History

plaque

NOTE: Click on any picture to make it larger.

Jonesville Cemetery, located in Jonesville, New York, is an 11.2 acre local cemetery about a 15-minute ride north of Albany, the capital of New York. It was designed by Burton Arnold Thomas (1809 – 1880) from West Sand Lake in Renssalaer County; he designed over 22 cemeteries (including Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, NY) in the garden style (winding paths, hills, park-like setting), a romantic kind of landscape popular in the first half of the 19th century. The small community is named after James Jones who ran the former Jonesville Hotel (burned down in 1915 which prompted the building of a fire station in Jonesville), opposite the present Jonesville Country Store which now serves as a restaurant. He is interred in the cemetery with his family.

Jonesville Hotel

Jonesville Hotel

 

James Jones

Jonesville Cemetery was authorized for establishment by the New York State Senate on January 15, 1864 but did not open until October 1, 1864. The map of the proposed layout of the cemetery was filed at the county seat on June 23, 1865 and a copy is in file DD-41 in the Clerk’s Office there. Early on, 252 remains and monuments from the small Union Grove Cemetery in Jonesville were re-interred throughout the Jonesville Cemetery. That’s the reason for some markers dating back to 1799 – 1864. In fact, the oldest stone for Jemima Hubbs is dated January 10, 1799. Pieces of some of the monuments have been discovered and kept on property owned by residents on Dyer Drive and Main Street; in 2013, the Association moved to the cemetery the Mary Weld stone which had been used on a patio. The first directors were Roscius R. Kennedy, Samuel Langdon, Garnsey Kennedy, Morgan L. Finch, Alexander Hubbs, and John Higgins, who are all interred in Jonesville.

Founders' signatures on original map

Founders’ signatures on original map


This was the time of the Civil War and markers of 100 veterans from that war, the Spanish American War, World War I and II, Korean and Vietnam Wars can be seen throughout the cemetery. During the Civil War, embalming was used to preserve the remains for the journey north.

Then came the Victorian Era. The cemetery became a picnic area for families. An earthen vault (located in a new area known as the vault garden) and a gazebo (location unknown) were erected and different roads within the cemetery were named, such as Pastoral Walk which connected nearby Jonesville Methodist Church and the former Grace Episcopal Church to the cemetery. It appears the founders attended the Methodist Church, hence the connecting path from the back of the church to the cemetery. However, the cemetery is nondenominational. There were Myrtle’s Mound (highest point in the cemetery), Poet’s Mound which overlooks the flats, Cedar Mound (back of the cemetery), Cypress Mound, and Mt. Hope, Union, Larch, Greenwood, and Elmwood Avenues and a section called Mayflower Lawn. As the cemetery grew and the need for burial sites increased, the picnics ended and the gazebo and the vault deteriorated and were removed in the 1950s. However, the local beagle club, formed by Dr. John McElroy, used the cemetery for beagle trials (where beagles chased rabbits) around 1912.

Pastoral Walk connected back of Methodist Church to the cemetery.

Pastoral Walk connected back of Methodist Church to the cemetery.

The second legal milestone in the history of the cemetery association (other than the formation in 1864 by its 6 founders) was the Articles of Incorporation which established a legal status and involvement with the NYS Division of Cemeteries, Department of State. On July 22, 1905 at a board meeting held in the chapel of the Methodist Church at 2 p.m., the directors with approval of those present at the annual meeting of the association passed a resolution to apply for the Articles. Their names were W. H. Davis, J. B. Brate, Henry C. Delong, J. R. Kinns (secretary), Willard N. Garnsey and George T. Smith (chairman). The Association was represented by Attorney F. E. Bowen, the certificate was approved by Justice W. O Howard of the Supreme Court on August 16, 1905. The Articles established a Board of 6 members (we now have 9) and an annual meeting on the third Saturday of December (we now hold the meeting on the last Thursday of March). George T. Smith owned the feed store in Elnora (now the Main Street Grill). Because there was no newspaper in town, fliers/notices were placed in several public places: the Post Office, the former Blacksmith Shop (near the Longkill entrance), a tree in front of the Methodist Church, two other trees below the church, on the shed of the church, and at the grist mill in Elnora.

