A glance at history: Exploring Leeds Cemetery in Darien

Sharon Kells has been restoring historical cemeteries in Darien for the last year.

On Hoyt Street, near Holmes School in Darien Connecticut lies the Leeds Cemetery. It is about three quarters of an acre. Leeds Graveyard is dated from 1787 to 1930. The first people, according to the Hale Collection, that were recorded buried at Leeds Graveyard were the following:
Martha Hoyt, daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Leeds who died April 25, 1787 at the age of 32.
Martha’s mother, Elizabeth Leeds Hoyt wife of Nathaniel Leeds died April 2, 1796 at the age of 73  
Mary Gardner wife of Michael Gardner of New York died Sept. 26, 1798 at the age of 31.
Charles Thorp Leeds son of Elisha Leeds and Sarah Thorp died Aug. 31, 1779 at the age of 2 years 1 month and 3 days.
In the History of Stamford, Connecticut by Elijah Baldwin Huntington he writes:
“An interesting letter from H. H. Leeds, Esq., of New York city, to his kinsman, J. W. Leeds of Stamford, indicates the locality of, the family in England. Two brothers, John and William Leeds, once owned mainly the territory on which the present city of Leeds is built, and from them the city takes its name. One of the descendants of William, was that Doctor Leeds, of Clare Hall, Cambridge, who purchased the manor of Craxton, near the middle of the 16th century. Three of his descendants came to America about 1650, one of them settling in Stamford”
There is a tremendous amount of information about the Leeds family in Stamford Connecticut and New York. Cary Leeds bought land from John Waterbury in 1708 and, Martha Leeds who had been living here with her young children, John born in 1714, Isabelle September 1719. John W. Leeds was President of the Stamford Bank and his brother H.H. Leeds was a Lawyer.
The population of the cemetery includes 31 children or that is all that was recorded in the Hale documents which keeps track of most of Connecticut’s cemetery inhabitants. Children in the mid-1800s had a very high death rate of 43.3% before the age of 5. Yellow fever, small pox, malaria, and hook worm infections were some of the diseases that claimed the life of those young children.
An example of a headstone in Leeds Cemetery.

The prominent names in this cemetery are as follows:  
Barrett, Boardman, Brooks, Brown, Burns, Buxton, Charlesworth, Crocum. Davis, Dixon, Fairchild, Ferris, Gardner, Gray, Guiles, Haight, Harris, Hoyt, Husted, Ingersoll, Knapp, Leeds, Mead, Northrop, Porter, Purdy, Raymond, Robins, Scofield, Slawson, Somerville, Steves, Thorp, Walker, Waterbury, Weed, Wessels, Williams, Wilmont, Wilson, Zwart
The stone walls are crumbling at Leeds Cemetery, and of course there is massive overgrowth which usually destroys the tombstones. We have done superficial clean up taking away a lot of the poison ivy that was completely covering the stone walls.
The first and second generations of founders were buried at the Noroton River Cemetery and the third and fourth generations were buried at Leeds Cemetery. Some of Those names are:
Weed, Hoyt, Waterbury, Haight, and Holmes.
It is wonderful that the Beautification Commission of Darien has taken a big role with this cemetery. They have removed branches, trees, and general overgrowth under the direction of Cristina Orsi-Lirot.
Thank you very much to Jayme Stevenson and the town of Darien for hauling away the debris that we leave in front of the cemeteries.
A big thank you to Tracy Root, Karen and David Polett and too many more to mention for all their encouragement and help cleaning up these historical grounds in Darien. We plan to continue working.