News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

Who Takes Care of Our Historic Cemeteries?

Here in the Orange County Historian's office, we receive a surprising number of questions regarding cemeteries. Every week we hear about a hiker stumbling upon an overgrown family plot in the woods, a church congregation struggling to maintain their graveyard, or an inquiry about the legality surrounding these sacred lands. Growing up in Orange County, I remember wondering why the Woodbury Commons shopping center had a cemetery island in the parking lot and as a college student, I learned about the excavation of an African- American cemetery behi
nd the Broadway School.  Now, as County Historian, I led tours of St. George's Cemetery in Newburgh to help raise awareness and funds for the upkeep and was surprised to learn that I could still buy a plot in this historic cemetery.  In fact, the only source of funding for many of the church cemeteries in the area, like the Presbyterian graveyard in Circleville, is the sale of new plots.  Many have come up with creative solutions to supplement those limited funds such as the Washingtonville cemetery where the Village Historian Linda Standish has worked with members of the community to create lantern tours that weave visitors through the grave stones to learn about the people buried there.

With so much interest in the topic, we reached out to Marianne Greenfield, the Town Historian of Delhi, a 20-year member and past board officer of the Association for Gravestone Studies, to host a lecture on maintaining historic cemeteries.  Marianne is a frequent presenter on the topic of cemetery preservation for groups across the Hudson Valley such as the NYS Association of Cemeteries, NY Historical Societies, the DAR as well as area libraries, and rotary clubs; she also runs her own cemetery cleaning business.  Her information is invaluable, and the event was a so successful, that we've scheduled Marianne to host a few hands-on cemetery cleanup workshops around the County in 2017.

Our records here in the Goshen office are sadly incomplete, and we wo
rked with an intern over the summer to compile data from the Genealogical Society, Veterans organizations and the County's Real Property department. Our intern, Kevin Teel, was able to create a list of over 350 cemeteries in the County.  Notes left here by former County Historian Ted Sly, show that he estimated over 800 while Linda Burroughs Village Historian of Monroe has informed us that new research puts the number closer to 900.

The responsibility of caring for our historic and active cemeteries in Orange County varies from private landowners, to churches, to Friends groups, to municipalities. There's a law in place that requires Towns to care for abandoned ce
meteries but this law does not require more than a minimal amount of lawn care. As we have called upon experts and researched the topic here in the Historian's office, we have discovered that the topics surrounding the ethics, legality, maintenance methods and research potential are vast.

This rather detailed edition of our newsletter shares some of our research with you. And believe us, there's even more to come.


                                                                                      Johanna Yaun
                                                                                      Orange County Historian

Cemetery Resources
In the 1841 Courthouse in Goshen, the County Historian's office and the Orange County Genealogical Society have many pamphlets, newspaper clippings and lists pertaining to local cemeteries. 

This technical leaflet bundle offers information on photographing, transcribing, preserving, and interpreting cemeteries. Often we have good intentions but don't know where to start or what needs to be done. This bundle discusses how to preserve the information that a cemetery contains and the basic preservation of the cemetery itself. The bundle includes information on conducting walking tours, a main-stay of cemetery preservation associations, and instructions on how to present the not-so-nice history that ultimately ends up in a cemetery. 

Includes the following Technical Leaflets: TL 242A - Preserving Historic Cemeteries TL 009 - Cemetery Transcribing: Preparations and Procedures TL 092 - Photographing Tombstones: Equipment and Techniques TL 255 - Interpreting Difficult Knowledge TL 194 - A Different Path for Historic Walking Tours

View Technical Leaflet Bundle info here.

Q: How are cemeteries in New York State structured?
Over 1,900 cemeteries in New York are set up as not-for-profit organizations and report to the Division of Cemeteries. More than 4,000 other cemeteries are religious or municipal operations and are not regulated by the Division of Cemeteries.

Q: What is the New York State Cemetery Board and what do they do?
The Cemetery Board is made up of representatives from the office of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Health. The Board's function is to oversee the operation of the NYS Division of Cemeteries and to administer NYS Cemetery Law. The Board also approves all rules, regulations and service fees charged by not-for-profit cemeteries in the state.

Q: Where can I find the rules and regulations of a cemetery?
All regulated cemeteries must have their rules and regulations available to the public in their office. The rules and regulations are also given when a person buys cemetery property.

Eight Tips for Re-Setting Headstones

Whether your cemetery restoration project is large or small, these eight tips will help you re-set headstones properly.

1. Do no harm.

As with any preservation project, the first and most important step is to do no harm. If at any point you are concerned about damaging a headstone or other element of the cemetery, take a step back and consult a preservation professional. A small amount of caution now can save a lot of work down the line.

Read more tips here.

5 Free Things Anyone Can Do To Save Historic Cemeteries

Across the country, grassroots organizations are springing up in small towns and in big cities to take care of historic cemeteries. Those burial plots along the road, in someone's backyard, or connected to an old church are often not maintained, the occupants' relatives having moved on long ago. But cemeteries are part of our collective history, and their gravestones tell stories of people who once lived, worked, and loved, memorialized by a few carved sentences.

More information here
Information from PBS

Cemetery Educators Guide

Different types of cemeteries
  • The church cemetery - Often located near the church and is private church property.
  • The public cemetery - Owned by a town, city or county and open to the public.
  • The private cemetery - Owners and/or caretakers are usually listed at the cemetery entrance. This restrictive cemetery could be owned and operated by a lodge, a community organization, the military, or a specific family.
  • The ethnic cemetery - Could be private or public and overlap one of the other types but owned and operated to support one religion.
  • The mass grave - A common grave for a group of people, often victims of a disaster.
  • Commercial cemetery - These are for profit and are nondenominational.
More information here
Cemetery Info
Top 10 Cemeteries to Visit

Many of the world's most storied graveyards offer respite-and rewards-for the living too. Headstones, crypts, and landscapes divulge clues into the spirit of a place and its people. At these famous cemeteries, dig past the spooky surface to find a repository enlivened by the legends of the characters buried below.

Seven Cemeteries Stranded in Parking Lots

For most people parking lots are no slice of heaven and can sometimes seem worse than any circle of hell, but for others these concrete sprawls are where they spend their eternities. While most cemeteries are constructed as a sacred space separating the worlds of the living and the dead, these two worlds collide when a final resting place is in the path of progress. With much of their surroundings of statues and greenery replaced by hood ornaments and hubcaps, these stranded grave sites stand as a stark reminder of a nearly forgotten and paved-over past.

What Happens When A City Runs Out Of Room For Its Dead? 

"If you want to go out and start your own cemetery" in the UK, says Alison Killing, "you kind of can." She thinks a lot about where we die and are buried - and in this talk, the architect and TED Fellow offers an eye-opening economic and social perspective on an overlooked feature of our towns and cities: the cemetery. Speaking specifically to UK laws, she unpacks the fascinating, sometimes funny, often contradictory laws about where you can be buried.

There's A Better Way To Die, And Architecture Can Help 

In this short, provocative talk, architect Alison Killing looks at buildings where death and dying happen - cemeteries, hospitals, homes. The way we die is changing, and the way we build for dying ... well, maybe that should too. It's a surprisingly fascinating look at a hidden aspect of our cities, and our lives.

The Many Roles of a Historic Cemetery

While one person may emotionally perceive a religious structure or even a spot in nature to be sacred, another person will sense in these locations little more than a curiosity about history, if that. This dichotomy certainly applies to cemeteries. While some may perceive them to be sacred places, especially when located adjacent to churches, others merely consider them to be places for burying dead people. But, even if primarily regarded as burial spots, cemeteries can serve many different roles.

Death Next Door: How Austin's Cemetery Master Plan preserves the urban burial ground

When we talk about urban planning, we envision the future: innovation, improvements, newness.

Development and preservation are often  at odds. The construction of new highways and high-rises threatens the sanctity of historical landmarks, preservationists argue; the need to kowtow to historical societies introduces tedious roadblocks, developers claim. Cemetery preservation-the movement surrounding the conservation and perpetuation of some of the country's most neglected properties-is a prime example of the long-standing debate, and a particularly human one.

Link to article for more
Cemeteries Have Great Stories To Tell

A visit to a cemetery can provide a wealth of family history information, but it can be much more than that. A 20-minute walk through any cemetery will provide you access to family stories. Parents who lived long, full lives. Others who died much too young. Babies, some just one day old.  Some who were never born. John and Jane Does, victims of murder. And in many older cemeteries, some of the departed rest with no visible monuments.  Their markers were damaged or swallowed up in soft ground or by encroaching woods.

Link to article for more
Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries

Before 1831, America had no cemeteries. It's not that Americans didn't bury their dead-just that large, modern graveyards did not exist. But with the construction of Mount Auburn Cemetery, a large burial ground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the movement to build cemeteries in America began.

Recommended Reading
The Work of the Dead

The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In  The Work of the Dead , acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes's argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters--for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history,  The Work of the Dead  offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.

Cemetery Tours and Programs: A Guide

Cemetery Tours and Programming: A Guide shows the range and opportunities of cemetery programming that go beyond basic starting points like dog-walking or traditional historic walking tours. It illustrates the reuses of both historic and contemporary burial grounds through the lenses of recreation, education, and reflection. This guide takes readers through the historical roots of cemetery programming, options for creating diverse programming, and step-by-step suggestions for executing events. While most cemeteries do not have a large paid staff, this book is accessible to anyone (paid staff members, volunteers, a Friends Group, or museum or historical society) looking to broaden the scope of how their local cemetery is utilized.
A Graveyard Preservation Primer

A Graveyard Preservation Primer has proven itself to be a time-tested resource for those who are seeking information regarding the protection and preservation of historic graveyards. It was first written to help stewards of early burial grounds responsibly and effectively preserve their graveyards. Much information found in the first edition of the book remains valid today. Still, much has changed in the twenty-five years since its first publication, and the new edition reflects these changes. 

Attitudes and the understanding of historic graveyards as an important cultural resource have grown and developed over the years. Likewise, changes in treatments have also taken place. Perhaps the most dramatic change in burial ground preservation is in the world of technology. 

Changes in computers and the way we use them have also changed preservation practices in historic graveyards. Discussion of technological changes in the new edition includes those in mapping, surveying, photography, archaeology, and other areas of evaluation and planning. Consideration is given, too, to maintenance and conservation treatments, including both traditional and newer treatments for stone, concrete, and metals. Metals were not discussed in the earlier editions, and protection and preservation of the landscape as it relates to graveyards is an expanded focus of this book. The historic preservation of cemeteries and burial grounds is an aspect within the discipline of historic preservation that is unknown to many. Those whose responsibility is the care of these historic sites may be unfamiliar with appropriate approaches to such areas as documentation, planning, maintenance, and conservation. 

Local Opinion

"I am so proud of the workers who take care of the Minisink Cemetery. In every season, they're out there, mowing, cleaning....our cemeteries not only have our founding families, but many of our hero Veterans, and their memories should be preserved by the generations that follow." 
       Teresa Weeden Gurdineer
 Town Historian, Minisink

Upcoming Events
Lecture about the Presidency and the Constitution: Issues and Perspectives

Monday, November 14th, 7PM

Every year, Cultural Affairs presents two lectures on the United States Constitution, one on each campus. To celebrate the Constitution, the second of the lectures will be presented on Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Gilman Center, Library Room 130 at SUNY Orange.

Dr. Brian Carso will speak on "The Presidency and the Constitution: Issues and Perspectives."

This topic is particularly timely since the program comes six days after the 2016 election. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Carso is keenly interested in American government and politics, from the first partisan presidential election of 1796 through today's political campaigns. During the lecture, he will explore the nature and power of the presidency as envisioned by the Framers. Then, he will show how the circumstances of recent history have changed the executive branch. He will also consider the nature of the presidency in a democratic republic, and examine how this year's presidential campaign has challenged republican principles.
Carso holds a BA in English, and an MA in American History, both from the University of Rochester. He also has a JD from SUNY Buffalo, School of Law and a PhD in American Studies from Boston University. He is an associateprofessor of History and Government at Misericordia University which is located in Dallas, PA. He resides in Matamoras, PA.
In addition to teaching classes in history, he directs MU's pre-law program for those students interested in a career in law, government, or a related field. Prior to teaching, he practiced law at a large Rochester law firm. He also ran his own private practice and held public office in Cooperstown. He is admitted to the bar in the State of New York and before the United States Supreme Court.

