Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Foundation Walls in the St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery, circa 1929

The possible wall in the first picture looks awfully close to where we dug Feature 1 last fall. The possible wall in the second picture is harder to pin down, but it looks like it may have been the back (western) wall of the church, which is quite close to where we dug Feature 3, near the line of spruce trees.

The St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery, circa 1929

Laurie found these photos of the cemetery in an album at the historical society today. Based on the fact that the memorial tablet erected by village historian Herbert B. Howe is in place (seemingly just installed - notice it's not in the first picture) I am guessing that these photos were taken around 1929, perhaps by Herbert B. Howe himself. Some things of note:

-The first Methodist Episcopal church, visible in the background of the first photo.
-The gravestone of Mary Rooney, which is on the ground today, is pictured upright. I am sure there are many other stones in these photos that have since fallen over, but I noticed Mary's because of the Christogram.
-The row of spruce trees between the cemeteries is a tiny row of saplings.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cornwallville Church, Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown

Built in 1795, this church was originally the Susquehanna Methodist Church in East Durham, Greene County, New York. Later, it was moved to Cornwallville, where it became the Cornwallville Methodist Church, and lastly it was moved to Cooperstown in the 1960s, where it became a part of the historic village. Notable is the fact that it was built using the same basic model as St. Mark's Episcopal Church (1852), St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (1832), St. Mary's Episcopal Church (1850), St. John's Episcopal Church of Tuckahoe (1798), and many others. It was basically the prototypical church of the 19th (and very late 18th) century.

I haven't yet been able to find any information about the graveyard beside the church. I did notice that the 18th-century stones face away from the church building, which is not how they would have been arranged in the 18th century - but obviously they are not in their original locations.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finding the Old Kirby/Hewlett Graveyard

In the 1893 article about the di Cesnola graveyard controversy, the location of the graveyard is described thus: "Down at the southerly end of this pond there jutted out into it a little wooded peninsula which for over two hundred years has been used as a burying-ground."

This peninsula can be seen in the 1881 map of Kirbyville, not far from the old Kirby flour mill. Note St. Mark's Church in the right-hand corner of the map.

By 1901, the lake was gone, but the location of the graveyard can be approximated from the house General di Cesnola had built in its place.

Some version of this house seems to have been standing in 1929. Interestingly, the property line seems to echo the shape of the peninsula.

As for the satellite image of the area today - it is difficult to say, but it seems likely that the graveyard (if any of it remains) is in this general area.

The Graveyard that General di Cesnola Disturbed

The following article from the New York World, published September 8, 1893, was sent to me via Facebook by Mike Savoca, a descendant of one of the Spencer Optical factory workers. General Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832-1904) was the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born near Turin, Italy, he fought for the British in the Crimean War, then immigrated to the United States and served in the American Civil War. His estate in Mount Kisco, which abutted that of the notorious Judge Leonard, was sold to him by Albert and Mary Sarles in the 1880s.

General di Cesnola's reputation is somewhat tarnished by his haphazard methods as an amateur archaeologist and by allegations made by art dealer Gaston Feuardent that the general made deceptive restorations to the Cypriot artifacts in his collection (which formed the Cesnola Collection of the MMA). Feuardent's allegations, mentioned in the article below, were generally true. However, the focus of the article is another controversy: that surrounding di Cesnola's treatment of an old graveyard on his property that supposedly contained the remains of Patriot soldiers, in addition to members of the Kirby and Hewlett families. The "troubles" between the villagers and di Cesnola seem to echo those between the villagers and Judge Leonard. In each case, the villagers reacted with shock and disgust to the selfish abandon with which a wealthy man abused his power. On the other hand, both di Cesnola and Leonard felt they had the right to do with their property as they pleased. 

The question is now, does anything remain of the graveyard that di Cesnola destroyed? I am currently on the case. Thanks to Mike for sharing this with us.

Patriots' Bones Dug Up.

Mount Kisco People Say Harsh Things About Gen. di Cesnola's Act.


