A Report With Some Photo Images From County House Cemetery
Town Of Sennett - Cayuga County New York

Copyright Symbol Report & Digital Images Copyright 2007 - Christine J. Spengler
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The burials in the Cayuga County Farm Cemetery represent individuals who were residents of the Cayuga County Poor House.  The Poor House was established in 1825 and was in operation as a poor house (or alms house) until the mid to late 1940s when it turned into a nursing home.

The cemetery is located on County House Road in Sennett, New York (Cayuga County).  It is behind the current Sheriff's office.  If you pull into the parking lot of the Sheriff's office, you can see the cemetery.  It is a good ways back and you have to go down a gravel lane through a couple of fields to get to it.  The driveway stops well short of the cemetery, so there is a short hike through a field to get to the site.  It is very visible, however, as there is a white fence surrounding the site. (Photo 1).  If anyone wishes to visit the site, it is recommended that they stop at the Sheriff's office to ask for permission to go back there.

Records on this cemetery are sketchy.  The roster that is on-line lists a total of 388 individuals buried here, but I believe that there are many more burials in unmarked graves.  The poor house was established in 1825 and started taking on residents in 1826.  The first recorded burial is listed as 1873 with the last being in 1944.  One is left to ponder how many individuals were buried here between 1825 and 1873.  I contacted the individual who worked on cleaning up this cemetery in 1985.  She indicated that she got the Sheriff's office to clean up the site.  It was all tangled up with trees and brush.  Stones were knocked over and broken.  The area was cleaned up and the stones reset.  The officer on duty at the time of my visit told me that prisoners now keep the site cleaned up and in some semblance of order.

I was told by my contact that when the Poor House turned into a nursing home, several rickety old buildings were torn down.  There were "tons" of scattered papers and records lying all over the place that were thrown away and/or burned.

As you get close to the site, you see the cross and sign that has been erected. (Photo 2 - Photo 3) The sign says: "Sennett Cemetery Cayuga County."  There is a flag flying over the cemetery (Photo 4 Photo 5).  It was at half-mast when I visited due to the recent death of President Gerald Ford.  The marker stones are laid out in very even rows. (Photo 6 Photo 7 Photo 8 Photo 9 Photo 10)  Several of the markers are embedded in large trees. (Photo 11 Photo 12)  Most all of the stones appear to have been embedded deeper into the ground at some point. You can clearly see a stain line on the stones.  This would appear to confirm my contact's statement that the stones were re-set.  Quite possibly they had sunk into the ground and were pulled up just a bit to reset them.  One stone had a really deep hole in front of it. (Photo 13)  I am sure it is a "critter" hole, but the humorist in me wonders who escaped!

My contact also said that there were names on the markers, but in the main part of the cemetery, I could find no names or dates…only numbers. (Photo 14 Photo 15 Photo 16)  I did not inspect every grave, so it is possible that there are names and dates on some of them.  If you stand at the main gate, by the cross, and look at the cemetery, the markers start with the number 1 at the back left and run consecutively to the back right.  The numbers then continue in consecutive order in the second to the back row from the right to the left, and so on, back and forth, until you end up with the last marker at the front of the cemetery on the far left.  This is grave number 236. (Photo 16) Consequently, there are 236 numbered markers.  This is well short of the 388 individuals listed on the burial roster for this cemetery.

At the back of the cemetery there is a break in the white fence that opens up to a large clearing in the woods. (Photo 17 ) This clearing is surrounded by trees and brush.  If you look hard, dead center in Photo 17, back along the tree line is a small stone cross grave.  This is the grave of Red Cloud, who, I am told, was an Indian. (Photo 18)  This is the only grave I found that had a name on it.  While all the numbers on the graves in the main part of the cemetery face the front of the cemetery, the inscription for Red Cloud faces in the opposite direction (into the woods).  Just to the left of the marker for Red Cloud, and along the tree line, are about 6 tiny markers…all in a row.  There is a plastic bunny in front of one of them. (Photo 19)  Only two of these markers had any inscriptions. One is inscribed: "D.A.B. AE 3 Yrs" (Photo 20).  The other only had a number: 1474 (Photo 21).  I believe these small markers are for very young children.  These two inscriptions also face in the same direction as the marker for Red Cloud-in the opposite direction of all the other markers.  The inscription of 1474 begs the question…if this is a numbered burial (as in the case of all the others), then there is a HUGE gap in the number of recorded, and marked, burials.  Indeed, one thing that was interesting about this clearing was that it was lumpy.  It had 4-6' mounds and depressions in a somewhat regular pattern throughout this clearing.  I took pictures (Photo 22 Photo 23 Photo 24), but I don't believe that these photos clearly show what was very apparent with the naked eye.  The tops of these regularly spaced lumps were greener than the adjacent depressions.  I didn't walk around in the surrounding woods, but I'll bet there are more of these mounds and depressions, especially if 1474 represents a burial number.  I am sure that the actual burial ground is much bigger than what is currently kept mowed and cleared.

I am currently working on a research paper about the cemeteries in Sennett (Sennett Rural, Old Sennett, and the County House Cemetery).  While working on this project, I came across an 1857 report that was made on the Cayuga County Poor House.  This report can be viewed on-line at: http://www.poorhousestory.com/CAYUGA.htm   This report paints a dreadful picture about the conditions at this poor house.   It is certainly interesting, however.   We are, I am sure, dealing with a cemetery that has a large number of unmarked graves and the total number of souls buried here will probably never be known.

Chris Riley Spengler
January 2007
Chris.spengler@utoledo.edu

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