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June 29, 2011

 

Sign marks Taylor settlers’ graves

At least 50 gravestones removed in 1940s now have permanent marker

HomeJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Taylor Historical Society members Patricia Johnston, left, and Dave Fuller have worked to install a sign designating the site of a cemetery dating back to the early 1800s Tuesday on Route 26.

By ANTHONY BORRELLI
Staff Reporter
aborrelli@cortlandstandardnews.net

TAYLOR — At least 50 of Taylor’s earliest settlers are buried on a partially hidden grassy knoll on Route 26, their resting place almost forgotten completely after the headstones disappeared decades ago.
A sign erected Tuesday morning marked the burial ground as an historic site. It was part of an ongoing effort by the Taylor Historical Society to preserve pieces of the town’s past.
“I think our ancestors should be recognized where they’re buried,” said Patricia Johnston, Taylor Historical Society President. “I have people searching for their ancestors who can’t find them, but say they’re buried in Taylor — possibly they are buried here.”
Town officials believe that sometime during the 1940s, a farmer who owned the property at the time removed the headstones to make use of the land, possibly to contend with shortages during wartime, said David Fuller, vice president of the historical society.
“Times were tough,” Fuller said.
The burial ground is located not far from Three Corners in Taylor along Route 26 northbound.
Members of three native Taylor families dating back to when the town was settled in 1793 — the Beebes, the Brookses and the Poolers — are accounted for on the burial ground via historic records.
Longtime Taylor resident LeRoy Clauson, who helped erect the sign, said he has one ancestor buried on the site, based on what his mother told him.
Fuller and Johnston doubt the town pursued legal action after the headstones were removed because the cemetery was on private property.
“It’s not incorporated, it’s just a family burial ground and I think you’ll find a lot of farms with family burial grounds that the headstones have disappeared on,” Johnston said.
She and Fuller were unaware the cemetery existed until about 10 years ago, but a few other longtime residents remembered it. Fuller said he received a phone call from a Union Valley resident, complaining the old cemetery site was unwittingly being plowed for corn.
Over the next 10 years, Johnston sought and secured grant funding from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation in Syracuse to help foot the $1,064 bill for the historic marker sign purchased from the state. Johnston said it is now the first of such historical signs posted in Taylor.
Hopefully, people seeing the historic marker will ponder questions about the burial ground, Fuller said.
“Why is it a burial ground and no markers, how many people are buried there?” Fuller asked. “When people ask us, we’ll tell them.”
Several headstones from the site have already been located by Taylor historians at a nearby farm. The headstones ranging in date from 1810 to 1850. Johnston said historians cannot confirm for certain whether people were buried on the site years before that.
Johnston said she is just glad people driving by now will know it exists.
“Taylor’s got a lot of history people don’t really realize beyond the low-level nuke thing,” Johnston said, referring to the state’s failed effort to place a nuclear waste dump in the town in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “We have lots of cemeteries, buildings that are old and falling down that people don’t take care of. Our old barns, farms are all gone.”
Fuller — county legislator for the town and former town supervisor — said the historical society has worked on similar projects in recent years and identified churches in Union Valley and in Taylor Center as historical structures, now on the national historic registry.
“We have acquired an old church and schoolhouse up on Solon Pond Road and restoration is in progress — it’s a slow progress because funding is limited,” Fuller said.

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