Historical Papers by Jabez
W. Abell Jr.
from the Cazenovia Republican,
Daniel H. Weiskotten
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History of South Cemetery
by Jabez W. Abell in the Cazenovia Republican
January 14, 1926
see the introduction
here to go to the Alphabetical List of Titles
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
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.
We the Subscribers, inhabitants of the town of Cazenovia, called
to mind the mortality of our bodies and wishing to have a decent burial,
do hereby covenant and agree to pay Rufus Parsons, Isaac Ingersoll and
John Loomis, the sum against our respective names for the purpose of purchasing
a convenient piece of land of Isaac Ingersoll and fencing the same with
a decent fence and it is hereby made the duty of said R. Parsons, Ingersoll
and Loomis to procure the same and to each subscriber allot his due proportion
for the use above mentioned, in witness whereof we have hereunto set our
Cazenovia, March 23, 1814
Talcott Backus $.50, Benjamin Stone $1.00, Jeremiah Jones $1.00,
Eldad Webster $1.00, Samuel Hayward $2.00, Stephen Dodge $1.00, Israel
Smith $1.00, Aaron Dryer $1.00, John Frary $1.00, William Peck $1.00, George
Smith $1.50, Luke May $1.00, Joseph Stiles $.50, Elihu Severance #1.25,
Ebenezer Backus $1.00, John Loomis $1.00, Ammi Crocker $1.00, Oliver Crocker
$1.00, Samuel Dutton $1.00, Jabez Crocker $1.00, Joshua Peck $.50, John
Angier $1.25, Isaac Ingersoll $1.00, Joel White $.75, Rufus Parsons $1.00,
Rufus Root $1.00, Jabez Abell $1.50, Zadock Sweetland $1.50, Samuel Sweetland
$1.50, Joshua Backus $1.00, Francis Norton $1.00, Elisha Williams $1.00,
Moses Root $1.00, Waterman Stevens $1.00, Edward Dryer $1.00.
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 —
At a meeting of the number of proprietors of the grave yard near
Isaac Ingersoll's held at the said house of said Ingersoll on the 19th
day of October 1818 the following resolves were passed.
1st That Benjamin Stone serve as moderator and
2nd That Elihu Severance serve as clerk to said meeting.
3rd That the proprietors to said grave year hold annual meetings
on the 3rd Monday of October in each year.
4th That trustees be chosen, to hold their office until others are
chosen in their stead.
5th That Jabez Abell, Talcott Backus and John Loomis serve as trustees.
6th That the trustees be empowered to obtain a lease of said Ingersoll,
to run them and their successors and associates forever.
7th That the trustees allot the said grave yard to the proprietors
according to their best of their ability and that each proprietor meet
at the said grave yard on the 9th day of November next at 2 o'clock p.m.
and set monuments "Markers" to their respective lots.
Elihu Severance, "clerk", Benjamin Stone, "moderator".
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 
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.
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.
END of Jabez W. Abell's "History of South Cemetery"
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
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
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 , 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.