Area Cemeteries

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. -- Revelation 14:13
 

Cemeteries hold a unique record of the history of an area.  The stones which mark the final resting places of the dead are often the only evidence that remains of the lives of many of the people who built and populated a community in the past.  Sometimes those monuments testify to deeds and accomplishments that might otherwise have been completely forgotten. They may confirm or contradict information found in other sources.  They may provide clues to relationships.  They are also the medium through which is displayed the peculiar art, poetry, and craftsmanship which communities create to remember those who have gone before.
 

Salem, New York, is rich in these cities of the dead and local historians and archivists, as well as the cemetery caretakers, have taken pains to ensure that the cemeteries themselves and the records they contain are preserved and accessible.  One of the oldest of the community's cemeteries, the Old Burying Ground, also known as  the Revolutionary War Cemetery, is in the

                      Mound vaults in the Old Burying Ground

Village of Salem itself.  This cemetery is distinguished by the earthen mound vaults created by some of the early families of Salem and the large number of graves of Revolutionary War soldiers which are to be found there.  Out in the Camden Valley, on the way to the once-contested Vermont border, is the cemetery identified as the Moravian Cemetery.  Beyond Camden, in the Vermont community of West Sandgate, is another old cemetery of particular interest to Episcopalians.  And then there is Salem's principal cemetery, Evergreen, which stretches for many acres in fields beyond the Village.  On this page, we record the presence of Episcopalians and those who supported them in Salem from an early date and, where it is possible, attempt to piece together some of their stories.
 

The Church of England came to America with the settlers at Jamestown in 1607.  But it was also the Church from which the Massachusetts Pilgrims and others sought to be free and at the time of the Revolution it was regarded by many Americans as the Church of the enemy.  Though George Washington and many other leaders of the Revolution were Anglicans (i.e., Church of England), many other Church of England colonists were Tories, loyal to the Crown, and fled the country when war broke out or else were viewed with hostility and suspicion by their independence-minded neighbors.  After the Revolution, in the northern states in particular, there was opposition to the Episcopal Church which had emerged from the decimated remnants of the Church of England in the colonies.  The first Bishop of New York expressed doubt that the Episcopal Church would survive.  Nevertheless, the evidence of Salem's cemeteries suggests that religious freedom was alive and well in this corner of the new nation at the end of the 18th century.

Washington County, New York, lies between Bennington County, Vermont, and Saratoga County, New York, the axis of the critical campaign of 1777 which proved to be the turning point of the American Revolution.  Although the battles of this campaign took place in other towns, it is clear that the patriots of Salem were heavily involved.  It is also evident that among the Salem patriots there were those who intentionally distinguished between loyalty to the English king and fidelity to the faith and order of a particular Church.  A handful of graves testify to the fact that it was possible to be a veteran of the War of Independence and still support the Episcopal Church, the American daughter of the Church of England. 

The oldest list of names of residents of Salem and its environs who wished to see an Episcopal Church established is a list of subscribers to a fund to build an Episcopal church in the Camden Valley in 1794.  It is not certain that every person on the list was an Episcopalian.  Nor can it be said with absolute certainty that the subscribers to that effort are the same people who are identified on local tombstones.  History is, at best, an inexact science, so assumptions have been made, pending correction from other sources.


The Old Burying Ground (Revolutionary War Cemetery)

John Beaty

 

Salem's oldest cemetery is said to hold the largest number of graves of Revolutionary War soldiers in the state.  Tradition says that a hundred bodies were brought from the Saratoga battlefield and buried here in a common grave.  In years to come, 101 veterans of the War would also be buried in this cemetery, including John Beaty and Alexander Wright, two names which are found on the list of subscribers to the Episcopal Church building fund.  In fact, there are two Alexander Wrights buried here, perhaps father and son, and both were veterans of the Revolution. 
 

