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St. Mark’s and DAR to Dedicate Markers to Founding Patriot and Enslaved Person

Saturday, May, 6, 2023 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am


On Saturday, May 6 at 10:30 am, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, together with the Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), will dedicate two commemorative markers in St. Mark’s West Road Cemetery. The public is invited to the ceremony which will include prayers, scripture, a tribute to Capt. Stephen Betts and Jesse Betts, and a feather blessing in recognition that the cemetery was once Siwanoy hunting grounds. A light reception will follow at the New Canaan Museum and Historical Society. The Exhibit Forces of Change: Enslaved and Free Blacks in New Canaan will be open for viewing during the reception.

One marker commemorates Capt. Stephen Betts, a founder and first Warden of the worshiping community that became St. Mark’s, and a Revolutionary war hero and patriot. The other marker commemorates Jesse Betts, an enslaved member of Capt. Betts’ household, buried alongside the Betts family in West Road Cemetery. With the markers St. Mark’s and the DAR seek to recognize both the extraordinary contributions of Capt. Betts to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the Revolutionary War, and his lamentable enslavement of Jesse Betts and others.

Connecticut DAR State Regent and St. Mark’s parishioner Lisa Melland initiated the research on Capt. Betts in the summer of 2020, and discovered Capt. Betts’ role as a slaveholder.  That fall, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT), St. Mark’s diocese, passed a resolution at its Annual Convention that “each parish … shall take steps to discover their historic complicity in racism through research of parish registers and archives.” For St. Mark’s this continued historical research and racial reconciliation work already underway. 

In a presentation to ECCT, Mrs. Melland said, “What I found out astounded me. I had never encountered such a prolific contributor to the American Revolution except for perhaps a very high-ranking officer like Gen. George Washington. You just don’t see these stats–fought in so many battles, signed an oath at Valley Forge, fought at Redoubt #10 at Yorktown.” 

On the research, she says: “Any research I do has to adhere to the DAR’s exacting standards. It relies on primary source documents or secondary scholarly source materials…census records, legible gravestone photos, birth and death records, pension records, approved pension testimony” dating back to the 1700s to 1800s. A video The Story of Stephen and Jesse Betts was produced by the DAR.

In 2021 Mrs. Melland chaired the Racial History Task Force at St. Mark’s with the Rev. Dr. Justin Crisp. The group produced a four-part presentation focused on the era 1760-1880. This is the first in a series entitled Stories of God, Stories of Race, and Stories of St. Mark’s, an historical exploration of the parish’s participation in racial justice and injustice.

St. Mark’s Rector, the Rev. Peter Walsh said, “The whole process of coming to know the fullness of our history has been illuminating and holy. In our partnership with the DAR, we have become aware of the particulars of the lives of Captain Stephen Betts and Jesse Betts and the tribal peoples who inhabited the land where the cemetery now rests. To become acquainted with them as real people is to bring them alive, and to bring them alive is to honor and love them as people of God. Christians believe in what we call the communion of saints, that great collective of souls that transcends time and space. I hope that on the dedication day all the people of the Betts household and the tribal peoples will be there in the power of the Spirit to join our prayerful commemoration, dedication, and remembrance.”

About St. Mark’s Episcopal Church:

Located at 111 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan, CT and online at:  www.stmarksnewcanaan.org, St. Mark’s is a vibrant and growing Episcopal Church. St. Mark’s mission is to go and make disciples who live a deeper life in Christ, a more holy communion with one another, and a greater love for the world. All are welcome.

About Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

The Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter is the New Canaan chapter of NSDAR. The DAR, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children. As one of the most inclusive genealogical societies in the country, DAR boasts 190,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the United States and internationally. Any woman 18 years or older-regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background-who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible for membership.


Saturday, May, 6, 2023
10:30 am - 11:30 am


St. Mark’s Cemetery
West Road and Sunset Hill Road
New Canaan, CT 06840 United States
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