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Samuel Stone Gets a Statue

April 26, 2005
By MELISSA PIONZIO; Courant Staff Writer

A slightly larger-than-life bronze statue of the Rev. Samuel Stone, the Englishman responsible for co-founding and naming Hartford, has been given a permanent home in front of the city's Ancient Burying Ground.

With its left arm stretched toward the sky, the 1,000-pound statue is a commanding new presence outside the graveyard on the corner of Main and Gold streets. About 20 feet behind the statue, Stone's remains are believed to be buried beneath a table stone dedicated to his memory. Stone is among more than 6,000 people interred at the historic downtown site.

The statue, which will be officially dedicated at 5 p.m. Thursday, is a duplicate of one in Hertford, England, Stone's birthplace. Both statues are the work of English sculptor Henry Tebbutt.

"The statue is a wonderful location,'' said Hartford resident Karen Will, who helped form a sister-city relationship with Hertford. "They are going to be putting a brick walkway into the burying ground that will surround the statue and will be selling the bricks people can put their names on and be a part of the Hartford heritage.''

The existence of the statue is the result of a five-year saga that began with a curiosity visit Will and her husband, Phil, paid to Hertford in 1998.

"We met a man who owned a furniture store which is a couple of doors away from the house where Samuel Stone was born,'' said Karen Will, who was living in England at the time. "There is a plaque on the door that mentions that Stone is the founder of Hartford, Conn. ... It's interesting, they know about him in England but we don't know much about him here.''

According to the town's website (www.hertford.net), Stone was born in Hertford in 1602. He was an ordained minister and a Puritan whose religious beliefs differed from those of the Church of England. In 1633, he boarded a ship called the "Griffin'' with his friend Thomas Hooker and arrived in Boston in September of that year. In 1636, Hooker and Stone led their congregation from New Towne, now Cambridge, Mass., and formed a colony at House of Hope, a Dutch fort and trading post on the Connecticut River.

Although Hooker is well-known in Connecticut as the founder of Hartford, it was Stone who negotiated the purchase of the land from its Native American owners, the Sukiaug Tribe, and named the city after his birthplace.

"Hooker died in 1647 and Stone took over [as minister of First Church] until his own death in 1663, so he was around for a long time,'' Will said.

Keith and Sue Marshall, the furniture shop owners whom Karen Will met in England, later visited Hartford and expressed an interest in forming a partnership. Through Will and others, the Hartford/Hertford Sister City committee was formed, and its members were able to raise $30,000 for the second Stone statue.

"I'm over the moon,'' said Keith Marshall of the partnership. "It's the link between our Hertford and your Hartford. I love your Hartford. I love the scale of it. It's a lovely city. ''

The statue was shipped from England to Hartford in 2003, but spent about a year in the window of the Hartford Visitor's Center on Pratt Street awaiting its new home. The parcel of land where it now stands faces Main Street and was donated to the city by Talcott Realty Investors. The land abuts the Ancient Burying Ground.

"We miss him a little bit ... he held up balloons or drew attention in one way or another,'' said Ken Kahn, executive director of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, where the welcome center is located.

Thursday's dedication ceremony will be attended by the Marshalls and 10 other Hertford residents and friends along with representatives from Sister Cities International, the Ancient Burying Ground Association, The City of Hartford and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. A Sister Cities reception, which will include delegates from Hartford's dozen other sister cities, will follow at the City Hall Function Room.

The English visitors will stay with host families in Hartford and spend about a week here, touring the city and such landmarks as the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe houses and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

They also will participate in a walking tour of Farmington and spend time in New York City and Boston.

"We want our city to come off well,'' Will said. "There are so many things to do that it was hard to limit what to suggest.''

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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