Monday, June 23, 2008


The murder of Calvin Finkle - Anti-Renter

Although this blog is mainly about the families of Berne, I also research the history and families of surrounding towns - and include them in the Berne Families Genealogy.

This past week I have been helping a descendant of Calvin Finkle find his grave. Finkle, a stubborn Anti-Renter, was shot and killed Oct. 9, 1874 in Greenbush, Rensselaer County, by a Deputy Sheriff who had been sent to collect the rent. His wife was Eleanor Dunbar; he was buried in the Dunbar Farm Burying Ground in Dunbar Hollow, Westerlo.

I found a Dutch Settlers Society Yearbook listing of 15 stones in the cemetery transcribed by Mr.and Mrs. William VanDerpool Hannay, July,1927. It gives the following directions: "turn right from Ravena-Westerlo road at the foot of the Dormansville hill, and proceed 1.5 miles, turn to the right then the next left to the end of the road, and go to the next house. Cemetery north of the house."

I am told that the cemetery is also called the Dunbar Hollow Cemetery, and that it is at the south end of Dunbar Hollow Road. If anyone can tell me whose property it is on, or who to contact to find it, I would be very grateful.

Dunbar Hollow Murders

While researching the Dunbar family, I found a number of newspaper article on the tragic murders of brothers David and Stephen V. Lester, ages 9 and 7, in Westerlo on the 28th of Sept. 1850. After the death of their father, they went to live with their uncle David Lester. On the fateful day the boy's uncle left home on a sixteen mile round trip to Brigg's mill at Stephensville, the present-day Alcove. The boys were left in charge of his stepson, twenty year-old Reuben Dunbar. When David returned home that night the boys were missing. Reuben say that they had wanted to gather butternuts or go fishing and that he told them they had better not. No search was made for them that night, but the next day Lester, Reuben an neighbors started looking for Davy and Stephen. Their bodies were found a few days later deep in the woods hidden under rocks and branches.

Reuben A. Dunbar was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to death, and was hanged on the 31st of January 1851 for the murder of his two young nephews.

The boys were reportedly buried in the Dunbar Hollow Cemetery but they are not on the list of stones transcribed by the Hannays. It may be that not all of the stones were readable.

Follow-up: Thanks to a comment by anonymous I continued my search and found Reuben, Reuben's father, Alexander, and the two murdered sons of George H. and Patience Lester buried together, the only four burials in the Wickham Farm Burying Ground, Dunbar Hollow, Dormansville.

Further reading:
The Hudson River Magazine for April, 1939, contains an article "Murder in Dunbar Hollow" by Ray Mower.

New York Folklore Quarterly - Page 33
by New York Folklore Society - Folklore - 1958
Cuyler, Jacob C., Trial of Reuben Dunbar for the Murder of Stephen V. Lester ...