Bennington, Vermont

 
 The Old First Congregational Church C. 1900
Photo courtesy of Images from the Past, Inc.
The Old First Church today
 
 The view from the gravesite
 
The Gravestone
 
 Historic Neighborhood of Old Bennington
 
 
Home of Robert Frost in nearby Shaftsbury, VT.
 
Here on a hot June morning in 1922, Frost wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The house is now a museum. Click here for visiting details.

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"I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended."

 

People often ask: Why is Robert Frost buried in Bennington?

In 1920, Frost came to live in Shaftsbury, Vt., the next town north of Bennington on Historic Rte 7A. He said, “I mean to plant a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety.”
Frost lived with his family in Shaftsbury during the height of his career as a poet until 1938, when his wife Elinor suddenly died. Mrs. Frost had always wanted her ashes scattered at their old farm in Derry, New Hampshire. After her death, Frost traveled to the farm he had sold 25 years before, when he had written a little poem called On the Sale of My Farm, which ends as follows
 
“It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.”

 

But when Frost returned to Derry to make arrangements, he found the place was run down and the owner unwelcoming. Discouraged, he returned home telling his children it would be a sacrilege to leave her ashes there. His poem Directive speaks of
 
"..a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm"
 
''..the children's house of make believe
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine..
Weep for what little things could make them glad.."
 
The urn was placed on a closet shelf at the
stone house in Shaftsbury. If things had gone differently in Derry, Frost surely would have been buried somewhere else. Frost took two years to think about where to establish a family burial place.
 
In the summer of 1940, Frost purchased two cemetery plots in the Old Bennington Cemetery behind the Old First Congregational Church. This cemetery goes back to the American Revolution, and all the space was taken until the 1930’s when Route 9 was reconstructed to run along the north side of the cemetery (its present location.) The old road bed was removed and the space on the south side became an extension of the cemetery. The difference between the old and new sections can be seen when you visit the churchyard.

Frost may have chosen this lovely setting for several reasons. He always liked a place with a mountain view. That is well evidenced by his home in Franconia, New Hampshire and all three of his farms in Vermont. The presence of the Revolutionary soldiers buried nearby would have pleased him. As he wrote in his poem The Gift Outright: “The land was ours before we were the land’s.” Frost called that poem, “a history book in a poem.” And lastly, he chose to be buried behind a beautiful old New England church.

Many have said Frost was an atheist and scholars still argue about his religious beliefs. His poetry often alludes to the Bible, which he had read all his life, yet Frost retained the skepticism of his age. Frost once said, “I don’t belong enough to any church, but historically I should be a Congregationalist. My people were all Congregationalists.” He said, “I don’t go to church, but I look in the window,” and he called himself, “an Old Testament Christian.” Now what does that mean? It does say something about one's beliefs to be buried behind a church, although we note the gravestone faces in the opposite direction. He was a man famous for contradictions.

Frost’s gravestone of Barre granite with hand carved laurel leaves is inscribed, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
 
The church and grave site are located in the historic district in Old Bennington. The neighborhood dates back to the American Revolution and is graced with lovely old white houses built in the late 18th century. The neighborhood has not changed since the Frost era. Nearby is the Bennington Battle Monument and the Bennington Museum. The Old First Church was designated as "Vermont's Colonial Shrine" in 1937. Frost had attended the rededication ceremonies and read a poem. Today, the church welcomes visitors from July through October.