Local History: Benedict Arnold buried in Chester

Yup. As I was told, a headless Benedict Arnold is buried up in Popple Dungeon. Who knew?

Occasionally, I’m contacted by someone asking what I know about this or that. A while back I was contacted by a letter carrier here in Chester.

Someone on his mail route told him that a headless Benedict Arnold is buried in Popple Dungeon. There is no truth to this.

The Arnold Family burial ground. Photo by Ron Patch.
The Arnold Family burial ground. Photo by Ron Patch.

Several emails were exchanged. This man had made up his mind it was true. I tried to reason with him to no avail. He told me I should resign as president of the Chester Historical Society.

So, I sent him a link to a website with this information: “Benedict Arnold is buried at St. Mary’s Church, Battersea in London, England.” Silence.

I encourage people to learn our history. It’s not uncommon today for people to try and make our history cute. Some like to create a mystery when there is none. Avoid this at all cost.

History is not a mystery. Yes, there is much we don’t know, but that doesn’t make it a mystery – it makes an unknown.

Those who write mysteries often begin with an actual person or event. Then they weave an exaggerated tale that is sometimes mistaken as historical fact by readers. These readers repeat this falsehood to others.

Like poison ivy it spreads. Word of mouth is just as harmful. This is what we’re up against.

The Arnold Cemetery

The Arnold Cemetery is located off Nudist Camp Road on Williams Road. There are a number of people buried here marked only with simple fieldstone grave markers.

Bert Lyons told Virginia Blake Clark that members of the Arnold Family were buried here. Bert’s grandmother was an Arnold.

The photo with this article is the Arnold Cemetery in Popple Dungeon. The tallest markers are about 18 inches tall. Bert had a hand-drawn map showing where different Arnolds were buried. Unfortunately, this map was lost in a fire.

From Virginia Blake Clark’s book “The Source: Popple Dungeon”

“The most interesting informal burial plot is called ‘The Field Stone Cemetery.’ This is located at the crossroads of Pierce and Benelli Roads – earlier called Old Stage Coach Road.

  “In the mid-1900s Mr. and Mrs. Puskey from Massachusetts bought the corner lot and placed on the grounds a nice trailer to use for a summer get-a-way. The rock formations and raised burial plot lent itself to making a perennial garden. The Puskeys built up a low wall surrounding the spot, made narrow foot paths and planted lovely flowers everywhere. They were well into this project before being told by Bert Lyons, a native, that this was the burial ground for the Arnold family. (Bert should know, for his grandmother was from this Arnold family.)

  “This burial ground has narrow, upright natural stones placed at head and the foot of the graves, but none of the graves are marked with names. The Puskeys understood there was a list and chart showing where each person was buried that has been lost in a fire. All were Arnolds save one, whose name was John Rounds. If the Arnolds could see what has happened to the site they would be very pleased to be thus enshrined.”

So you can see someone heard of Arnolds buried here, and concluded Benedict Arnold was among them, thereby effectively rewriting our history. I hope this article will put this falsehood to bed.

Ask Jon Clark about Popple Dungeon. No one knows Dungeon history better than Jon. Virginia’s book is available at Blair Books & More.

Winston Cook, weatherman

Instead of an old saying, I offer a story Lee Decatur told me. It’s how Winston Cook calculated snowstorms: “When I was doing some finish cabinetwork for Winston Cook back in the ’80s, I noticed numbered Post-It notes on his refrigerator.

“Asking why, he told me after each plowable storm, he would remove the highest numbered note. The next number is how many plowable storms remain.”

Winston’s methodology explained: “We just had a plowable storm on Dec. 18. According to Winston, if this snow doesn’t melt, we have 17 plowable storms to go before winter is over. Winston said if the snow melted after being plowed, it didn’t count as one of the storms.”

“Winston acknowledged it was usually pretty close. I have used this method for over twenty years and found that Winston was right,” says Lee Decatur.

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