sister Elizabeth. Her husband, Clarence H. Eggleston (1812 – 1893), was a pharmacist and publisher of local photographic postcards.


Many accolades were bestowed on the Gillette brothers and their families. It was said that they were “prominent in both church and community; it is doubtful if any family has ever left a lasting impression of goodness than the Gillettes.” There were “no black sheep among them to mar an otherwise clean record. The name was never associated with a movement that had not for its end the betterment and its people.” When Edward, Jr., better known as Frank, died it was said, “When word got around that Frank was dead the community received a shock it will long remember. It will be a long time before the people of Sharon could realize that Frank was dead, and longer still before the responsibilities he had carried would be shifter to other shoulders.”

Edward Sr. was a trustee of the Hotchkiss Library and a deacon of the Congregational Church.

Henry Gillette is buried in Section G, lot number 8, of the Hillside Cemetery.

Edward F. Gillette is buried in Section B, lot number 18, of the Hillside Cemetery.

E. Franklin Gillette, Jr., is buried in Section L, lot number 28, of the Hillside Cemetery.

Adonijah Maxam

Adonijah Maxam (1754-1850), son of Adonijah and Kezia Maxam, settled on the Ellsworth Pike section of Sharon shortly after the town was opened in 1748. He married twice, first to Zilpah (1758-1813) and then to Catherine Hosford. His children were Elijah (1785-1786), Anna (1787-1847), Calvin (1790-1812), Almira (??) and John (1807-1808). Adonijah outlived all of his children and both wives.

In the Revolutionary War, Maxam served in the 3rd Company of the 4th Regiment. The Regiment marched north toward Canada, but stopped at Crown Point and Ticonderoga to do guard duty at the forts that had been captured by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys.


By September of 1775 Maxam and the Ethan Allen Boys were laying siege to St. Johns on the Richelieu River, just 20 miles below the city of Montreal. On September 25th they crossed the St. Lawrence River to take on the British at Montreal. Their attack was both outnumbered and outgunned by the British, and after taking a number of losses, Ethan Allen ordered his men to drop their arms and surrender.

Maxam’s next months as a POW were spent in the hold of a prison ship, shackled in irons, living on salt pork, water and ½ cup of rum a day. The prisoners were taken to Falmouth, England, where they were displayed to British nobles as if they were exotic animals.

The prisoners were convicted as traitors, but retaliatory measures from the American colonies were strong enough to cause them to be brought back to New York in the spring of 1776.

The prisoners were granted daily exercise in an old churchyard, where they found a loose board in the surrounding fence. The prisoners pried loose the board, escaped to Long Island and scattered to their homes. Maxam returned to Sharon and was toasted as a hero.

After the war, Adonijah worked as farmhand for Caleb Jewett’s son Alpheus. He joined the Methodist Church. In 1832, Maxam appeared before the Sharon Probate Court, apparently because there were no written documents proving his service or his honorable discharge. He gave a detailed sworn deposition and then relinquished any claim to any pension or annuity. Much of the information here came from that deposition.

Adonijah Maxam is buried in Section B, lot number 26 in Hillside Cemetery.

On the back of his stone is the following epitaph:

As a true Patriot he served his country faithfully in the war of the Revolution.

As a friend he was warm and constant in his attachments, while he was strongly
opposed to those he deemed the enemies of his country and of the Christian faith.

As an honest man, a useful citizen and a devoted Christian he lived respected
and died lamented.

Sharon’s Civil War Veterans

In this tour we will explore the lives of three Civil War veterans: William Henry Ingraham was a musician in the war; George H. Foote was a member of 29th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Company E.; Charles F. Sedgwick served as moderator for the many town meetings that were held as Sharon prepared to send men to fight in the Civil War. Included in this section is a freed slave, Henry Holmes, who was able to make his way to Sharon because of the Civil War.

William Henry Ingraham


William Ingraham (1830-1913) was probably born in Amenia, NY, but by 1850 was a Sharon resident along with his parents Weston and Phebe Ingraham and several siblings. Ingraham enlisted in the 2nd Connecticut Volunteer Heavy Artillery Regiment, Company B, as a Private on August 11, 1862. He was promoted to Full Musician. His duties might have included entertaining troops in camp, but he would definitely have had the responsibility of keeping troops in cadence while marching, and signaling commands and calls during battle. Musicians also served as medics, assisting field surgeons and helping to evacuate the wounded and bury the dead.

Such skills were certainly needed as the 2nd Connecticut fought at Cold Harbor, Virginia, from May 31- June 12, 1864. Cold Harbor was a vital crossroad, and General Grant threw everything he had at the Confederates defending that crossroad. Grant lost 7,000 men in 30 minutes, and would have lost more had his commanders obeyed his orders to advance one more time. Grant was later quoted as saying this was the only attack he wished he had never ordered.

