Historic Cemeteries Get Some Attention

Also, construction to start on Fjord Trail lot 

By Michael Turton

Two of Philipstown’s historic cemeteries are about to get some much-needed attention. Michael Leonard, a member of the Philipstown Town Board, chairs its cemetery committee and reported on the group’s work at the board’s April 7 meeting. The Philipstown committee will soon meet with the Putnam County Cemetery Committee to discuss work planned at the Cedar Street and Mountain Avenue cemeteries.

Improvements are being considered for two other cemeteries as well — at MeKeel’s Corners, at the intersection of Route 301 and Route 9, and in North Highlands at the corner of Route 9 and Horton Road.

The Cedar Street Cemetery dates to the early 1800s. (Photo by M. Turton)

The Cedar Street Cemetery dates to the early 1800s. (Photo by M. Turton)

The Cedar Street Cemetery, located on the Nelsonville-Cold Spring boundary, has tombstones dating to the early 1800s. Cold Spring’s Mountain Avenue Cemetery has graves dating to the 1750s. Neither cemetery is active. State law dictates that maintenance of abandoned cemeteries must be carried out at the town level.

“God’s Acre”

The cemeteries exhibit a number of shortcomings, including fallen and broken tombstones, downed trees and inconsistent signage and fencing. Some graves are unmarked and property boundaries are sometimes unclear. At the April 7 board meeting, Leonard noted there are so many unknowns surrounding the Cedar Street cemetery that “it’s almost like a mystery.” He also shared that the Mountain Avenue Cemetery, established in the 18th century by the Davenport family, was once known as “God’s Acre.”

The town budgeted $15,000 for improvements to be completed this year, Putnam County earmarked $2,300 and a private contribution added $300. In addition to basic maintenance, Leonard said the cemetery project will include mapping and documenting the stones, repairs, improved signage and removal of downed and undesirable trees.

Cemetery website

The Putnam County Cemetery Committee provides guidance to local committees and inspects a number of graveyards annually. It also operates a website, putnamgraveyards.com, that profiles cemeteries across the county, including 12 in Philipstown. Besides Leonard, the Philipstown Cemetery Committee consists of Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong, Sally Colinvaux, Dottie Gilman, Michael Robinson and Julie Scanga.

In other business…

  • Supervisor Richard Shea was authorized to sign the project permit for construction of the Washburn Parking Lot opposite Little Stony Point as part of the Fjord Trail that will link Beacon, Breakneck Ridge and Cold Spring. Shea said construction should be complete by September.
  • A public hearing will be held at the town hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, to consider a zoning change on a 7.3-acre parcel of land on Route 9 from rural residential to highway commercial. The property is owned by Bruce and Donna Kehr and is adjacent to Expanded Supply Products (ESP) and backs on to Clove Creek.
  • Ken Skorseth, a soils expert and program manager at the South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program, recently visited Philipstown to assess local dirt roads. Terry Zaleski, president of the Philipstown Old Roads Society, said Skorseth collected 200 pounds of soil samples and will outline his findings at a town board workshop tentatively scheduled for June 15.
  • The board approved payment of $15,000 to the Putnam County Office for Senior Resources, which provides programs for Philipstown’s senior citizens.
  • The board appointed Joel Coneybear as a director on the Philipstown Depot Theatre board.
  • The board accepted the resignation of Jamie Adams as chairman and member of the Board of Assessment Review and appointed Gordon Casement as chairman through September 2020.
  • The board approved the hiring of three town employees: Teri Fleming as clerk to the Highway Department; Tara Percacciolo as clerk to the Town Board; and Linda Valentino as secretary to the Planning, Zoning and Conservation boards. In addition, Cecelia Mastrorilli was hired to train town staff to update and refresh the Municipal TV Channel, which broadcasts town board meetings.
  • A proposal to move meetings of the Philipstown Planning Board from Butterfield Library to the town hall was not supported, mainly because the town hall meeting room is not handicap-accessible.
  • The Town will contribute $300 to the annual Nelsonville Fish and Fur Club’s Kid’s Fishing Day at Cold Spring’s Fishkill Road reservoir on Sunday, May 1.

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