Courtesy Special Collections, Feinberg Library, State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh.
David Patrick has covered Champlain’s history for some time.
His latest calendar dives into the depths of the area’s cemeteries.
“This year’s calendar has 13 large format photographs that were taken in Champlain village, Rouses Point, Coopersville and Perrys Mills,” said Patrick.
The cover photo shows the circa 1909 railroad depot in the village of Champlain.
“I give a short history of the railroad,” he said. “Each photo has a good description.”
For the essay, Patrick wrote about the lost burying yards.
“There is a lot of history related to these as they contain the remains of Champlain town’s earliest inhabitants,” he said.
Early cemeteries include the Hayford, Shute, A.S. Thurber in Rouses Point, Waters and ones in Perrys Mills. Most were family cemeteries on farms.
“Pliny Moore and Ezra Thurber also gave land to Champlain and Rouses Point villages, and these small cemeteries were used for about 60 years,” Patrick said. “St. Joseph’s cemetery is the oldest catholic cemetery in town.”
In 1858 and 1859, he explained, Maple Hill and Glenwood Cemetery Associations were established and eventually the family cemeteries were dug up and the remains moved.
“But I found that not everyone was moved and many of the these family cemeteries still have people buried here,” Patrick said. “I think it is important for people to know where these old cemeteries are.”
Some are in fields, others behind houses. The exact location of many have been lost over the past 150 years.
One of Patrick’s most significant discoveries was the Refugee Burying Ground, also known as the Catholic Cemetery or Ashline Cemetery. It was known to a few people in town, though its significance seemed a mystery.
“This was on the farm of Jacques Rouse, who Rouses Point is named after,” Patrick said. “He died in 1820.”
Rouse is buried there with his wives and young children. Many of the earliest French refugees are buried there too.
“Human remains have been found in this field in the past,” Patrick said. “No one knows the original size of the cemetery or where people are buried as the earliest graves probably had wooden crosses placed here.
“In the mid to late 1800s, gravestones were placed here, but they were all knocked down in the 1930s.”
Today, they lay covered in sod.
Last year, Patrick drove around town and used the McLellan Cemetery Transcriptions to find many of the smaller plots. Some were taken care of, but others were abandoned, with stones buried and broken.
Patrick’s relative, Hugh McLellan, transcribed more than 8,000 stones in his lifetime during the 1930s and 1950s. Over the past 80 years, the conditions of the cemeteries has worsened and transcriptions are the only way to know who is buried where.
“I also list the soldiers that served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War and where they are buried,” Patrick said. “This is important to know when we give tribute to these soldiers who fought 200 years ago.”
To Purchase a Calendar
Champlain: Kinney Drugs (Route 11), the Village of Champlain office, the Town of Champlain office, the Champlain Memorial Library, Chauvin Insurance,Samuel de Champlain History Center
Rouses Point: Cornerstone Drug and Gift (Route 11)
Beekmantown: Conroy’s Organics (Route 9)
Plattsburgh: Corner-Stone Bookshop (downtown on Margaret Street), Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA)