Cemetery has an English Section and a Welsh Section called the Welsh
Yard. Today, two separate organizations maintain the cemetery. The
Welsh section is owned by the Freedom Cemetery Society and the English
section by the Freedom Cemetery Association. A line of bushes provides
the present-day division once marked by a stone fence. The layout and
governance of the cemetery is rooted in history.
hen the first Ebenezer Welsh Baptist
Church was constructed on the Freedom Flats in 1843-44, Welsh
immigrants set aside a portion of the site for use as a burial ground.
Deacon John Lewis donated the land, located in the southwestern part of
Lot 13 in the Town of Freedom. Nearby were the burials of English
speaking Yankee settlers, who had settled in Freedom in the early
decades of the 1800s. Rufus Metcalf, who came from Vermont in 1811,
donated the land for the English section.
he earliest Welsh Yard burials are
those of young children, including Phebe Ann Owens
, age 9
months, daughter of John H. and Catharine Owens
, age 3, daughter of John and Laura Higgins
(1846); Hugh Jones, son of William and Elizabeth Jones
, age 1, son of David and Mary Ann Phillips
(1847). Other Welsh burials of note include: Civil War soldiers,
various Welsh Baptist church deacons and ministers, William H. Williams
whose gravestone claims that he was “the first Welsh settler in
Cattaraugus County” and Robert T. Williams
, “father of the
Welsh settlement.” A number of gravestones contain Welsh-language
inscriptions and the deceadent’s place of origin in Wales. Over the
years more burials were made until the Welsh Yard and the English Yard
of the Freedom Cemetery became a microcosm of nineteenth-century
Freedom, including the Yankees, the Scots, and the Welsh.
n English-speaking group split off from
the Welsh-speaking Ebenezer Church in 1895 and formed the Bethel
Baptist Church. Early on the Bethel trustees sought, but failed, to
gain a division of the Ebenezer property which at that time included
the burial yard surrounding the church building.
n 1903 the English section of the
cemetery incorporated. In November 1914, a well-attended meeting at the
Ebenezer Church voted unanimously to incorporate the Welsh side of the
cemetery. The directors of the newly incorporated Welsh section were:
Robert J. Williams, William P. Morgan and David J. Morgan. It is not
known if the Bethel Welsh were involved in the 1914 cemetery meeting,
since as late as 1917 the Bethel and Ebenezer Welsh were still at odds
with each other. Eventually, differences were resolved. In 1919 the
Bethel and Ebenezer Welsh reunited to form the Freedom Baptist Church.
In 1921 the stone wall which physically divided the English and Welsh
sections was taken down.
n 1953 the Freedom Baptist Church moved
to legally transfer ownership of the Ebenezer church building to the
Freedom Cemetery with the stipulation that the church be maintained as
a memorial and chapel. The cemetery rejected the idea and the
transference was never completed. Until it fell in January 2001, the
old Ebenezer church building belonged to the Freedom Baptist Church but
the ground on which it rested belonged to the Freedom Cemetery Society.
In 2003, an historic marker commemorating the Freedom area Welsh
settlement was placed at the site by the Freedom Area Welsh Historic
arly Welsh Yard burial records were no
doubt contained in the Ebenezer church records. The location of these
records is not known. However, an old lot map of the Welsh Yard
survived. Besides the names of lot owners, the map, drawn on old
fashioned oilcloth, features a primitive style painting of the church
and cemetery, as it looked around the turn-of-the century. According to
cemetery officials, cemetery records were destroyed in a fire. The Town
of Freedom historian maintains alphabetical lists of gravestone
inscriptions for both English and Welsh sections of the cemetery.
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