He is the author of "Whom Can We Trust Now?": The Meaning of Treason in the United States, from the Revolution through the Civil War.

The Gilman Center in the Library is located at the corner of South Street and East Conkling Avenue, Middletown, NY (near the Morrison Hall mansion, GPS: 115 South St.).  Free parking is available in the college parking lots and garage.

Questions may be addressed to Cultural Affairs at (845) 341-4891 and You may also check out the Cultural Affairs website at
Lecture about Local Dairies and Their Milk Bottles

Tuesday, November 15th, 6PM to 8PM

"Orange County Dairies and Their Milk Bottles" is a lecture you might expect to hear from a retired dairy farmer, but a 16 year-old high school student?
Alex Prizgintas is a Junior at the Monroe-Woodbury High School and is exceptionally passionate about local history; transportation (both rail and air), local industry (dairy, bottles and bricks), and the Borscht Belt Hotels of Sullivan County. Already a seasoned lecturer, he has given 17 presentations on three separate topics over the past three years, and on  November 15th  he will be returning to the Harness Racing Museum in Goshen to discuss the history of Orange County Dairies. To illustrate his topic, Alex will be bringing more than 200 milk bottles from Orange County to share and bring to life the history of dairy farming. "I remember one lecture I gave last year that had in the audience three descendants from local dairy farms, three delivery drivers from various dairies and one very special person, Mrs. Knipp, whose husband was one of the founders of the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors (NAMBC)." The NAMBC recently awarded Alex the Dannheim Emerging Leader Award for his work in promoting and preserving both the history of dairy farming and their milk bottles.  
During the early 1880's, New York was a dirty city with streets crowded with horses and their manure, discarded oyster shells and other debris. Cows were kept in stables and fed the leftover mash from breweries and the resulting milk was so inferior that it became known as "swill milk." In 1841 the Erie railroad came through Orange County and with its arrival came the discovery of a vastly superior milk. "The Erie Railroad was just the right thing to quickly deliver milk to New York City which became an instant sensation for NYC residents and as well as a major revenue for the railroad," explains Alex.
To learn more about Orange County Dairies and Their Milk Bottles make a date to be at the Harness Racing Museum in Goshen on  Nov. 15th. The evening begins with a wonderful catered dinner at  6:00 followed by Alex's presentation at  7:00 pm. Tickets are $20 ($16 for members of the museum). To reserve a seat for this limited space please call 294-6330.
Lecture about the Red Apple Rest

Thursday, November 17th, 7PM to 9PM

The Historical Society of Rockland County Invites You to Join Us for "Red Apple Rest" with Elaine Freed Lindenblatt 

Price: Admission: FREE (reservations required)

If you have ever stopped at the Red Apple Rest, the landmark restaurant is about to return the favor. Author Elaine Freed Lindenblatt will be here with the inside story of her familys colorful eatery. Take a 50-year armchair ride back along NY Route 17 and learn what it was like to grow up in a round-the-clock family business that served over one million customers annually. Elaine's book "Stop at the Red Apple" will be available for sale and signing.

About Elaine Freed Lindenblatt: Elaine Freed Lindenblatt is the youngest daughter of Reuben Freed, a Russian immigrant who turned his roadside stop into the celebrated Red Apple Rest. Elaine is an editor and writer whose essays on topics ranging from slice-of-life to the Holocaust are widely published in Hudson Valley newspapers. She calls her book Stop at the Red Apple the story I had to tell.

The Historical Society of Rockland County is a nonprofit educational institution and principal repository for original documents and artifacts relating to Rockland County. Its headquarters are a four-acre site featuring a history museum and the 1832 Jacob Blauvelt House in New City, New York. Facebook Invite

Historical Society of Rockland County
20 Zukor Rd, New City, New York 10956
General Gates Day at Edmonston House

Saturday, November 19th, 5PM to 8PM

Meet General Gates and his staff at his new headquarters in New Windsor, and find out why he said that Gen. Washington's dogs at Mount Vernon were kenneled better. Facebook invite.

Edmonston House
1042 State Route 94, New Windsor, New York 12553
Evacuation Day at Fraunces Tavern

Monday, November 21st, 6:30PM to 8:30PM

6:30pm - Cocktail Hour
Flag Gallery, Fraunces Tavern Museum
54 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10004

7:30pm - Dinner
Bissell Room, Fraunces Tavern Restaurant
Business Attire

Ticket includes both reception and dinner.

