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History of Green Hills Cemetery

Located in Dryden, Tompkins Co., NY
Green Hills Cemetery Records

According to the recollections of the "Early Settlers," the first burying ground within the limits of Dryden Village was situated on the south side of Main Street, then called the Bridle Road, and the grounds of which are now known as Mill Street and the Village Lot on the corner west of Mill Street.

As the settlement progressed the necessity for more suitable grounds became apparent and about the year of 1817, Edward Griswold set apart a piece of ground and subsequently drew a lease or deed to the First Presbyterian Society of Dryden of one acre of land lying on the east side of the hill in the southwest part of lot No. 39, to be used by all sects reserving the right and privilege to himself, his heirs and assigns to pasture sheep thereon forever. This was afterward enclosed and continued to be used as a common burying ground.

About the year 1853, the subject of enlarging and improving the grounds was discussed, also the propriety of redeeming them from the reservation above mentioned. A conference was held with the owner of the adjacent land but with no satisfactory results and the project was for the time, abandoned. Meanwhile, the grounds were becoming full, the fences neglected and noxious weeds, briers and elders were covering the ground and not only sheep, but cattle, hogs and horses walked among the graves at pleasure.

Thus matters stood, until about 1859, when the necessities of the community required that some action should be taken, so meetings were called and committees appointed to procure, if possible, adjacent tot he "acre" above mentioned and, if land could not be procured, to examine and secure other grounds.

The effort to enlarge the Old Grounds met with great difficulties, because the price of the land was too high and only five or six acres at most could be obtained, and led some who were not particularly interested in the Old Grounds to look for other locations. The rolling lands south and west of the Dryden Springs were offered and examined but the project was abandoned due to the lack of available contiguous ground.

About this time, a strong interest had arisen in favor of what was called the "West Burying Ground", it being understood that adjacent land to that already in use could be purchased at $100 per acre, and ten interested individuals offered to each furnish $100 for the purchase.

A meeting was called at the school house in district No. 7 for the purpose of making the purchase and to make arrangements to establish and provide a respectable cemetery, but, again disappointment met these brave men for the owner refused to sell for less than $200 per acre. Hope was still held that ownership might change, or the owners of the land near the "acre" or the "West Burying Ground" might reconsider.

Meantime, the neighboring towns were advancing in this enlightening improvement, while Dryden, noted for its public spirit in other matters, was becoming a by-word. Then, the community feeling the need so keenly, because of the bodies of its soldiers being sent home from the Civil War for interment, was called together and definitely organized the "Dryden Cemetery Association" and resolved to "take no step backward until grounds were purchased and a Cemetery established." The Association encountered great difficulties, however.

A meeting was called fro September 19, 1863, in the counting room of Jeremiah W. Dwight and was duly organized by electing Freeman Stebbins, chairman, and Mills VanValkenburg, clerk. Associates of these two pioneers in this important project were Leonard Griswold, Daniel P. Gardner, Daniel Bartholomew, Charles Cady, Luther Griswold, Rochester Marsh, Jeremiah W. Dwight, Jackson Graves, Merritt Baucus, Horace G. Fitts, Lorenzo Lewis, Isaac H. Ford and Thomas McElheny.

It was noted to have twelve Trustees, and D. A. Chatfield, Charles Cady, Albert Phillips, William R. Givens, Leonard Griswold, Horace G. Fritts, Thomas Mineah, Jeremiah W. Dwight, Thomas J. McElheny, Merritt Baucus, Freeman Stebbins and Erastus Rockwell were selected as such, four to be elected each year.

The records show that from the year 1863, meetings of these Trustees were held every few days, endeavoring to select a site for a permanent burying ground. The price of lands and possible adjacent lands were the questions which still perplexed these men, until finally, on November 19, 1863, a deed was executed for the entire farm of Merritt Baucus, consisting of 1000 acres at $80.00 per acre. The method of payment was a joint note by the Trustees for $1,000.00, payable April 1, 1864, and one for $2,000.00, payable April 1, 1865, with interest, and for the balance of $5,000.00, that the Association execute a note with interest from April 1, 1864. These grounds are upon the highest land within the present corporate limits of the Village, so that the home of the dead commands a beautiful view of the homes and activities of the living.

