Mysteries of Merriman Burying Ground may soon be uncovered

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – For nearly a decade members of the Southington Genealogical Society, with help from archaeologists, have been trying to piece together the mystery of the Merriman Burying Ground. Now due to “ground penetrating radar” some of those mysteries may be solved.

The burial ground, located on Marion Avenue in Plantsville, dates back to the late 1700s and is believed to be a family cemetery. It was named after the Rev. John Merriman, a Baptist minister. His wife, Jemima, was the buried there in 1764 and Merriman was buried in 1784. Eight of John and Jemima Merriman’s 11 children were buried there, along with their spouses and children.

The last burial was in 1863. In 1934, 37 cemetery gravestones were documented, but some believe there could be close to 50 people buried there.

How many bodies are buried in the cemetery? Where are the gravestones? Where are the graves located? Those are the mysteries yet to be solved.

The genealogical society may have answers after state archaeologists perform a procedure called “ground penetrating radar” on Oct. 29. It was last done at the Merriman Burying Ground in 2005.

Radar is sent from a few feet to 12 feet into the ground, said state archaeologist Brian Jones. It is a process similar to the one used to look for underground pipes during road work.

“We’re looking for any kind of abnormality in the signal,” Jones said. “It’s not always a perfect picture . but usually enough to make an estimate to what might be there.”

The device is slowly dragged over the land and records data on a monitor.

The reason they are redoing the radar is because the grid points from 2005 were difficult to find, Jones said. A few months ago Jones, along with retired state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni, tried to use the map from 2005 to locate the graves and had little success.

“We realized the technology is a little better now,” Jones said.

The hope is to uncover the history of the graveyard so that it can be shared with future generations.

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