Thursday, February 28, 2008


Today's featured cemetery is the Gifford Hollow Burying Ground on land that is part of the Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area. This small, abandoned burying ground of the Furman and Gifford families is difficult to find. To my knowledge, it was last cleared of brush and weeds in 1996 when photographs of all readable stones were taken by a Gifford descendant, J. Dudley Richards.

  • Here is a 1936 article from the Albany Evening Journal on the history of West Mountain that I found on the Old Fulton NY Postcards site. It tells of the purchase of 2,600 acres (by the following year it totaled 3,300 acres) of sub-marginal mountain-top land by the Federal Resettlement Agency, which the following year became the Farm Security Administration. The FSA paid much more than the land was worth on the open market and then helped the farmer's re-locate on more productive land elsewhere. New and improved access roads were then built and the former fields were resown one last time with crops suitable to feed wildlife. Cut-over woods were allowed to revert to their natural growth.
  • The former, abandoned, upland farms were eventually turned over to the State of New York and became the heart of today's Partridge Run State Wildlife Management Area. It now consists of 4,594 acres (18.59 km²) improved with hiking trails, and parking lots and is available for birdwatching, cross-county skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing and trapping. Partridge Run and nearby Cole Hill State Forest are units in the Helderbergs Management Area of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • On page 16 of the HELDERBERGS UNIT MANAGEMENT PLAN ( is the following (in part):
    Acheological and Historical Sites
    The New York State site location maps list no known archaeological or historical sites on the Unit. There are at least two cemeteries and numerous old house foundations and stone walls located on the Unit. Protection of cultural resources of historic significance is provided for under the New York State Historic Preservation Act.
  • If I am correct, there are four cemeteries in the Partridge Run WMA. Two of them, Turner Burying Ground and the Cook Family Burying Ground, are kept clear of brush. The Mathias and Peter Shultes Family Burying Ground consists of just two stones and could be kept clear with an hour of work once a year. The Gifford Hollow Burying Ground would take a few men a day a year to keep clear. As part of the requirement for the protection of cultural resources of historic significance, I would hope that the DEC would be able to provide the manpower to do annual clearing. It is my opinion that a family buying ground is a cultural resource of historic significance and should be at a minimum kept clear of brush. Neglect allows fallen stones to be covered with branches and dirt and lost forever.
  • A couple of years ago Karl Parker, Sr. Wildlife Biologist in the NYS DEC Region 4, proposed to place road signs near the approaches to each of the cemeteries. I presume that has been done.

1936 newspaper article on the history of Berne

I have decided to post a series of photos of local cemeteries, one each blog. The above photo of the Bogardus Farm Burying Ground was taken in October, 2005 by Gerald Dietz. He photographed each stone while his brother, Allen, transcribed them. The results are now posted on the Berne Historical Project site. Before that there was no record of who was buried there. This cemetery really needs to be cleared of brush and cleaned up. There are undoubtedly fallen stones that should be found and at least transcribed, and at best reset.

  • Here is an interesting article on the history of Berne that I found on the Old Fulton NY Postcards site. Among other subjects, it talks about former Associate Chief Justice of the United States Joseph Philo Bradley who was born on a farm on Cole Hill a mile from where I grew up. Also discussed is White Sulphur Springs Hotel which has been boarded up for the last fifty years or so.
  • There is a picture of a house in the 1936 article with a caption:
    This neat dwelling in the heart of Berne hamlet was erected more than a century and a quarter ago and used as a tavern. Recruiting for the war of 1812 was conducted in the building.
    It looks like it has a NYS Historical Marker in front of it. Can someone identify this building for me and send me a current photo, please.
  • The article also has a photo of the Lutheran Church with the caption:
    As the largest available auditorium at the time, this old church was the scene of a political convention at Berne in 1845. Three hundred delegates from 10 Capital District Counties assembled to vote support at the polls for only those legislative candidates opposed to the patroon system of rents.
    Henry Christman, in Tin Horns and Calico, a Decisive Episode in the Emergence of Democracy. ISBN 0-685-61130-2, says there were 150 delegates from 11 counties. The meeting was a turning point in the Antirent Wars.