The next problem was a highway leading to the Cemetery and it was first thought it must be from Mill Street until Erastus Rockwell offered four Acres opening from Main Street at $200.00. This offer was immediately taken up by the Trustees.

The executive committee was empowered to lease or sell such lands as were not needed for cemetery purposes and Mr. Knight, an Engineer from Cortland, surveyed and set off 40 acres fro burial purposes and the Association subsequently sold back the remaining 60 acres to Mr. Baucus. One hundred fifty lots were blocked off by Mr. Knight and a public sale was advertised for November 28, 1863, but due to a heavy snow storm the sale was postponed to December 3. About this time the executive committee was also empowered to borrow $300.00 to meet incidental expenses.

By-laws were drafted and accepted at a meeting held February 13, 1864. The first annual meeting was held the third Saturday in September, 1864, pursuant to the by-laws, and James Tripp, James H. Fox, Jeremiah W. Dwight and Freeman Stebbins were elected Trustees to succeed Horace G. Fitts, Leonard Griswold, Jeremiah W. Dwight and Freeman Stebbins, whose terms of office expired. The Trustees met at the Woolen Mill in October 1864 and elected Freeman Stebbins, President; Merritt Baucus, Vice President; Erastus Rockwell, Treasurer; and Thomas J. McElheny, Secretary, with Messrs. Dwight, Stebbins and Chatfield as Auditing Committee.

The by-laws setting the time of the annual meeting for the third Saturday in September were amended to read the second Saturday in June, and the name of the grounds was adopted as "Green Hills."

The Vault was built in 1864 of stone purchased in Syracuse by a committee headed by Merritt Baucus. A fountain was purchased and erected in 1905. Mrs. John Miller erected a Mausoleum on her lot in 1911.

In 1895, a controversy arose relative to the building being erected by Hugo Dolge on the Woolen Mill property which would obstruct the entrance to the grounds and mar the beauty of the Avenue. Legal advice was taken but nothing could be done.

The first step toward beautifying the Avenue was taken in 1911 when plans were completed for the enrichment of the soil for seeding and planting of shrubs upon the suggestion of Prof. W. W. Rowlee of the Landscape Engineering Department, Cornell University, who was employed by Miss Julia Dwight for this work.

Both Miss Julia and Miss Adelia Dwight did much for the improvement and beautifying of the grounds.

From 1919 to 1921, the work of building the stone posts and ornamental stone fence at the entrance was done at a cost of $850, which was raised by popular subscription through the efforts of Miss M. A. Mineah and others.

There is a substantial permanent fund well invested at the present time which has accrued from bequests including the $3,000.00 from the estate of Mrs. Anna Dwight Tyler.

Note: Though not dated, the preceding seems to have been written in the late 1930's for a newspaper article. The article contains no by-line, nor is there any indication of who compiled this history.

History of Green Hills Cemetery,
Part Two

The original History was, I believe, prepared in the late 1930's. The following is an attempt to bring the cemetery's history up to the present date.

Rita W. Harris, Secretary - June 2001

In his "Report on the Improvement of Dryden Cemetery", dated 1910, W. W. Rowlee began with the following: "As a location for a cemetery it would be difficult to find a more beautiful place, or one that combined to such an extent all the advantages of suitable soil, satisfactory topography and beautiful outlooks." By July 1939, this 'beautiful place' was suffering from the effects of the Depression and dry weather. David Robbins, the Caretaker, was given vacation: due to the draught no "lawning" could be done and the availability of funds was so low that all work was suspended indefinitely.