Commissioner Daly Ordered Cesnola's Overseer's House Removed, and the General Moved It Into Burying Ground - Gen. Cesnola Says Only Two Bones Were Dug Up - He Says It's His Burying-Ground, Anyway.

Gen. di Cesnola, of Cyprus and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been rummaging among dead men's graves again. It has been known for years that the General was the owner of a private graveyard. Not that he made it himself, the way they do in Texas, but he bought it outright.

It was in 1882 that Gen. di Cesnola bought the graveyard. He bought it as part of a tract of seventy-five acres of land about a mile and a half east of Mount Kisco. He bought it of Albert Sarles, and Sarles had bought it of Hulett. Hulett had bought it of the Kirbys, who owned over a thousand acres of land in and around New Castle Corners, an outlying flank of the village of Mount Kisco.

The tract of land which Gen. di Cesnola bought bordered the eastern and northwestern side of a long, irregular little sheet of water known for generations back as Kirby's Pond. Judge Leonard bought the pond two years ago, blew up the dam which made it a pond, drained it, and made some very soggy meadow land on which bullfrogs and bullrushes thrive.

Down at the southerly end of this pond there jutted out into it a little wooded peninsula which for over two hundred years has been used as a burying-ground. It began as a private burying ground for the Kirbys. Then when the Huletts came into possession they buried their dead in it. It was thrown open by courtesy to other families in the neighborhood, so that for a while, strictly speaking, private property, it came to be in reality a public place for interring the dead. Many soldiers of the Revolution killed in the fighting above White Plains were buried there.

The General had hardly time to acquaint himself with all the features of the land he ha bought before a committee of three waited upon him. They were substantial American citizens and sound Presbyterians and came to see the General about a rumor. The rumor was that the General, being a Catholic, was bound to do just what the Catholic priest had told him to do and the report was that the priest had told him to rip up that Protestant burying-ground and scatter the bones and dust of the dead to the four winds of heaven.

The General relieved their minds. He told them that he was not going to disturb the burying-ground. He told them furthermore that when he submitted to the dictation of any Catholic priest, Cardinal or Pope, as to what he should do with his own private property, he would be a very much older and very much c hanged man from what he then was.

That was trouble number one.

Then a man named Feuardent broke loose. Feuardent was a sceptic and a scoffer about the Cyprian treasures which the General sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for such a tidy sum of money. Feuardent said that Di Cesnola was a fraud. Di Cesnola replied.

In the heat of the debate Feuardent accused di Cesnola of having just bought another graveyard in Westchester County for the purpose of ransacking it for skulls and coffin plates to sell to art museum gulls.

That was trouble No. 2 about the graveyard, and now we come to the third and last of the General's burying-ground woes.

That began about six weeks ago, and it originated in the office of Michael T. Daly, Commissioner of Public Works. Commissioner Daly, in his efforts to keep the source of the Croton water supply from contamination, promulgated an edict that the house in which William Garrison lived had to be moved. Garrison had been overseer of Gen. di Cesnola's farm for over ten years. He said if the house was moved he would have to throw up his job and move, too, for he could get no place near by to live in.

Gen. di Cesnola was perplexed, but he had an inspiration. Why not put Garrison in the graveyard? As he thought of it it grew in his estimation to the proportions of a great scheme. He carried it out. He hired Pete Archer to move the house Garrison had lived in bodily over to the graveyard, and before he did that he hired William Wetherell to scoop away enough grave-tops and dig down into enough grave-bottoms for the house to rest on and have a cellar under it.

It was this despoiling of the last resting place of the dead, and particularly of the patriot dead of the Revolution, which has brought down upon the General the final and most serious of all the verbal attacks which his purchase of the graveyard has developed. It is discussed with much bitterness by people for miles around Mt. Kisco and Newcastle Corners.

