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Day 176: Musings

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Way back when - I was grown but my kids were tots - my mother worked for our local library, documenting and cataloguing information about people who had lived in the county in 'the good ol' days.'

That was what initially sparked her interest in genealogy, tho none of our family lived within 300 miles of central Maryland at any given point in time. Well, except us. As you Faithful Readers know, my family came from upstate NY and southern Canada, at least as of the 1700s. Before that could be anyone's guess.

At any rate, back to Maryland: she came home one evening and told us she and another library worker had been to a housing development that was perhaps eight miles or so from our house. They were looking for a small cemetery - I suppose one of those family cemeteries that could be found on some of the large rural farms - do you know of those? I've got a couple stories if you don't, lol.

She and Evelyn couldn't find any sign of a cemetery, not even a place that looked as tho it might have been set apart or fenced or something. Most of that area - which had been a good-sized farm at one time - had been cut up into lots and was now one big housing development.

They went to one of the houses that was supposed to be on THE site, and asked the man who answered if he knew of any small cemeteries nearby. No, sez he, but I have some gravestones in my backyard.

I can just picture my mother's face regarding that little pronouncement.

The gravestones in his backyard were his lovely stone-based patio, complete with terrace. What this nimrod had done was collect up all the stones he could find after the contractor had dug them out, then used them - face down - to pave his patio.

There was good news, after a fashion, considering that the stones had been rescued, at least. And he hadn't mortared them in place, just fitted them together the way you would a patchwork quilt. Being face down meant the engravings were protected. Certainly better than finding, too late, that they had all disappeared.

So Mom and Evelyn spent most of the day turning the stones over, one by one, and recording the information off of them - all this under the watchful, suspicious eye of the owner, with his continual admonishments to 'You be sure to put that back the way it was, now.'

Maybe I shouldn't have called him a nimrod. In the long run, it was much better than the situation reported to me by one of my oldest Corn County friends, who said that when the farm next to his parents' place was sold to a developer, the machines came in and bulldozed everything - including the family cemetery that was nearly 200 years old. He said the last he saw of the stones, they were bulldozed over to one side of the field, broken into pieces.

What brought this to mind is Fort Drum. I know, you're asking yourself what's the connection.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, Fort Drum is a large army base just outside of Watertown, NY. It's become quite active in the last fifteen years or so, but the base has existed, oh, since the early 1900s. It was well-used during WWII, then quieted down. In the '60s and '70s - maybe into the '80s - it was a center for Army Reserve training. Various members of my family have been stationed there, or worked there in civilian capacities, and in two cases, still work there.

I looked it up to see that "Fort Drum consists of 107265 acres." Well. That certainly is a lot of territory. Moreover - and this is really what compelled me to look it up - "The military reservation occupies a large tract in the eastern part of Jefferson County, including parts of the towns of Antwerp, Leray, Philadelphia, and Wilna."

Today while working on Ancestry I found that a goodly number of my people lived in and around Leray. In fact, they lived in a few villages that no longer exist, villages that were absorbed into the large tract of land known as Fort Drum. I suppose the people were evicted. Let's hope they were evicted with kindness and some compensation for their property.

Most of all, I wonder where the cemeteries and gravestones of those now-nonexistent villages went? Wonder if somebody recorded the information before they were turned into rubble or targets or a terraced patio? As Franz-Joseph said in Amadeus, 'Well, there it is.'

At least when the St Lawrence Seaway was created the stones from the inundated riverfront villages were taken up and carefully grouped by area into the park at Upper Canada Village.

Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are.

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    In my opinion the fellow was utterly ignorant to do such a beastly act as to upset the marker of someone's loved ones. Would he like his own grave to be unmarked and forever forgotten?
    3446 days ago
    I love the story about the gravestones. The only problem is the two ladies sound just like my mom and her sister that just died at 99 years old this year. You brought memories back of how my moms sister (Aunt Louise, bless her soul) would take my mom to graveyards and they would stay all day looking at them and talking. emoticon

    I think doing the geneaolgy thing has been the missing link to helping you lose your weight. I think it always helps to have something to keep you busy and moving. Anything to keep the hands away from the mouth! emoticon
    3447 days ago
    What a lucky find with the patio made from gravestones... and nimrod or not, he did let them examine them! He could have just denied their existence entirely.

    Rest well, Kasey! emoticon
    3447 days ago
    It's heartbreaking when you think of all the history and memories that have been lost. I was lucky to have been able to interview a few great uncles and aunts when I started doing our genealogy. Maybe in the creation of Fort Drum they did ensure the archival information was saved before bulldozing over the villages. (Crossing fingers for you!)
    3447 days ago
    We have lots of those little graveyards in my neck of the woods- --and my mom did find the one near her home town that had a lot of relatives buried there---I think some of them have tried to now keep it semi maintained---but it was severely overgrown and forgotten---but at least it was protected by woods there. Shame on those other places.
    3447 days ago
    Calling him a Nimrod was too kind!! emoticon
    I wonder if there wasn't something illegal about what he did?

    emoticon Your research sounds really colorful and interesting. Thanks for sharing!!

    emoticon emoticon
    3447 days ago
    You were right the first time, he was a nimrod! Very interesting blog.
    3447 days ago
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