Although the main avenue had been extended to the top of the knoll and new lots laid out in the spring of 1937, lot sales were not brisk. By 1940, the Cemetery was still experiencing severe financial problems. In 1941, Treasurer Lewis Gridley reported expenses of $324 for labor, $42 for supplies and equipment, $5 for improvements and $7 for gas, oil and repairs. Liabilities totaled $582 and assets approximately $2200.

In 1943, President L. D. Tripp reported to the Trustees that " the cemetery is not in good condition this spring as heretofore due to excessive spring rains and the scarcity of help." Due to war conditions, all suitable help are, according to the President, "working for better wages than the Cemetery is able to pay." This situation was to worsen as the war drew on.

A special meeting of the Trustees was called during 1944 at which time President Tripp asked if anyone knew of a Sexton or a laborer who might be available for work as there were bodies in the vault awaiting burial. As no help was available, the Town road crew was asked to help bury the bodies. Also that year, a work bee was organized and lot owners and Trustees cut the grass.

It is not documented in minutes of Annual Meetings during the war years, but apparently the fountain at the cemetery entrance was dismantled and turned in for scrap metal to assist in the war effort. The cement "bowl" of the fountain remains and is used for planting of flowers.

By 1946, President E. G. Burch's efforts to secure endowments and gifts had improved the Cemetery's financial condition and laborers were again available, so that the grounds were being cared for.

The avenue leading from Route 13 to the Cemetery grounds was ceded to the Village of Dryden for $1 in 1953 to accommodate the new housing development along what is now Highland Drive. The Village eventually proposed removal of the stone pillars which had been erected in 1919 at the entrance, and that proposal was accepted by the Trustees.

In 1972, Claud Dann, Ed Sweetland and Walter Stairs made plans to clear land for additional grave sites and with two years, an additional area in Section 3 was available. But within eleven years, even more grave sites were needed and in 1986, it was reported that the new section (Section 4) had been laid out.

The minutes of the Annual Meeting in 1989 included approval to build a new tool shed. This would replace the old shed which had been built in 1877, and moved to the new (present) location in 1895. According to local lore, the old shed had been used as the Caretaker's cabin for a time and certainly the presence of a "parlor stove" (purchased in 1878) and a chimney in the building speaks to that possibility. The stove still resides in the old shed.

While the annual meeting notes to not detail the actual construction of the new tool shed, it is understood that this was undertaken by Edward Sweetland, Willard Downey, Richard Porteus and Claud Dann. The shed was a bit less than square and the builders endured some good natured kidding, but at the next annual meeting, President Ed Sweetland reported many "compliments" on the new shed.

At the annual meeting in 1998, President William Bailey reported that the paving of the roadway along Section 3 had been completed. He also proposed purchase of a tractor with front loader to eliminate some of the manual labor, and that proposal was approved.

Beginning in 1999, a project was undertaken by Rita Harris and her son, Brent, to clean all of the monuments, to repair those in need, and to "unearth" monuments which had fallen and become buried. This was envisioned as at least a five-year project. A secondary goal of the restoration was to capture information from monuments in order to correct or add to the Cemetery's permanent records. That project continues as of this writing.

By 1999, it is clear that additional grave site would be required within a few years, and the Trustees approved development of a new section to be located to the East of Section 3. Raymond Harris spearheaded this effort and during the following two years, approximately one acre was cleared (with a significant profit realized from the sale of timber), the ground graded, raked and seeded, and a gravel roadway completed. In the spring of 2001, over 40 Colorado Blue Spruce trees were planted around the periphery of the section as well as a number of shrubs planted along the border with Section 3. At the 2001 Annual Meeting, Mr. Harris reported that lots should be available for sale by the summer of 2002, and that additional landscaping would be undertaken within a year.

Part Two of this history was written by Rita Harris, Secretary for Green Hills Cemetery.
Material given to the Laurence Beach "Beachie", our Town of Dryden Coordinator
for Tompkins Co., NYGenWeb Site.
Thank you Rita Harris and Beachie!

Transcribed for the Tompkins Co., NYGenWeb Site by Janet M. Nash

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