Catskill Cemetery Papers
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
August 6, 1863
It is now more than seven years since I commenced a series of articles for the Recorder and Democrat, entitled "The Grave-yard at C_____,"* in which I proposed to revive the memories of some of the early inhabitants of the Village. After publication of three or four of those articles, causes (which are not now material), induced me to discontinue them.
More recently, I have attempted to bring to the remembrance of local readers a few more of the "old settlers," a recollection of whom was suggested by the perusal of a bundle of "Harmony Lodge papers." These sketches were hastily written, and, I confess, were as unsatisfactory to myself as they doubtless were to those who took the trouble to peruse them.
More than seven years, however, have elapsed since my first essay in this direction, and yet no other has undertaken to rescue from utter oblivion the memories of those who have long been laid to rest in the pleasant Village Cemetery, and the rapidity with which seven years have passed, admonishes me that the number of those who read my first sketch who have gone "to take their places in the silent halls of death." At every visit to my native home I miss some familiar face, some cordial greeting, some warm clasp of the hand. At every visit to the Burial Ground some new raised mound presents itself to the eye, and some newly chiseled monument bears the name of an old friend. It may be of one to whose "tales of the olden time" I listened in my boyhood; it may be of one who was the loved companion of my youth and manhood; or it may be one of the gentler sex who, many long years ago, attended, with me, the Village school—for whom I built the swing in the pleasant "cedars, " and whose course through life, as maiden and mother, I have watched with interest, until she, too, went to her final rest. All, all are passing away.
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My first remembrance of the Cemetery at Catskill, is of the old grave-yard at the present corner of Broad and Livingston streets, near where the residence of Mr. FREDERICK HILL now stands. I was but a child when the remains of those who were buried there were removed to the grounds on the hill, yet I remember to have accompanied my father while he assisted in surveying and laying out the lots. (In after years, when the Cemetery was enlarged, I spent a number of days in the same labor, with my ancient colored friend, BILL THOMPSON, the Village Sexton.) The lost embraced within the limits have been, long since, occupied, and it has been found necessary, quite recently, to extend the borders of this "City of the Dead."
I have always thought that the present site of the Cemetery must have been the selection of a person possessing a fine appreciation of, and love for, the beautiful in Nature. I know no lovelier spot. In the Western distance, a single glance of the eye takes in the whole range of mountains, framing in a picture of hill and dell, and meadow and woodland; up the hill-side rises the hum of the busy Village which nestles at its foot; while away to the North-west stretches the valley of the Catskill, presenting a view which, we have the warrant of the poet-painter, COLE, in asserting, is unequalled by any scenery which had fallen under his vision in all his journeys. All around, the landscape is surpassingly lovely—"a thing of Beauty." Unlike the more fashionable repositories of departed mortality, there are here no elevated spots where the elaborate monuments of the wealthy or the proud may seem to look down contemptuously upon the plain slabs which mark more humble graves; the perfect level of the surface typifies that equality to which Death reduces all men, and here the rich and the poor, the haughty and the humble "lie down, alike, in the dust."
And here there are many lying, of whom I have spoken in neither of the series I have attempted, and, as no one else seems willing to assume the task, I propose to resume it, if the editor shall think that my imperfect sketches will so far interest his readers as to warrant their publication.
* The three preceding Sketches.