By Lisa Capobianco
What started out as a cleanup day in a basement turned into an excavation site for Meriden resident Shawn Hard.
About four years ago, Hard was cleaning up the basement of his home on Reservoir Avenue one day when he came across a tombstone with a name familiar to Southington: Cornelia Sloper.
Hard found the tombstone hidden in a dark corner of his basement. As he dusted off the 400-pound tombstone, Hard read the inscription: “Cornelia, wife of David R. Sloper, died Feb. 4, 1837.” Underneath, he read another inscription that said their daughter, also named Cornelia, died in May that same year.
“That’s pretty wild,” Hard said. “We had no clue how it got here or how long it was there for.”
Hard and his wife Kelley Ingram said they wanted to find the rightful owners of the headstone, but did not know about the history of the Sloper family. They called Eddie Siebert, a constituent worker from Mayor Michael Rohde’s office. When Siebert inspected the tombstone, he recognized the name, and had a feeling it was connected to the Southington YMCA.
“This is neat,” Siebert said. “This is certainly the most unique—dealing with the afterlife.”
When John Myers, the executive director of the YMCA, heard about the headstone, he shook his head saying, “Was that our Cornelia?” Myers knew there had to be a connection to Southington, so he figured out the mystery based on the history of the Sloper family.
Cornelia Sloper was the first wife of David R. Sloper. She died in 1837 after giving birth to her daughter named Cornelia, who passed away three months later. David then remarried to a woman named Augusta Woodruff, and together they had a daughter also named Cornelia. David and Augusta’s daughter, Cornelia Sloper Neal, left the Southington property to the YMCA, which is now known as “Camp Sloper.” The town once referred to Cornelia Sloper Neal as “Nellie.”
Last week, Myers and Siebert, along with YMCA Director of Operations Tony Palmieri, worked together at Hard’s home to lift the tombstone out of the basement. Myers decided to place the tombstone at Camp Sloper’s memorial forest where members, friends and family of the YMCA can keep the memory of their loved ones alive with plants, benches and trees. The forest is located in the southwest corner of Camp Sloper’s outdoor center.
Myers said adding this new piece of history at Camp Sloper tells a story to everyone who visits Memorial Forest.
“We take pride in trying to teach the history on the Y,” Myers said. “It is a real human interest story.”
Both Hard and his wife said they feel content now that the tombstone has a new home.
“I’m glad it is going back to its rightful owners,” Ingram said.
By Lisa Capobianco