Hosted by The Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York whose mission is to perpetuate the memory of the men who, in military, naval, or civil service, by their acts or counsel, achieved American independence; and to promote and assist in the proper celebration of anniversaries of events relating to the War of the Revolution.

On November 25, 1783, the British Army left New York after occupying the city for seven years. That night, the first American-born Governor of New York, George Clinton, honored George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief, with a banquet held in Fraunces Tavern where thirteen toasts were offered beginning with "The United States of America" and ending with "May the Remembrances of this Day be a lesson to Princes."

**Tickets are required and are on a first come basis. Space is limited. Payment must be received with reservation.** Facebook Invite

Fraunces TavernĀ® Museum
54 Pearl St, New York, New York 10004
Hudson Valley Farm and Flea at Motorcyclepedia Museum

Saturday, November 26th, 10AM to 5PM

The Hudson Valley Farm & Flea will highlight the innovation and talent of our passionate community of artisans, vintage collectors and local farmers. Added to this unique mix are musicians, filmmakers and food entrepreneurs. Collecting all of these local businesses under one roof will foster an environment where customers can be immersed in a total Hudson Valley lifestyle experience on Small Business Saturday.

For further information, please contact Laurie Perrone.

Motorcyclepedia Museum
250 Lake St, Newburgh, New York 12550

Christkindlmarkt on Front Street in Port Jervis

Sunday, November 27th

Port Jervis' historic Front Street is the setting for the German Christmas Market, an enchanting family market in the tradition of those held throughout Germany. The arrival of the 'Santa Express' will be the highlight featuring lights, reindeer, characters, entertainers and Santa. 856-1611, for more info.
New York State Archives Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF) Program Webinars for the 2017-2018 Grant Year
This year we are offering four webinars related to the upcoming LGRMIF grant season:
LGRMIF Grant Application Information Webinar
Monday, November 14, 2016, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Digital Imaging and Electronic Document Management for Grant Writers Webinar
Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
LGRMIF Shared Services Grant Information Session Webinar
Monday, November 21, 2016, 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
How to Write a Superior LGRMIF Grant Narrative Webinar
Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 10:00 AM - 11:00 PM
Additionally, we have many workshops throughout New York state that you can attend in person.  To see what sessions are in your area, please visit our website at:
Cemeteries in the News

Carpet cleaner scrubs veterans' grave stones at cemeteries his spare time

Man on a mission to clean every gravestone at Cape Cod cemetery

Is the largest Revolutionary War burial being replaced by an IHOP?

Historic African-American cemetery's remains could soon return to Newburgh

Cemetery beekeeping, honey operation buzzes among graves

Abandoned cemetery sparks debate in New Windsor

City Cemetery Is Alive With Shocking Number of Bats, Spiders

The pirate cemetery of Madagascar

America's abandoned insane asylum cemeteries

Why slaves graves matter

Theft of ancient bones a debacle for NPS

Historic cemetery repeatedly vandalized in Wallingford

Tent covering graveyard removed after 227 people found in excavation for Metrolink

Relatives need help in push to preserve OBX cemetery

Once forgotten pioneer cemetery visited on Veterans Day

History buffs to preserve town's 23 cemeteries

Nuclear plant employees spruce up cemetery

Pokemon craze poses threat to tri-state cemetery

Volunteers turn to goats to help clear cemetery

Long lost slave cemetery discovered in Virginia

Preserving graves of Rockland's earliest war dead

Cemeteries remapped using ground penetrating radar

Fallen tree reveals Guale burial ground

Volunteers get history lesson while cleaning Bethlehem cemetery

Mexican cemeteries celebration of life and death

Grave of Civil War soldier vandalized

Voters gather at Susan B. Anthony grave on Election Day

The cemetery as an archive

Corpse Roads

St. Augustine bones linked to 444 year old cemetery

Preservation society hopes to identify unmarked graves

Army of volunteers help restore Civil War cemetery

The hidden Colonial cemeteries of Oyster Bay

Outrage as graves of Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers dug up and spilled throughout historic cemetery
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun