Remembering lost towns… and the people of them
I recently went to find a new geocache placed in our area.
It was at an out-of-the-way cemetery near Andes. The cemetery didn’t have a lot of headstones, considering there appears to be more than 1,500 people buried here.
The final resting place is Pepacton Cemetery.
The story behind the cemetery is what is really interesting.
This cemetery is the resting place of many people who were moved from other cemeteries when the Pepacton and Cannonsville Reservoirs were creating, eliminating many small towns in Delaware County. The reservoirs supply water to New York City.
According to the book, “Lost Villages: historic driving tours in the Catskills” (out of print), some 23 cemeteries were eventually flooded to make the reservoirs. All of those bodies had to be moved before this could happen. The book said that family members were given two options — NYC would pay for the bodies to be buried in another cemetery or it would create a cemetery on its lands. This cemetery is apparently the one that was created as NYC does the upkeep on this cemetery.
The book notes that there were nearly 1,500 bodies moved from 13 cemeteries to this spot. That total includes unclaimed or unidentified remains.
It’s in a beautiful area on a back road. With the hills and mountains surrounding it and not far from the villages and towns that were eliminated when the reservoirs were made, it’s a tranquil spot for a final resting place. Wood markers line the main walk area, depicting the names of the towns that were destroyed for the reservoirs.
Some of the people buried here are named on headstones. That’s what also brought me here — someone at Find A Grave had requested a photo from this cemetery for their genealogy research.
Some of the headstones were easy to read, some hard.
Here’s a couple of the headstones from the cemetery:
But, as the book noted, there were some whose remains were not identified.
I have a feeling that this headstone came with the bodies from an old cemetery, but it’s still always hard to see something like this. It’s a shame that these children were nameless when buried, as many people from that day and age might have been.
The cemetery is a peaceful spot. I don’t imagine many vehicles travel here daily, so it’s an out-of-the-way spot as an eternal resting place.
If you’ve had the chance to drive around these reservoirs, you’ve likely seen the brown signs that show where former towns used to be. These towns, destroyed by the need for these reservoirs, have slipped into history. It’s places like this that remind us of that history. If you see spots like this, take a moment to think back and realize that history can nearly be wiped out if people don’t remember. It’s not just the major historical dates we all have to remember, we also have to realize that a lot of “average Joes” went through a lot of things before us. Though maybe not remembered — family members had to deal with a serious situation.
Some of these cemeteries that were uprooted were small family cemeteries. It may have been in the family for generations, and people had to choose where to move their ancestors to. And, though it’s likely never to be proven or said, one has to wonder if they got every body before the dams were finished and the areas were flooded. Could there still be remains buried deep beneath the water and ground? Who knows. But it’s a possibility.
So take a second to remember small places like this. It’s as much a part of our past as major dates in history.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.