Ingraham survived the Battle of Cold Harbor, and was mustered out of the 2nd Regiment on August 18, 1865 at Fort Ethan Allen, Washington D.C.

For more information about the 2nd CT Volunteer Heavy Artillery and their catastrophic losses at Cold Harbor, visit their website at

George H. Foote

George H. Foote (1829-1909) was a farmer living in Sharon with his second wife, Sarah, when the Civil War broke out. He enlisted in the army as a member of the 29th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Company E. The 29th was a black militia, whose members had to wait until Congress passed two acts allowing the enlistment of African Americans on July 17, 1862. Massachusetts mustered two regiments in 1863, the 54th and the 55th. Connecticut formed the 29th from October to December of 1863, and a full quota was finally reached in January of 1864.


The 29th was mustered into service on March 8, 1864, under Colonel William B. Wooster, but they were not issued muskets until April 6th. The Regiment distinguished itself for the remainder of the year of 1864, fighting at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, from August 14 to the 24th; Chapman’s Farm, Virginia, on September 29th; Fort Harrison, Richmond Virginia until October 1st; Darbytown Road, Virginia October 13th and Fair Oaks, Virginia, October 27th and 28th.

In 1865, the Regiment garrisoned the line of forts along the Newmarket Road, ensuring that supply lines were kept open during the last year of the Civil War. By March of that year they were placed back in Fort Harrison until the end of the war.

On November 24, 1865, the 29th Regiment was discharged and paid in Hartford, Connecticut. The Regiment had lost during service 1 officer and 44 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in battle, and 1 officer and 152 enlisted men lost to disease. Company E lost 1 man to battle, 16 to disease, 16 were wounded and 10 were discharged for disability. After the war Foote resided in Salisbury, Connecticut. No information is available about his life after his service in the Civil War.

Charles F. Sedgwick


Charles Sedgwick was born on September 1, 1795, in Cornwall Hollow, the son of John Andrews Sedgwick. He was the grandson of General John Sedgwick, who served as Major General of the Connecticut State Militia in the Revolutionary War, and he was also a direct descendant of the Puritan Robert Sedgwick who arrived in the American Colonies in 1636. C. F. Sedgwick died in Sharon on March 9, 1882.

Sedgwick graduated from Williams College in 1813, and studied law under Judge Cyrus Swan, whose daughter Betsy he later married. He and Betsy had ten children. His service to the State of Connecticut included serving in the State Militia as Major General, holding the office of State’s Attorney for Litchfield County, serving in both branches of the Connecticut State Legislature and being Justice of the Peace of the County of Litchfield in 1864.

He served as moderator for the many town meetings that were held as Sharon prepared to send men to fight in the Civil War.

Sedgwick wrote the General History of the Town of Sharon in 1842. The fourth edition of this invaluable history was published by the Sharon Historical Society in 2000.

Charles F. Sedgwick is buried in section F, lot number 11, of the Hillside Cemetery.

 Henry Holmes

by Lawrence VanAlstyne

In 1863, a group of self-emancipated, formerly enslaved persons made the 90-mile trek from Baton Rouge to New Orleans in the hopes of joining Mr. Lincoln’s army. Among them was Henry Holmes.  Unfortunately, Henry was declared unfit for duty due to having a limp. Overseeing the recruitment of freed slaves was the 90th U.S. Colored Troops Regiment, which included men from Dutchess County, New York. Lieutenants Lawrence VanAlstyne and George Gorton, from Amenia, New York witnessed Holmes’s rejection. At VanAlstyne’s urging, fellow lieutenant George Gorton asked Henry to come work for him in camp to help with cooking, cleaning, and general chores – Henry accepted. As time went on, Henry expressed a strong desire to go north. Both George Gorton and VanAlstyne agreed that whoever got leave first, would take Henry with them, and bring him to Amenia. In early 1864, Van Alstyne was granted leave and, with Henry, boarded a steamer to New York City. After a journey fraught with misdirection and misadventure, Henry finally made it to Amenia where he most likely stayed until the end of the war. Soon after, Holmes moved to Sharon as did Lawrence VanAlstyne. Though Henry Holmes does not appear to have owned any property, he is listed in the Sharon voters list of 1874. Henry worked as a laborer, was self-supporting, and a member of the Methodist church. He died in 1887 and had made such an impression on the local community, that three ministers took part in his funeral services. His epitaph, summing up a life of self-determination and self-emancipation reads: “Free at Last.”

Page from Voting List
Voting Register in which Henry Holmes is listed.