St. Lawrence County
New York USA
Postal Code: 13669
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Ogdensburg, NY is a historical city along the St. Lawrence River, population of about 13,000 and bordering Canada. The city has a colorful distant past, for example it had a short lived Canadian invasion and capture during the War of 1812.
Ford Vault is located near the southern end of Lake Street and before Spring Street Bridge. The vault entrance faces the Oswegatchie River. The back of the vault is facing Lincoln Ave. The monument in the shape of a cross is over the entrance to the vault (See picture) and is visible from Lincoln Ave.
The Ford Family Vault is a Largely Forgotten Historical Site That Deserves Recognition
Nathan Ford, pioneer and founder of Ogdensburg, NY chose a wooded site on the high banks of the Oswegatchie River near the heart of the Ogdensburg settlement as a place to have a burial vault. His will stated that within two years of his death, a vault would be completed and he would be interred there, the prescribed time of completion was met. The vault was created of stone and built in an arch shape. The top of the vault was made level with the high side of the bank. The door of the building would face the river and had a simple marble stone inscribed over the doorway "Ford Family Vault." At the time of Nathan's death, it was a picturesque location in 1829.
Fast forward over sixty years later to 1895, the vault now has a railroad line directly in front, R.W. & O. R.R. (years later called the New York Central R.R.)and the entrance of the vault now overlooks a dam arresting the free flowing river. Ogdensburg has grown in size. The site chosen for the vault is no longer a peaceful and beautiful place that Nathan saw during his days of life. Even back in 1895, a person would have been surprised to see a burial site located there. During that year, a descendent named Mr. Beverly Jones of Toronto, Canada paid Timothy McCormick to have the remains (the earlier coffins were rotted entirely away) and remaining decomposing coffins to be buried behind a new wall 16 feet wide, 10 feet tall and about ten feet from the door. Behind the wall, the remains were completely buried in earth. During the construction of the new wall inside the vault it was noted that stalactites of six inches of length hung over the ceiling of the vault and the floor contained many stalagmites. McCormick leased a city lot from Mr. Jones for a fifty year period in exchange for keeping the vault repaired.
A May 1905 Ogdensburg newspaper article states that 19 coffins were moved behind the new wall. Nineteen is the total number of people interred in the vault.
By 1905, Mr. Beverly Jones asked to deed the vault to the city but to keep the rights to erect a monument over the site. Note that the 1905 Ogdensburg Journal states that the interior wall was completed around 1900 though the 1895 Journal Article states the job was completed August 22, 1895. Before the interior wall was built and the coffins sealed behind the second wall, anyone could enter the vault. The exterior Iron Gate no longer worked and is claimed to have been broken for years prior to that. Locals sometimes would go into the vault to look for valuables. The name plates on the coffins were stolen to include Nathan Ford's plate. A search to recover Nathan's plate was initiated upon this discovery in 1895 but it was not found according to the 1905 article.
June 4, 1907 a Ford Family Monument was erected over the vault listing some of the names of the deceased family members in the vault. The stone monument was selected by M. Jones of Canada and it is made of red picton granite, or called Thousand Islands granite. The granite was quarried west of Alexandria Bay and was valued at $1000. The monument is a duplicate copy of the Jones family monument in Brockville (I believe the paper was referring to the Canadian city across the river from Morristown, NY)
The city's residences eventually voted in favor to take responsibility of the Ford family vault. A park was supposed to be created around the site.
June 16, 1922, the Ogdensburg Republican Journal claimed the last of the Ford Family died on June 14, 1922. Her name was Maria (Bayette) Ford, she was married to Halstead Spenser Ford. Maria passed away at the age of 67. Her husband had died forty years before her and was the last of the direct line of Ford family members buried there. According to the metal sign in front of the vault, a Mrs. Jacob Ford was the last person to be buried inside the vault in 1887. Many years before she died, Maria Ford did not want to be buried in the vault. Her reason was that she witnessed the very poor condition of the remains and the coffins during the time the vault was re-constructed with a second wall. At her request, the vault was permanently sealed sometime after the work was completed on the vault in the late 1890's. Maria is buried in Ogdensburg Cemetery and it was not well known that she was a member of the Ford family in the vault. A February 22, 1925 Ogdensburg Republican news article, titled "Mrs. Paul Martin Dies At The Age of 78" states that Maria Ford (a sister of Mrs. Martin) was the last of the Ford's to be buried in the vault – This statement is very likely an error as other sources to include an earlier newspaper article on Maria Ford, readily trumps this later claim.
Reading the old newspapers through the two centuries, there appears to be a theme of the local general population's indifference to the vault and of the founding family of Ogdensburg. A good final example of indifference would be the notice in the 1938 Ogdensburg newspaper that enough garbage is being dumped between the vault and the Spring Street Bridge to be a health hazard once the weather gets warm. Further note, in one of my pictures of the vault, there is snow covered garbage near the front entrance that I unwittingly posted, see if you can find it.
Mystery – since the vault was built about sometime in 1829, how did relatives who died decades before the vault was even built become interred there or at least claimed to be? Where were these people buried previously and who decided to move them? If you have an answer, please cite the source where it was obtained and I will include it in the person's bio. The people in question are Lewis Ogden, 1810 and Emily Ford, 1810.
Always interested in bio's of the 19 family members, please cite a source and I will post the information or attempt some research on the topic.
Thanks to Anne Cady who suggested that I look up the history of the vault at a Northern New York Historical Newspapers site http://news.nnyln.net. The following newspaper articles were obtained from that site:
The Ogdensburg Journal, dated May 17, 1905, titled "The Ford Vault Plot"
The Ogdensburg Journal, dated Tuesday, November 27, 1956, page 3, titled "Where Sleeps A Pioneer - - The Ford Family Vault Here"
The Ogdensburg Journal, dated August 23, 1895, titled "The Ford Vault."
The Ogdensburg Republican Journal, dated Friday June 16, 1922, page five, titled "Last Member of Fords Is Dead In City"
The Ogdensburg Republican Journal, dated June 4, 1932, located within the article titled "Do You Remember When?"
The Ogdensburg Republican Journal, dated April 9, 1932, titled "Ogdensburg Should Have Been Fordville Author of History of the City Declares", article written by Harold J. Murphy
Ogdensburg Journal, April 28, 1938, page 4, titled "'Round Town" by C.S. Cantwell