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Historical Papers by Jabez W. Abell Jr.
from the Cazenovia Republican, 1925-1942
Daniel H. Weiskotten
posted 7/11/2000
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History of South Cemetery
by Jabez W. Abell in the Cazenovia Republican
 January 14, 1926
 Please see the introduction
Click here to go to the Alphabetical List of Titles
Click here to go to the List Arranged by Date
(typographical errors corrected, additional notes by DHW in square brackets [ ])
History of South Cemetery

        In the year 1803 or nearly that, as is believed, Caleb Sweetland died and was buried near the corner of his farm.  Other deaths occurring in the neighborhood the subjects were buried nearby and as a matter of course the people soon saw the necessity of having a piece set apart for such purposes.
        In the village the place set apart for such purposes, "in the rear of the meeting house" was found to be highly objectionable as in some seasons of the year, they would have to bail water out of a grave before the corpse could be lowered into it.  This act made it exceedingly desirable with many to find a more suitable place to deposit the remains of their friends.
        Very few felt that they would be willing themselves, to be thrust into the mud and water as it had been necessary to do so often.
        In removing the corpse of a woman who had not been buried long, she was found to be lying with her face down.
        Some thought she might have been buried alive but as there was no evidence of a struggle, she must have been turned by the water, for where there is room a corpse is always found with its face down, in the water.
        This had a tendency to keep filling in on the Sweetland lot. [Abell means people were more willing to bury their dead on the Sweetland lot.]
        The following is the first record of any proceedings had with regard to the establishment of a burial place at that locality.

        The next recorded action of the association it appears was taken more than 4 years afterwards and 15 years after the first burial.
        It was as follows
          On the 13th day of February, Isaac Ingersoll conveyed the land heretofore described by Deed, to Jabez Abell, John Loomis and Talcott Backus, and their successors in office.
        Thus it will be seen, that it was about 18 years from the first burial there and towards 8 from the organization of the association before the proprietors obtained title to the land.  This arose not from any objection of the owner to give a title at any time, but through sheer neglect, it was suffered to run on until the interest compounded, would equal the purchase price, which was only ten dollars.
        On the 29th of May, 1830 Seba Loomis conveyed by deed, an additional piece of land on the northerly side of the original lot, to Isaac Ingersoll, Seba Loomis and Talcott Backus, trustees of the association, for the time being.  Additional lands on the south and east sides of the old ground, on the 4th day of July 1846 were conveyed by deed from Eleazer Sweetland, E.W. Ingersoll and Albert K. Ingersoll to John Service, Joel White and Albert H. Ingersoll, they being the trustees of the association at that time.
        On the 15th of September 1849, Zadock Sweetland and Lucy Sweetland, his wife, confirmed to John Service and Joel White as trustees, the deed given by his nephews, "Eleazer Sweetland, Albert Eldad and Albert Ingersoll".
        The amount subscribed at the organization of the association in 1814 ($37.75) was probably expended in fencing the lot.
        The original purchase money in 1821 was ten dollars.  The annex on the north, purchased of Seb Loomis in 1830, of less area than the original lot cost $27.00 In 1846 the annex on the south and east of about the same quantity of land, cost $50.00 so that this whole sum paid for land, which constituted the "South Burial Ground," so called, amounted to the sum of $87.00
        It is evident that no one, either earlier or later has attempted to profit by expenditures upon this rural ground "God's Acre".
        On the 29th of June [1837] Benjamin Davenport as trustee reports that there has been delivered to the society, a hears at $100.  Subsequently a bier at $3.00 a hearse house at $30.00 and painting $21.00 incidental expenses $.35 The receipts into the treasury were, the avails of the assessment upon the lot holders $137.85 From sale of 4 lots $14.00 leaving a balance against the society $2.89 It will be seen that the south burial ground has been a very inexpensive affair, has been frugally and judiciously managed and the original proprietors of the enterprise who remained here, have laid down the burden of life, have gathered into this God's Acre without stain upon the characters regarding to it.  Of the 35 signers of the articles of association 12 or more left this country for homes then in the far west, mostly in the lands of the Holland Purchase Company [Holland Land Company] in the western part of the state, (near Batavia).
        Every one of the men whose names are attached to this first record of proceedings having in view the establishment of a cemetery at this locality were from New England states Most of these men came into town on foot, with packs on their backs to contain the provisions to sustain them on their journey and while prospecting for a location for their future home.  They came into the unbroken wilderness, most of them in debt for their land, land that had to be cleared of the heavy timber before anything could grow upon which to subsist, the log house had to be built to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather, and yet with all these discouragements, they early laid the foundation for schools, for churches and for a final resting place.
        Very few lived to see a train of cars or railroad, or dreamed of using electricity as a means of conveying information, they covered up their fire at night and in case it went out, they went to their neighbors to borrow it.  Few of them lived to have photographs or "Sun Pictures" taken.  They cut their grain with a sickle, raised flax and made their own and their children's clothing, and a days work lasted from sun rise to sun set, With nothing bu their own hands and indomitable energy they surmounted the formidable difficulties by which they were surrounded and beset on every side, and when they were finally laid down to this Rural retreat, they left as a legacy to their children a flourishing community, where they had found a sombre and howling wilderness.
        There were no regular undertakers in those days no burial permit had to be filled out and signed, relatives or friends gave the body all the attention then seemed necessary before burial. The funeral discourse was lengthy both at the house and grave.
        A coffin was usually procured from a cabinet maker who built it to the measurements furnished him It usually required a day to prepare one provided it was taken out of lumber in the rough.  An old bill states that on July 1, 1835 Benjamin T. Clarke received $5.00 for making a coffin also the same date that I. Ingersoll received $1.00 for digging a grave a memoranda also states that 37 cents was paid as toll charge for hearse, making a total of six dollars and thirty cents.  [This was probably for the funeral and burial of author Abell's great-great-Uncle, Dr. William Abell, who died June 30, 1835, age 38 years.] A striking contrast to the present day but no doubt it was considered as being a good burial outfit and in keeping with the times.
Later History

