Who lies here?

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

The celebrities of yesteryear, right beneath your feet By Steven Kerneklian Do a little digging and you’ll be amazed who might just turn up in a cemetery. Buried throughout our towns and villages, in cemeteries large and small, many interesting histories lay at rest, just waiting to be discovered. Here lie people who began lineages and ended them; who were heroic and steadfast throughout their life; who invented products and goods, entertained, and enlightened; who helped shape the future of Orange County and the even the whole country. Small towns have always been more important than their size, supplying the manpower needed to defend cities, states, and the nation. It is no wonder our area is rich with historical war figures, such as Major General John Henry Hobart Ward, who is buried in Monroe Community Cemetery. He served in both the Mexican Campaign and the Civil War. He survived both of these major events but, ironically, was killed by a train when crossing the tracks in Monroe Village. In the same cemetery is Edward Dipple, a New York City police officer killed in the Draft Riots of 1863. He died while attempting to defend the homes and people endangered by angry rioters. In November his name will be added to the memorial of the riots in New York City. David Smith, one of the first settlers of Monroe, and Nicholas Knight, a Revolutionary War veteran, are also buried there, among many others. Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General Henry Lawrence Burnett is buried in Goshen’s Slate Hill Cemetery. He was also the special judge advocate for the Lincoln Assassination Trial, and served as major of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, and as judge advocate of the Northern Department. Goshen is also the site of the hanging of the famous outlaw Claudius Smith, a British Loyalist who, along with the Mohawk Indian Chief Joseph Brandt, raided the countryside surrounding Goshen during the American Revolutionary War. It is said he and Joseph Brandt buried many stolen treasures in the hills surrounding Goshen, and that Claudius Smith is not only buried on the grounds of the old Presbyterian Church but that his skull is embedded in the wall. Also in Slate Hill lies Anna Dickinson, celebrated during the Civil War as the Joan of Arc of the Union. At only 21 years of age she addressed Congress, President Lincoln, and his cabinet to tell them how to end the war. With Frederick Douglass, the renown black leader, she wrote the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the disenfranchisement of any person on the basis of race, sex, color, or previous condition of servitude (the word “sex” was later omitted). As Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony wrote in their history of the women’s suffrage movement, “To Anna Dickinson belongs the honor of suggesting the 15th Amendment.” In Chester is buried one of George Washington’s scouts, Nathaniel Knapp. His story goes something like this: As a child he fended off a bear attack and ended up killing the bear with a hunting knife. He later asked to be buried on the very spot the attack took place, where he had almost lost his life as a child. The sight of his burial and of his attack is known as Cold Spring Farm. His headstone is in the custody of the Chester town historian. Chester has purchased a 96-acre portion of the former Cold Spring Farm with the expectation to eventually make the area a park. Once this plan is finalized, his grave will be marked. War aside, local residents have had an impact in other ways. For example, the Cemetery of the Highlands holds Charles E. Rushmore, for whom the famous Mount Rushmore was named. Charles Rushmore was a New York lawyer, not a sculptor, but he did have some part to play in what Mount Rushmore is today. There are conflicting stories as to how this sculpture got the name of Rushmore, but one account says Charles Rushmore actually owned the mountainous terrain. Grinnell Burt started the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad and is buried in Warwick Cemetery. Roscoe William Smith, the founder of Orange & Rockland Electric, as well as Museum Village, is buried in Seamanville Cemetery. In Peacedale Cemetery in Highland Falls is Joseph Faurot, the New York City Police detective who introduced the use of fingerprinting in the United States. He was the first to use fingerprints to identify a criminal, and the first to obtain a conviction with fingerprint evidence. And did you know that cream cheese not only started in the U.S.A., but that it was invented in Chester? William Lawrence was the American dairyman attributed with achieving in 1872 the “technological breakthrough” called cream cheese. In his attempt to duplicate the popular Neufchâtel cheese of France, he hit upon a formula for a rich and creamy recipe he appropriately named “cream cheese.” The factory where the cheese was made stood opposite of where the Chester Mall stands today. In 1880, following Lawrence’s invention, a New York cheese distributor, A.L. Reynolds, first began distributing cream cheese wrapped in tin-foil wrappers. He called the cheese “Philadelphia.” Lawrence was the first president of the Village of Chester. He is buried in the Chester Cemetery. Other local residents have entertained their way into the hearts and homes of Americans across the country through books and film — and in one instance brought new meaning to the word “stallion.” In the Warwick Cemetery is buried actor Richard Paul Kiley, who died of bone marrow disease on March 5, 1999. He appeared in such films as “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” “The Blackboard Jungle,” and, more recently, “Patch Adams” and “Phenomenon.” He is best known for being Broadway’s original “Man of La Mancha.” In the Cemetery of the Highlands, actor Glenn Hunter is buried. He appeared in films such as “The Case of Becky,” “Smilin’ Through,” “The Silent Watcher,” and “The Romance of a Million Dollars.” Thomas Sanford Tousey lived on Stage Road in Monroe and is buried in the Community Cemetery. He was a prolific writer and illustrator of children’s books such as “Airplane Andy,” “Bob and the Railroad,” “Cowboys of America,” and “White Prince the Arabian Horse.” They are considered collector’s items and can fetch anywhere from $40 to $100 or more today. Another writer, Joseph T. Kescel, wrote stories for boys’ magazines, including Parson’s Magazine in 1916. He was also a mining engineer in the early 1900s. He lost 10 percent of his eyesight as a result of an attack. The most famous stallion next to Rocky Balboa is the four-legged Hambletonian. He was owned by William Rysdyk of Chester. While he never raced, over 99 percent of both trotters and pacers in North America trace their pedigrees to him. An obelisk marks Hambletonian’s burial site on the old Rysdyk farm in Chester, on a road bearing his name. While this is a very brief account of the many major historical figures who have lived and died in our little section of Orange County, you can bet there are a lot more histories buried in local cemeteries, just dying to get out. There are more than 900 cemeteries in Orange County alone. That’s a lot of souls, and a lot of histories to be told. Every one of these cemeteries links the living with the spirit and history of those now past. Read the grave markers of some people you don’t know — trust me, they’ll be honored. It’s a piece of history, their history, just waiting to be discovered. You never know who will turn up unexpectedly. And now that Halloween is upon us, take advantage of its wonderful magic. Halloween, after all, is the only night when those now living are given the chance to discover the mysteries that lay buried within each and every cemetery. Take a walk through a cemetery, stop often, and listen carefully. Plenty of old souls will be delighted to share a story or two with you. The searchable database at the Political Graveyard Web site (http://politicalgraveyard.com) shows that Orange County cemeteries contain plenty of passed-on politicians of national stature.