Old Burying Ground

Nathaniel Carswell

   

The Old Burying Ground was Salem's principal cemetery well into the 19th century.  According to the Gibson Papers, a collection of articles about old Salem families compiled by James Gibson, prominent attorney and first Senior Warden of St. Paul's Church, Nathaniel Carswell (died 1807 at the age of 79) was a member of Christ's Church in the Camden Valley and walked on Sundays from his home on Smith Road to services at the church--a trek of nine miles each way.


The Moravian Cemetery in the Camden Valley

The Moravian Church is a Christian sect properly known as the Unitas Fratrum or Unity of Brethren.  Throughout their history, though they have been persecuted by some Christians, they have often worked in an ecumenical spirit with other Christians, as is evidenced by their history in Salem.  Abraham Bininger, an immigrant from Switzerland and a convert to the Moravian Church, came to the Salem area with a group of people who included his friend Philip Embury, the first Methodist clergyman to settle in America.  Bininger and Embury were both carpenters and worked together on the construction of the first Methodist Chapel on John Street in New York City.  Bininger moved north around 1769 and Embury in 1770 and they were neighbors in the Camden Valley.  Philip Embury died of pleurisy after overexerting himself while mowing his fields in August 1773.

 



The Moravian Cemetery

He was just 45 years old.  His friend Abraham Bininger was with him at the last and preached the funeral sermon as Embury was laid to rest in a plot of land belonging to Bininger in the Camden Valley.  Many years later, Father Bininger, as he was known, was buried next to his friend.  Philip Embury's remains were reinterred in 1866 in Woodland Cemetery in Cambridge, New York, but his original grave may have been the first in the Camden Valley ground which is now known as the Moravian Cemetery.  A large number of graves of Moravian church people are to be found there, as it was evidently used as the principal burial ground of the Moravian Church which was nearby from 1832-1869.  However, in its earliest days the cemetery was used by people of other religious persuasions, well before the establishment of the Moravian Church.
 



Abraham Bininger

The land on which the cemetery lies belonged to James Duane, a prominent figure in New York from colonial times until his death in 1797.  He was a member of the Continental Congress and was the first Mayor of New York City after the Revolution.  Duane was one of the founders of Christ Church, Duanesburg, in Schenectady County, New York, and was also one of the subscribers to the building fund for the Episcopal Church which was built in the Camden Valley on land conveyed by Abraham Bininger to the "Episcopal Church in Salem".  Bininger's land was part of a larger parcel leased by Duane to a group of settlers, including Philip Embury.  Though no trace of that building remains, in 1794 Abraham Bininger wrote to one of his sons that "the building will be put up on the ground of the burrying (sic) place."  Several of the subscribers to the new church are found in the cemetery and it is likely that it served as the parish burial ground during the short existence of that early parish. 

Isaac Bininger
Revolutionary War soldier, prisoner-of-war, and secretary
of the Episcopal church
building committee.

Unfortunately, no register or other records of that parish are known to exist.  So there is some uncertainty about the identification of the occupants of various graves with the people named in documents such as the subscription list.  This is illustrated by one James Archer.  The list of subscribers includes a James Archer.  There are three Archers listed in the Moravian Cemetery:  John and his wife, and James.  From his age and surname, it seems likely that James is the son of the elder Archers, but there is no indication of any relationships on his marker.  The difficulty lies in James' age.  He was born in 1780, making him just 14 years old when the subscription list was compiled.  Is he the subscriber, possibly as a surrogate for his parents?  Or was there another James Archer?

There can be no doubt about Sarah Hubbell.  Her well-preserved stone identifies her as the wife of Camden Church subscriber Abijah Hubbell, though his surname is spelled differently (Hubble) on the subscription list and the stone carver must have made an error and had to remove and recarve his first name on Sarah's stone.  Hers is one of the oldest graves in the cemetery. 

James Archer
 

Sarah Hubbell


 

 

The West Sandgate Cemetery




West Sandgate Cemetery
 

Because their existence was relatively brief and records from the period are sparse, it is difficult to put together a complete picture of the churches in Salem's Camden Valley and in neighboring Sandgate, Vermont.  Nevertheless, there is just enough documentation in surviving records, corroborated by the evidence of the local cemeteries, to demonstrate that they did indeed exist. Continuing along the Camden Valley Road out of Salem, as one crosses the state line into Vermont and the road changes from asphalt to dirt, it is easy to appreciate the isolation of people living here in the 18th century and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of social relationships, including churches.  In their application to Trinity Church, New York, the subscribers of the Camden church note that there is not another church within four miles and, though they have a "decent number," they are unable to complete the building they have begun without

some outside assistance.  In the meantime, there are references in other records to a group of Episcopalians in Sandgate, organized under the name of "St. Matthew's Church."  One of the most significant links between these two parishes, in addition to their relative proximity to one another, is the fact that the Reverend James Nichols is named as the priest of both congregations (as well as others in the area).  A Tory activist before and during the Revolution, his presence in the area is confirmed by the grave of his wife Cloe in the well-kept little cemetery in West Sandgate.  And next to her is Grace Nichols, wife of Nathaniel, a subscriber to the Camden church building and, it may be assumed, brother of James.  The grave of Cyrus Hurd, another of the Camden subscribers, is also found in this cemetery.
 

Mrs. James (Cloe) Nichols

Mrs. Nathaniel (Grace) Nichols


Evergreen Cemetery

Situated in the rolling countryside to the west of the Village of Salem, Evergreen Cemetery is the largest of Salem's cemeteries.  It was established in 1859, less than a year before St. Paul's parish was incorporated, and parish records show that the majority of burials from the parish are in this cemetery.  The parish acquired its own lot in the cemetery, with space for six graves.  The original lot was transferred to Fr. Henry Moore Davis for the use of his family.  There are the graves of Fr. Davis, his wife Lydia, her sister Sarah Mumford, and the Davis's granddaughter Anne Broughton and her husband John Fortin.  Another lot, adjacent to the Davis lot, was purchased for the parish.  There are no markers on the parish lot, but cemetery records indicate that there are at least five burials in it.  Other parishioners are also buried nearby, including William and Margaret Bool and Dr. Charles Allen, who figured prominently in the early history of the parish.  Also nearby is the grave of Frederick Houghton, the half-brother of another important early rector, Fr. John H. Houghton.
 



The Rev. Henry M. Davis
died September 29, 1875
and
Lydia L. Davis
died January 14, 1875
 



The Bool family lot is marked by the tall monument in the foreground.
The Davis family lot is at the rear, with the parish lot in between.
 

 

The Civil War Monument in the Soldiers' Section of Evergreen Cemetery

The town monument to those who served in the Civil War stands on a prominent knoll in Evergreen Cemetery, surrounded by graves and monuments to the local men who fought to preserve the Union.  One of the earliest burials from St. Paul's parish was a hero of the Civil War, Colonel Archibald Livingston McDougall.  McDougall's family was one of the founding families of the parish.  On May 9, 1860, Bishop Horatio Potter confirmed Mrs. Mary Blanchard McDougall and baptized the couple's three children.  Another child would be baptized in 1861.  McDougall was a local attorney. On July 23, 1862, he received authority to recruit a regiment for service in the Civil War.  The 123rd Infantry Regiment of New York State Volunteers, known as the Washington County Regiment, mustered at Salem on September 4, 1862, and fought in major battles of the War, including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  On May 25, 1864, during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, Col. McDougall was wounded in the leg.  The leg was amputated and he was taken to Chattanooga where he died on June 23rd.  His body was returned to Salem and he was buried on July 9th, with clergy of several churches assisting Fr. Davis in a service held in the First Presbyterian Church.
 

Col. Archibald McDougall


Cemetery Archives of the Town of Salem

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