The General had not been popular with the country people to begin with, and this last act has made them like him less than ever. Extravagant stories as to the number of the bones dug up and the sacrilegious way in which they were handled are going about. As a matter of fact but few bones were dug up. Just how many is a matter of dispute. William Archer says he only saw two and that they were leg bones. This is what Gen. di Cesnola says:

"The house is not in the graveyard proper, but in the front of it. I was present during all the excavations and present for the very purpose of seeing if any bones and relics were turned up. I am too much interested in antiquities to let an opportunity like that pass. If any bones were dug up I intended to put them in a coffin and have them decently interred. Two bones were dug up. They were leg bones, but whether of a man or a woman I could not tell. I told my overseer to put them aside and take care of them. He did put them aside, but the next morning they were gone, and since then we have not been able to find any trace of them. That is all there is to the story.

"The place was never a public cemetery, and if people choose to sell the land in which the bones of their forefathers rest they must not complain if strangers show as little respect for the place as they have shown. The proprietorship of that land lay between me and Judge Leonard. Judge Leonard said if I did not claim it he would. My deed fully shows that it was included in my purchase, and in a suit I had with a telegraph company that was putting up lines Judge Dykman, at White Plains, held that it was mine. Nobody has said anything to me about what I have done, but I suppose they talk among themselves."

Gen. di Cesnola scraped away the soil for the foundation and a little back yard to the house for a depth of about three feet. About [illegible] feet distant from the line of excavation there are two tombstones in good condition, one of white marble and the other of brownstone. Both are moss grown, but the inscriptions are very plain. One reads:

Memory of
who died
July 2, 1836
Aged 67 years
3 months and
Four days

The other, which is the one of brownstone, erected to a member of one of the Kirby family, and this is all that bear legible inscriptions, although there are the outlines of scores of graves visible, many of which have only the broken stubs of headstones sticking out of the ground and are evidently very ancient.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Mystery: Harry E. Acker (update)

This wooden, iron, and plastic sign commemorates the life of Harry E. Acker. The sign is placed in front of the Stanton family plot - you can see the iron bar of the fence in the background. There are no other Ackers in the cemetery. Why does Harry Acker not have a stone? Was he even buried in the cemetery? Since the sign doesn't look like it was made in 1909, when was it made and why?

In 1880, Harry was four years old and living with his parents, Benjamin and Hattie Acker, and sister Mary. His father was a carpenter.

1880 US Federal Census
In the next census in which Harry appears, he is 24 and living in Howell, New Jersey, where he worked as a "pool room manager." He died nine years later.

1900 US Federal Census
None of this really answers my questions about Harry Acker, so I decided to investigate Harry's parents. Six years before Harry's birth, they were living with Gilbert and Mary Ann Caniff. Benjamin Acker's wife is listed here as Celia - is she the same person as Hattie C. Acker of the 1880 census, or is she Harry's former wife? Notably, Celia and Hattie C.'s ages are the same. In any case, they had one child named Eveline at this point.

1870 US Federal Census
Ten years earlier, Benjamin had lived with his parents, Enoch and Phebe Acker ...

1860 US Federal Census
... while his future wife Celia lived with her parents, Gilbert and Minerva Caniff. Based on the fact that Celia's (or Cecelia's) middle initial was H, I'm going to guess that she and Hattie C. are the same person - although I could very well be wrong. It also seems likely that Minerva Caniff of the 1860 census and Mary Ann Caniff of the 1870 census are the same person.

1860 US Federal Census
That's all I've been able to find so far. I welcome anyone's help in solving this mystery!

Update: I found this obituary for Gilbert Caniff, Harry Acker's grandfather, from 1891. Interestingly, it notes that Gilbert was buried in St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery, but I have no record of his name in the transcription I have. Was he moved to another cemetery, as many others were?

  1. Enoch Acker (1812-) m. Phebe (1805-)
    1. Benjamin H. Acker (1840-) m. Cecelia H. Caniff (1841-)
      1. Eveline Acker (1865-)
      2. Mary E. Acker (1872-)
      3. Harry E. Acker (1876-1909)
  1. Gilbert Caniff (1815-1891) m. (1) Mary Ann Hewlett (1824-); (2) Helen Swift
    1. Cecelia H. Caniff (1841-1876) m. Benjamin H. Acker (1840-)