Skip to content



Scout’s project serves as a record of Groton’s History


GROTON — Anyone who has visited an old cemetery will be familiar with the hazards of time and neglect such as gravestones whose markings have been ground away by the weather, shivered into fragments or simply vanished leaving behind only unmarked graves.

The town’s Old Burying Ground, on Hollis Street alongside Legion Hall, has not been spared the ravages of time. However, a project taken on by the Boy Scouts will at least ensure that the identities of those buried in some of the oldest gravesites in Groton will not be forgotten.

“Every year my troop would put out flags at the graves of veterans for Memorial Day including those located at the Old Burying Ground, and I noticed how difficult that was to do because we never knew exactly where they were all located,” said Casey Garvey. “So at the advice of my advisor, Ken Lefebvre, I decided to take on this project, and it was approved by the Nashua Valley Boy Scout Council, and I’ve just gone on from there.”

Garvey’s Eagle Scout project includes locating all of the graves within the Old Burying Ground belonging to the veterans of America’s wars between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, identifying each veteran and using the information to create a map, cross-referencing names with gravesite locations.

“Cataloguing the gravesites will be useful because it’ll allow us to keep track of our honored dead a lot easier,” said Garvey, a member of West Groton’s Boy Scout Troop One. “From what I’ve heard, this is something that has been on some people’s minds. What I’m doing is trying to find out where all these people are. I would guess that my research would be most valuable for those interested in history, the Historical Society and veterans.”

Garvey, 17, began the project almost two years ago and hopes to have it completed by his 18th birthday, capping a long career with the scouts that began when he was a Cub Scout.

“My project was to go into the Old Burying Ground and go from gravesite to gravesite cataloguing all of the locations of the dead war veterans who served in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812,” said Garvey, a resident of Lost Lake Drive.

He said he had valuable help along the way from people like Debbie Normandin, of the Burying Ground Commission, who supplied him with an initial list of gravesites used to identify veterans’ graves for flag spotting on Memorial Day; Eleanor Gavazzi, of the Daughters of the American Revolution; and fellow scouts.

An Eagle Scout project is a project undertaken by a life scout that must be completed before obtaining an Eagle Scout rank, said Garvey, which is the highest ranking that can be achieved in scouting.

“The very concept of the Eagle Project is that the project manager and Eagle Scout prospectee acts as an administrator delegating tasks to other scouts and adults working with him,” said Garvey. “So while I’m expected to do some hands-on work with the project, my main task is to provide leadership. The Eagle Scout Project is basically a test of leadership.”

Once he decided on what kind of a project he wanted to do, Garvey said he sought for and received permission to work at the Old Burying Ground from the commission that had the responsibility of overseeing the cemetery.

But walking through the cemetery taking names and dates turned out to be the easy part of the project.

“What I’d do if there was any information in question was go to the library and check the town records for verification,” Garvey said. “Eventually, I built up a list of 63 gravesites with the corresponding names of officers and enlisted men on my computer.”

But sometimes, just when it looked like the job was finished, more information would come to light that needed cataloguing. One example of this was a list of an additional 30 gravesites that had somehow been overlooked when Garvey had first started the project, which could have included more veterans.

“When I have all the information, I’ll be making a map of the Burying Ground showing the locations of all the gravesites with corresponding numbers showing where they’re located,” said Garvey. “Each number corresponds with a name in the back of the pamphlet that the map will be printed on.

Regarding previous tracking records, Garvey said, “There’s a lot of data involved as well as discrepancies with the information and the location of gravestones, so there has always been trouble keeping track of veterans’ gravesites.”

“I wouldn’t say the work has been especially difficult, just time consuming,” Garvey said. “Because mapping is sometimes not an exact science, just putting everything together to draw up a list of gravesites that is complete and making a map that is accurate was a challenge.

“I knew from the very beginning that my project would be out of the ordinary,” he said. “I knew that it was going to a big project and so far, its size and scope hasn’t really surprised me.”

When all of the initial research is completed, Garvey said he plans to write up a report to present to the Nashua Valley Boy Scout Council, which will hopefully approve it. The project will then be reviewed by an Eagle Board of Review. Once that hurdle has been passed, Garvey will officially become an Eagle Scout.

The results of Garvey’s research will be printed up as a map in pamphlet form to be made available to the Historical Society and the Old Burying Ground Commission. It will also be available in such places as the Groton Public Library and Town Hall.

“I’m hoping that, with this project, those who are interested in history will be able to use the information to better facilitate their own research,” said Garvey. “Also, I hope that the project helps people become more aware that the Old Burying Ground is a place that needs to be taken care of. I’ve been through it, and I’ve seen dog droppings, damaged gravestones, fallen tree limbs, etc. I just want everyone to get a bigger picture of what the cemetery holds, and the place those buried there have in the town’s history.”