Greene’s History Notes: Where are the oldest cemeteries in Greene County? | Chroniclers



Last week I discussed some of the earliest cemeteries in Greene County, noting how settlement patterns and burial customs can be traced by the predominance of stones from certain ages and artistic traditions. That’s fine, but where are these first cemeteries? As you might expect, they are mostly located in the ‘valley towns’ of Catskill, Athens, Coxsackie and New Baltimore along the banks of the Hudson – the old Klinkenberg cemetery mentioned in my last article is the one of those early places that now exists mostly in written accounts. We know that burials took place there as early as 1711 from a description in Beers 1884 “History of Greene County”. In contrast, burial grounds like Overbaugh Cemetery on the Embought and Salisbury Cemetery in Leeds, also prior to 1750, are well known to us because they have never been “lost” like Klinkenberg Cemetery and have were inventoried in the 20th century.

Investigations into the properties of the post-revolutionary period end up being a fascinating place to look for clues regarding other primitive cemeteries. On Route 32 just before the Greene / Ulster line is a cemetery described in many sources as the Saile-Abeel Cemetery. The name comes mainly from the families buried there in the mid to late 19th century. This informal family cemetery can trace its existence to the early years of European settlement in this locality, and first appears on a map of the “1,666 acre parcel of land along the Caters-Kill” owned by the Myers and Wynkoop. The map dates from 1796 and was probably composed as a reference for the lands that each family had previously divided among themselves. To help delineate who owned the map, color coded: the blue sections belonged to Heskia, Tobias and Peter Wynkoop; the red leaflets belonged to Christian and Johannes Myers. Even the small burial ground is marked and color coded. The Salie-Abeel Cemetery therefore seems to be more accurately described as the Myers-Wynkoop Cemetery, as it was designated in its early years for use by these families. Tobias Wynkoop’s funeral, there is good evidence that these places are the same.

An equally fascinating ancient cemetery is described to us in a composite map of the village of Athens drawn by Caleb Coffin in 1854. Mr. Coffin made a map for reference which combined four distinct early surveys of what became the village of Athens in 1805. The surveys included in Coffin’s map were the John Spoor survey of 1801, the survey of the Conradt Flaack estate, the Esperanza survey circa 1797 and the Leonard Bronk survey of the Glebe Lands of the Lutheran Church. by Zion. Together, they offer a complete reference for the different lots and surveys described in the first acts of the village. These surveys include lots bounded by the description “The Lutheran Church Ground” and “Van Loon Burying Ground” located adjacent to each other along modern South Franklin Street. Today, a small grassy mound with a mysterious gravestone marks the approximate location of these cemeteries. Apocryphal accounts indicate that Van Loon Cemetery is the burial place of Jan Van Loon, the original holder of the Loonenburg patent and patriarch of the Van Loon family. While this is more than just a local legend, this cemetery dates to at least the 1740s, but other sources describe Van Loon’s original house and burial site as being further north in the direction of by Coxsackie. Despite the evidence from Coffin’s map, a mystery persists.

On the same map by Caleb Coffin are two other lots on First Street, described in the map key as “Presbyterian Burying Ground”. This cemetery, one of three Mr Coffin cemeteries included in the map, occupied land which is now included within the boundaries of the rural cemetery of Athens at the rear of the First Reformed Church. This clue helps shed light on the bizarre conglomerate of cemeteries that now includes the rural Athens cemetery and the Mount Hope cemetery, and more information on these cemeteries and the rural cemetery movement will follow next week.

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