Circuit Rider symbol at burial sites of Methodist ministers

Circuit Rider symbol at burial sites of eleven Methodist ministers

During construction of the interstate highway (referred to as the Northway) which links New York City and Canada, the state purchased space in the Jonesville Cemetery for the remains from one small private/family cemetery; it is located at the front of the cemetery off Ushers Road.

Some of the oldest sites are located on the highest points of the cemetery. This is where the Best and the MacElroy Families are interred. One marker indicates a man named Joseph Brewer had lived the longest (b.1715 – -before George Washington–to 1812).

1900 iron fence

1910 iron fence

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Starting in 2005, a series of significant enhancements to the cemetery began to demonstrate that Jonesville was an active, inviting cemetery supported by its lot owners. The iron fence built in 1910 was replaced along Ushers/Longkill Roads, demonstrating the commitment and dedication of the Directors to the dignity and grace of the Jonesville Cemetery. Funds for the new fence were generously provided by community members and a bequest by Leslie Van Campen. In addition, the Association established its own website, provided area signs to assist in location of properties, introduced a new brochure and yearly newsletters, and began the Friends of the Cemetery to inform and to involve property owners; seven granite benches from Friends were also added to the grounds. The Friends have also funded a restoration program including the raising and repairing of fallen gravestones and the cleaning of the oldest stones/monuments. Articles on the cemetery have appeared in the journal of the Association of NYS Cemeteries.

In 2006, the Association began duplicating all of its deeds and placing duplicates in two locations to prevent the loss of these historic documents. From 2006 – 2007, the Association began a process of creating a database of all those interred in the cemetery and all names appearing in deeds, burial books, a document by Fred Crane, or on gravestones. For a variety of reasons (a gravestone was never placed on the property, names were never recorded on an existing gravestone, the name has totally worn off, etc.), the locations of some individuals are unknown, even though sources indicate they are in Jonesville.

In 2007, the Association donated its 1864 historic map of the cemetery to the Clifton Park/Halfmoon Library for the community to see its original layout with each road and area named by the founders; this map is of exceptional quality. The cemetery also initiated scheduled tours to adults and elementary students and offered a program at the Clifton Park/Halfmoon Public Library on the history of the cemetery.

Trustees present cemetery map to public library

Trustees present cemetery map to public library

In 2008, the Town of Clifton Park presented the Cemetery Association with the historic bell from the former Grace Episcopal Church from Main Street, Jonesville, for permanent display at the Ushers Road entrance. The Town built a fence which surrounds the bell tower and used two of the original 1910 metal posts as part of the fence. The Town owns and insures the bell tower on cemetery property. The magnificent bell tower was built and donated by Hinman Construction Company. The Association through fundraising added an automatic ringing system and historic markers for future visitors to the cemetery to enjoy.

Bell pics. dedication ceremony 002.smaller version

Wording on the bell
The Gift of the Choristers Boys of Christ Church, Ballston Spa, to Grace Church, Jonesville, Whitsunday, May 13, 1883. Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace good will toward men.

In 2009, the Association dedicated a granite Veterans’ Memorial near the flagpole to honor all who have served our beloved country. In addition, all roads in the cemetery were upgraded. A new granite bench near the well was donated and installed.A Jonesville resident presented the Association with part of the original map of the cemetery from 1865; the poor quality section has water stains but is of the same map material as the good copy in the library. The original of this copy is unknown; all the resident said was it was given to her by someone who apparently found it in a garage sale. The Preservation Team repaired 400+ old fallen monuments by removing them from their places, pouring new cement foundations, and returning them using epoxy where necessary to bind broken pieces together to their original locations. The Association introduced a unique  aluminum bracing system to secure some of the oldest stones in the cemetery.The cemetery was evaluated by the Division of Cemeteries, NYS Department of State:”[Jonesville Cemetery]…should serve as a model for your community…[with] a pro-active board who has shown great concern in both managing Jonesville Cemetery and planning for its care in perpetuity.”

