| JOHN BENSON MARKER |
5695 Main Street
Type: Single grave marker of zinc
Designer, fabricator, and supplier: Monumental Bronze Company, attr.
JOHN BENSON MARKER, Stratford, is significant historically because it identifies the man it memorializes as "(colored)." Recognition of African American Civil War soldiers as such is relatively rare in Connecticut. See SMITH GATEWAY, Niantic in East Lyme, and SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Weatogue in Simsbury. A companion memorial next to JOHN BENSON MARKER is not so identified.
According to a local resident who long has been interested in the cemetery, it is not unusual that a black soldier is buried here. There are "quite a few" African Americans in the burying ground, people who lived in the neighborhood.
JOHN BENSON MARKER, Stratford, is significant artistically because it is a carefully designed memorial in zinc, an unusual material for Civil War gravestones. The basic segmental shape, flags, borders, and raised figure on the reverse all demonstrate attention to detail in the production of an inexpensive but suitable marker for a Civil War soldier's grave.
Monumental Bronze Company in nearby Bridgeport specialized in producing cast-zinc cemetery monuments (see SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, Stratford). Consequently, the likelihood is that the marker came from that foundry. The bulk of product from Monumental Bronze Company was gravestone monuments of modest size, but larger than JOHN BENSON MARKER. The usual Monumental Bronze Company product was several feet tall and a foot or two square, reproducing a block of stone in general appearance. Single-grave markers in zinc are not common.
JOHN BENSON MARKER, Stratford, and its companion are in Putney-Oronoque Cemetery, a flat rectangular 1.15-acre burying ground, established in 1827 according to its sign. It is located in the northern part of Stratford, just south of Boothe Memorial Park.
The two zinc grave markers are toward the back of the cemetery, on the north. They are identical except for their lettering. Their segmental tops are broader than the slightly tapered vertical sections. Crossed flags in a wreath appear in this segmentally defined space, above the lettering.
The reverse of JOHN BENSON MARKER is embellished by a raised figure of a soldier similar to that so often seen at the top of Civil War monuments. He stands with feet together at the heels, apart at the toes, without one or the other advanced as is usually the case. The musket butt is to the right of the right foot. Both hands are on the barrel, left over right. The soldier's overcoat has a cape falling to the elbows; he is clean-shaven, and wears a kepi.
The edge of the marker is raised about 1/2" at 90 degrees and followed by a parallel incised line, forming a decorative border around the flags at the top. The lettering is surrounded by a convex 3/8" space bordered by incised lines. At each ear there is a small tubular receptacle to hold the staff of a flag.
Both markers have experienced difficulty at the junction of base and upright section. An effort to address the problem was made at an unknown time by pouring concrete around the lower part of the upright, obscuring the last line of lettering and the base. Because the junction of upright to base is not visible, it is not possible to observe the damaged condition. JOHN BENSON MARKER is tilting forward a few degrees.
Front (southeast) face, raised caps:JOHN BENSON (segmental)
JUNE 17, 1884
Adjoining JOHN BENSON MARKER to the northwest is another marker of the same description, except the lettering is:JOHN L. WHEELER,
CO. D, 2ND REG'T
George Lay, member of the Putney-Oronoque Cemetery Association, conversation, June 19, 1994.