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Roscius Kennedy, Founder

Roscius R. Kennedy, founder, visionary, educator, businessman, politician, pathmaster, was a significant person in his day, although his contributions are unknown to most people.

Born in 1805 to Eunice (Garnsey) and Robert Kennedy, Roscius committed his life to service to others as demonstrated by the formation of the Jonesville Academy in 1839,  his role of supervisor of Clifton Park in 1842-44 and 1857, his membership in the NYS Assembly in 1849, the formation of the Jonesville Cemetery in 1864, and his leadership in purchasing land in 1869 in Round Lake to serve as a Methodist summer camp. He married his first cousin, Clara Garnsey, (passed in 1844) daughter of Nathan Garnsey, Jr. His second wife, Laura, died in 1894. He had one brother (Campbell who died in 1838, buried in Jonesville) and one daughter (Lydia, born in 1835, died in 1922, buried in Auburn, NY)

The Jonesville Academy was a private boarding, junior/senior high school which had nearly 200 students at the height of its success in the 1850s. Kennedy was the sole benefactor and trustee who hired F. E. King and Hiram Walker as principals (Walker for 20 years). The Academy declined in the 1870s as public education grew, closing in 1876, two years after Roscius died.

Jonesville Academy founded in 1840, closed in 1876.

Jonesville Academy founded in 1840, closed in 1876.

As a politician in the NYS Assembly and in the Town of Clifton Park, Kennedy extended his service to the state and community. One small demonstration of his concern for others was the inclusion of $50 in the Town budget in 1844 for the poor of the community.

The Jonesville Cemetery began when Roscius and 5 others (his brother Garnsey, farmers Samuel Langdon and Alexander Hubbs, physician Morgan Finch, and lumberman John Higgins) received approval from the NYS Senate in 1864 to close the Union Grove Cemetery and move its 252 remains and stones to the new site and to change the name to the Jonesville Cemetery.
The new location was selected because Union Grove Cemetery was full and there was a need for space for the dead from the Civil War (Arlington National Cemetery began in 1863), and because Union Grove blocked the expansion of the Academy and more homes on Main Street. (What was going on about this time? The first race at the Saratoga Race Track began; the Salvation Army was formed in England in 1865; Stephen Foster and Nathaniel Hawthorne died.)
After hiring Burton Thomas, noted landscape architect of 23 cemeteries including Vale Cemetery in Schenectady and Albany Rural Cemetery, Kennedy envisioned Jonesville Cemetery as a small community with roads, pathways, sections, and hills with unique names. Through the years, the cemetery flourished, being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

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jonesville cem view

Kennedy acquired his money to support the Academy by being a farmer and businessman, including being a pathmaster for the Town of Clifton Park. In 1848, he, Isaac Swetland, and 3 others owned part of the Waterford-Saratoga Turnpike, receiving income from the tolls on the section they had constructed of wood. It was and is still called Plank Road. Because they were responsible for clearing the road in the winter and caring for the potholes at other times, he and others were called Pathmasters by the Town. Years later, the Town took over the roads and used taxes to maintain them.

Selected by the Troy Methodist Council, Kennedy played a leadership role in the purchase of 40 acres of land west of Round Lake to serve as a summer camp for Methodists. Today, this thriving, unique community maintains its charm with its small, well cared for homes.

Kennedy has other accomplishments in his lifetime which are unknown now. According to the 1870 census, his occupation was farmer,  age  63, married to Laura, age 53, and the value of his real estate was $30,000. He passed in 1874 and rests at the highest section of the cemetery with his parents and two wives. No picture of him has been located.

Written by Ed Hughes