|Old Jamestown Cemetery|
|Under the Prendergast Library and Dow Park|
New York USA
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
OLD JAMESTOWN CEMETERY
For five years after the settlement of Jamestown in 1810, not a single death occurred in the village. During that time no steps had been taken to select suitable grounds for a cemetery. On Nov. 9, 1815, Elisha Wing, a cousin of Judge Prendergast, died at his home and a hurried selection of a site was forced upon the village. Jacob Fenton, Esq., Capt. William Forbes and a few others conferred and hastily selected a cleared pasture on a high knoll on what is now Fourth Street at its junction with Clinton Street. It was only accessible by a foot path leading over the fields. In 1817 Mrs. William Simmons, the mother of Walter Simmons, committed suicide by hanging. She was the second adult interred in the cemetery. In December 1820 there was a siege of typhus fever which continued through the winter taking a toll of 20 lives.
The people became much dissatisfied with the location and the soil of this cemetery. It was away from all roads, and the ground was hard and stony. Carrying a body over the narrow path, especially in winter, had proven very difficult. Moreover, no lots had been laid out and without that, there was no room for families to lie together. No stones had been erected and no one knew where their loved ones slept. The cemetery had never been fenced and the cows wandered through it at will.
Judge Prendergast, seeing the dissatisfaction of the people, proposed abandonment of this site and the selection of a new location. All were in favor of this idea but none could agree on a new location. Should they locate it near the site of the proposed new Congregational Church in the New England style or should it be outside the village because of sanitation? Finally, two-thirds of the villagers showed preferment for the location now bounded by present Washington, Fifth, Cherry and Seventh Streets. This spot is now the James Prendergast Public Library and Dow Park. Judge Prendergast concurred and deeded the proposed site to the village.
Before the new cemetery could be properly fenced and lots laid out, the first interment took place. But, mistakenly, the interment was made on a lot diagonally across on Fifth Street on which a resident was preparing to build a new house. Needless to say he did not relish the mound in his front yard and suit was brought against the family to remove the body.
Prior to 1836 there had been little regularity in the employment of a sexton. The relatives frequently hired an ordinary laborer to dig the grave. Hence, the alleys were infringed upon and bodies were often interred in the wrong lots. There still was no record of burials being kept. In 1854 it suddenly dawned opon the villagers that in ten years the cemetery would be filled and some new arrangements must be made. This led to the establishment of Lake View Cemetery in 1859 with definite rules and regulations and the employment of a sexton who was charged with keeping adequate records. At the dedication one of the speakers urged that every grave be properly marked with a durable stone on which would be inscribed not only the date of death, but also his place of birth and name of parents. What a boon to those tracing their lineage IF the people had only followed this last advice. SOME remains were removed to Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown
The Jamestown Journal of Oct. 29, 1875, printed the following list of persons buried in the old cemetery—now the site of the Prendergast Library and Dow Park… AND THEN NOT REMOVED !! here we give, as nearly perfect as we can, a record of the burials as attested by the monuments standing then in The Old Cemetery, long gone now under the Library
** I've added some more recent data from modern sources when found including census , family files online and newer Chautauqua Co data/ Dee Davidson
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