“We have to bring Betty home,” Barb said with some urgency.
Betty had been with us for the past fourteen years. It was time for her to go home. The problem was we didn’t know where home was. We couldn’t ask her, either.
You see she is two hundred and eighty- eight years, six months and thirteen days old.
Let me explain. Fourteen years ago, we bought our dream home from a sweet elderly couple. They were in their nineties when we met them. Over the course of the next year, we cleaned and cleared a patch of yard that contained a junk and wood pile. That is where and when we discovered Betty. That is to say, we discovered a headstone, quite old, with engravings on it.
In memory of Betty Hide, was etched in the stone. The curved top held an angel face with wings. From the moment we discovered it, the stone became Betty for us.
We could only speculate, at that time, where Betty came from. Our internet use was limited to email. No big search engines or smart phones in those days.
We called the previous owners to get some answers. The answers were garbled and had something to do with a meeting of a women’s group at the home. Someone had brought Betty there and left her. Why the grave marker never went back to the person who brought it was not clear. The headstone sat around the yard for some time. At one point, while getting the property ready for sale, Bob wanted to pitch the stone into the pond behind the house. His wife wouldn’t let him. Thank God. Both he and his wife died within five years of selling the property to us, which closed the door on any further inquiries into the history of the Betty stone.
Fast forward. We cleared the section of land where we found the headstone and made a labyrinth there. We leaned the stone against a tree on the edge of the labyrinth and that was that. We were busy with our lives. Sad to admit, we didn’t give her much thought, but a “Hello” as we passed the stone while walking the labyrinth.
Last Christmas two of Barb’s sisters visited us for the holidays. Walking around the property, they discovered Betty and got excited. “We need paper and pencils,” they declared, intent on making a rubbing of the stone. Back in Idaho, later that winter, one sister did an Internet search and found Joseph Hide, Betty’s husband. She called us with the information. We let it sit, until the spring of Covid 19. With time on our hands and nowhere to go, we dug into what info we had, getting excited ourselves.
The search revealed that Betty Hide was born on Feb. 14, 1732 in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Her parents were Samuel and Jane (Burr) Sherwood. You may be familiar with Sherwood Island, Sherwood State Park, in Westport, Ct. I’m sure there is more to Betty’s family story than what we have found so far. I got so excited, I even joined Ancestry.com to research the family some more. Betty married Joseph Hide and had three children. Her stone declares that she “departed this life on June 13, 1785 at the age of 53 years, 3 months and 20 days.”
We were struck by the exactness of that account. Yet, we don’t know much, if anything, of Betty’s life. Women’s names were not even recorded on the census of that time. What did she look like? What color were her eyes? Was she one of those stern faced women, dedicated to husband and family, with little time for joyous endeavors? What talents did she possess? What hopes and dreams, cut short at 53 years? How did she die? So many questions with no answers. In my head, I wanted a narrative of her life.
To add some perspective, when Betty was forty years old, Thomas Jefferson was newly married. The first naval attack of the Revolutionary War took place in Providence, Rhode Island. The British and the colonies were at war. I found her husband’s name on the rolls of men who fought in the Revolutionary War. Her father was Captain Samuel Sherwood. What did all that mean for their families?
At the same time, Willian Wordsworth and Ludwig von Beethoven were two year old toddlers. For me, looking at the stone evokes feelings of being in touch with history. I place my hand on the stone with a sense of reverence. Who else touched this stone? Was it with a feeling of loss, of love?
Both Barb and I knew we had to get Betty back home.
Home for Betty Hide was what is now Westport, CT. Her stone belongs next to her husband’s in the Lower Greens Farms Cemetery, also called the Colonial Cemetery. Her grave is beside his. We made contact with Westport officials who pointed us to the Greens Farms Congregational Church.
Church officials confirmed that Betty was missing from their Colonial Cemetery.
On a beautiful Monday morning, Sept.21, 2020, we drove to Westport, Ct. with Betty tenderly wrapped in a blanket in the back of the car. We were bringing Betty home.
One month later, we received this email from our church contact:
Dear Barb and Gail,
I thought you’d like to know that yesterday we put Betty Sherwood Hide’s headstone back in the cemetery, next to her husband. She is where she belongs now. You must come and visit her and Joseph in our lower cemetery one day. It’s a magical spot that makes it easy to imagine the Colonial era. Families used to come and picnic in the cemetery on a Sunday afternoon, to chat with their departed loved ones.
We can’t wait to go have a sit-down chat with Betty, back home where she belongs!