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St. Francis Xavier Cemetery

Town of Marcellus

(from The Parish of St. Francis Xavier, Marcellus, New York, 1873-1973, pp. 23-24)

by Katherine Heffernan


(For more information on burials in St. Francis Xavier Cemetery, contact John Curtin, 12 First Street, Marcellus, NY 13108)

On April 21, 1862, while St. Francis Xavier Church was still a mission of St. Joseph's Church at Camillus, Reverend William McCallion, the pastor serving the mission, was instrumental in purchasing two and one-half acres of land,
on what was then known as Methodist Heights, for use as a cemetery.  The land was purchased from George Gallup for the sum of two hundred sixty-five dollars.  John Dunn became the owner of the first lot and the first burial in the newly consecrated cemetery was that of Roger Gannon.

By the 1920's space in the cemetery was becoming limited and there was no adjacent land available for expansion.  Reverend Thomas Driscoll, then pastor of St. Francis Xavier, negotiated the purchase of sixteen acres directly
across the highway from the original cemetery.  The land was purchased from the farm property of Jennie Coville for nine thousand seven hundred dollars.  A portion of the land was laid out as a cemetery and consecrated in October,
1926 by Right Reverend Monsignor John J. Sheridan, representing Bishop Daniel Curley of Syracuse.

Shortly after the opening of the new section, the retaining wall was built along the Seneca Turnpike bordering the old cemetery.

A voluntary perpetual care fund had been set up to care for the old cemetery.  Stephen Haney, caretaker of the cemetery for many years, had helped to build up the fund by urging all those who visited the cemetery to contribute to the
fund.  In the new section, a contribution for perpetual care is included in the purchase price of the lot.

In 1948, Father Hartnett was instrumental in erecting a statue of the Sacred Heart blessing the world on the hillside in the cemetery.  The statue is cast from artificial stone which is supposed to withstand weathering and to look new for many years.   The granite slab on which the statue rests was donated by Mrs. Cornelius Hayes and the stones which provided the base for the slab were from the old front steps of the church hall.

Offerings in excess of the cost of the statue were received and Father Hartnett began planning to use these and such other donations as became available for the erection of a crucifixion group at the highest level in the cemetery.  He contracted for the group with the understanding that the individual figures would be delivered as funds became available.

The cross for the scene was constructed by Father Hartnett and Edward La Rose from the trunks of two locust trees which had grown on the hillside in the old cemetery.  Unsolicited offerings made it possible to complete the group in the fall of 1953.  All labor for the erection of the figures was donated and the installation was blessed on All Souls Day of that year.

Sometime around 1950, Martin Gleason donated a sum of $500 for building a new road in the cemetery.  Mr. John Clark from St. Mary's Cemetery in Syracuse was employed to lay out the road.  Just as work was about to begin, the town
superintendent of highways offered to donate his services in supervising the project.  The town machinery could be used and gravel purchased at the same price as paid by the town.  As it would be done at a time when the highway
workers were out of work, they could be employed by the parish and thus received a couple of extra weeks of income.  The offer was accepted.  A water bound gravel road ten inches deep and sixteen feet wide was constructed in
the new part of the cemetery.  Later it was bound with oil.

The next year attention was turned to the old cemetery where it seemed that the grading of the lots must have been left to the discretion of the owner.  Varying heights made cutting the grass a time consuming problem as each lot had to be done separately.  The paths were neglected and beginning to be overgrown.  John Dougherty of Skaneateles was employed to bring fill from the new part of the cemetery to level the paths and then grade the lots to the pathways.  D. J. Smith with one of his machines spread the fill as Dougherty's trucks dumped it.  To be able to transport fill to the rear of the cemetery necessitated the removal of several trees and the construction of the present roadway.

Thomas Kelly, then president of the Holy Name Society secured volunteers to help in grading the lots.  Some lots in the rear were raised as much as fifteen feet and large monuments were raised or lowered as needed under the
direction of Cornelius Hayes.  The grading was completed and the whole cemetery seeded when heavy snow came.  Those who had labored so hard viewed the approach of Spring with apprehension but only in one spot was the fill
washed out.  Now the cemetery could be cared for with a minimum of time and labor.

Father Hartnett feels that this work was blessed from the start and wonders if the old time pioneers buried in the lots were praying for the success of the project.  He also credits the late William Kirchoff with being the driving force behind much of the work in the cemetery.

Caretakers of St. Francis Xavier Cemetery have inlcuded Martin Hogan, Sr., Michael Lennon, Cornelius Lyons, John Heenan, Thomas Lennon, James Farrell, William Brott, Stephen Haney, Edward La Rose and Joseph Stopyro.

Addendum: From 1862 to 1888, the number of lots sold in St. Francis Xavier Cemetery (Section 1) was 210, and since the actual record of interment has not been found, this figure is being used to indicate the number of burials
that took place.  From 1888 to 1925, an additional 1138 interments took place in SFX Cemetery (Section 1) and from 1926 to 1994 an additional 77 burials took place in Section 1 of the Cemetery.  From 1926 to 1994, approximately
920 interments have taken place in Section 2 of the Cemetery, about 500 in Section 3, and about 160 in Section 4.  The total number of interments in SFX Cemetery during the period 1862-1994 is, then,  over 3000.

Submitted by John Curtin


Submitted 23 May 1997
Updated 3 January 2000