        On November 6, 1873 at the meeting of the South Cemetery Merwin Clark, one of the executors of Mrs. Almira Skiff's will delivered to the trustees five hundred dollars, the interest of which is to be used for taking care of the cemetery.  This money is invested in an Atchison 4 per cent general mortgage bond due about 1995 [makes me wonder what happened to it!]. In June 1903 through the generosity of one of the trustees, J.W. Abell Sr., land was donated to enlarge the cemetery on the north, east, and south sides.
        At the annual meeting of the South Cemetery June 4, 1913 Mr. [Jabez W.] Abell [Sr.] and Mr. [Henry H.] Potter, who previously had been appointed as a committee to see if the could be transferred to the town of Cazenovia, the town to look after and care for the cemetery, reported that the transfer could be made.  Nothing definite was accomplished at that meeting.
        Discussion arose from time to time regarding the building of a front fence, and improvement badly needed, but no action was taken.
        But after July 1920, when J.W. Abell Sr. passed away, the trustees realized that one of the chief supporters of the cemetery had fallen and that something definite must be done.
        Lack of funds prevented the complete fence being made but money enough was in the treasury to build brick posts with cement caps and bases.  Mr. Potter went before the town board to see what could be done.  he was met with assurance that the town of Cazenovia would take over the cemetery and would cooperate, as far as the statute provided, all they could toward building the fence.
        At a meeting of the South Cemetery, August 3, 1922 it was unanimously voted to transfer the care and funds of the cemetery to the town of Cazenovia.  it was voted to build brick posts for a front fence, as the town would cooperate in setting the hedge.  The foundations were soon started for the posts and finished.  The posts were erected the following summer, and in the fall the hedge was set by the town.  All being done in a very satisfactory manner.
        The new yard was mapped, blueprints made, walks dug out and filled with gravel, together with a general dressing up of the yard.
        But one obstacle still remained to overcome.  The funds that were available were not sufficient for the detailed care of the cemetery.  Mr. Potter knew a person who never refused to contribute to any worthy cause.  he called on this person and stated the condition of the cemetery and what was needed to improve it.  After a short silence his reply was this: "Write me a letter stating just what you want to do and I will consider it."  The letter was written and forwarded, and in due time Mr. Potter received from this generous gentleman his check for one thousand dollars.  This money is invested in a Union Pacific first mortgage 4 per cent bond due in 2008 [and what has become of this?].  As this bond was below par at the time it was bought there was enough funds left to buy 1 share of U.S. Steel common stock, so today [1926], including Mrs. Skiff's $500 dollars the cemetery has the income from $1600 dollars for the detailed care of the yard.  The name of the donor of this gift is withheld at his request [it is likely that Robert J. Hubbard was the donor].
        So thus in due time the old cemetery, which is considerably more than one hundred years old, was raised from a dilapidated and rundown condition and placed on a sound basis, and so with on hundred and fifty high and dry lots for sale, with several subscriptions for perpetual care of individual lots, with an endowment of $1600 (the interest to be used for the detailed care of the cemetery) and it is hoped that this fund will be increased with further contributions, with the town of Cazenovia back of the cemetery to care for and look after it and with money available from year to year, as provided by the statutes, the old cemetery is sure to have good care for ever.
        The last trustees of the cemetery were J.W. [Jabez W.] Abell [Jr.], H.H. [Henry H.] Potter, D.G. [David Gerry] Wellington, H.V. Randall and A.H. [Arthur H.] deClercq.
        The trustees wish to thank the town board of Cazenovia, who are now in full charge of the cemetery, for their heart cooperation in making the transfer and fro the time and thought which they have given to the cemetery.

END of Jabez W. Abell's "History of South Cemetery"