Veterans' Memorial, erected 2009

Veterans’ Memorial, erected 2009

In 2010, through the generosity of the Friends of the Cemetery, the Association upgraded the water pump area with new fencing, plantings and a bench. A new map display was erected which shows the original design of the cemetery, along with a self-guide to particular points of interest in the cemetery. For its initiatives, the Preservation Team was asked to speak to Clifton Park’s Preservation Commission and representatives from area cemeteries. A new publication for property owners was introduced on how to clean a gravestone.

cemetery fence pics 008

Map display at the Hatlee Trustees Memorial

Map display at the Hatlee Trustees Memorial

In 2011, a new, narrated DVD was produced with a series of programs on the History of the Cemetery, the Meneely Bell Tower, Unique Monuments, the 1864 Map, and much more.

In 2012, the Association dealt with a number of landscaping projects including placing privacy screening on the fence separating Area D from the nearby housing development, dealing with a drainage/erosion issue, and mapping out all available spaces in the cemetery.

Upon the passing of retired Trustee C. Milton Hatlee, the Board placed a plaque in the landscaped waterpump area in Area E to honor Milton and former Board members who served the needs of our lot owners. This area is now known as the Hatlee Trustees Memorial.

In 2013, the Association completed upgrades to the Hatlee Trustees Memorial plaque area, developed a series of new burial options, and continued placing memorial stones on unmarked or abandoned lots.

Hatlee Trustees Memorial

Hatlee Trustees Memorial

In 2014, Jonesville Cemetery was listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the same year it celebrated its 150th anniversary of its founding through a series of special cemetery tours and events, organized by a committee chaired by Ed Hughes, including honoring  Our Deceased Children and eleven Methodist Ministers.Read the report by the National Park Service on the historic Jonesville Cemetery: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/14000132.pdf

National Register 1864 015

The Association reset a piece from the original 1888 vault in a new vault garden through donations and had field stone mason Dan Chambers from Washington County complete 60 feet of the original wall in front of the new garden.

 

Completed Garden.2014

Stone wall and Garden Completed.2014

As part of the 150th Anniversary, the Trustees authorized a major enhancement of the MacElroy Knob wall and seating, partially funded through the generosity of the MacElroy Family. The project was dedicated to Duke Wood and honored Dr. MacElroy.

Dedication.Duke Wood

Upgraded wall and seating completed October, 2014

Upgraded wall and seating completed October, 2014

After a year of research and discussion, the Trustees  accepted, upon the invitation of the Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission, the memorial stones from a small, Clifton Park church cemetery which closed years ago. This is the third cemetery which becomes part of the larger Jonesville Cemetery. The two other cemeteries came from the Union Grove Cemetery on Main Street in 1864 and a family cemetery on Wood Road, when the Northway was constructed in the 1950s.

Methodist Memorial Stones are in their new location.

Methodist Memorial Stones are in their new location.

methodist stones

The cemetery is the resting place of eleven Methodist ministers, all designated by a Circuit Rider plaque. As part of our 150th anniversary, the last plaque was placed on Rev. James Beskin’s lot by the present pastor of the Jonesville Methodist Church, David Lockwood, and church member Ed Bennett.

Circuit Rider symbol is added by Ed Bennett with Pastor Lockwood

Circuit Rider symbol is added by Ed Bennett with Pastor Lockwood

 

One result of  the ten year upgrading of the cemetery was cemetery lot sales nearly doubled by the end of 2015.
Today, the cemetery continues to meet the needs of our lot owners and community, as the Association maintains its country beauty, peace and resting place for many.

Written by Ed Hughes