WILSON FAMILY CEMETERY
Town of Mohawk
Montgomery County, NY
These photos and desription of the on-going restoration of the Wilson Cemetery were gratiously contributed by Paul Russell, a Wilson family descendant. Originally Paul wrote that he had been undertaking the clean-up and restoration of the cemetery and had photos to share. As other researchers have expressed interest in restoring their own family cemeteries, I felt our site visitors would
find Paul's long-term project interesting and asked several questions which he answered in depth:
"Also, tell me about making the fence!"
I set up a fund and lobbied family members for contributions with the help of a cousin who then published a family newsletter. When my cousin from Seattle came East for
the first time to visit the farm between Fonda and Johnstown where the
cemetery is located, I convinced two of my Wilson Uncles, John [d. 1995] and
Elmer, plus my Dad and a friend from Boston, to join me there to build the
fence. We measured with my Uncle John and Dad on 1 May 1994. We then
planned to meet on Memorial Day for the construction. I investigated
"post-ups," a new means of anchoring fence posts. I purchased the post-ups
in Worcester, MA and arrived a day early in Johnstown. I went to a lumber
company and ordered the lumber that we would need to build a rail fence.
While waiting for the lumber to be delivered and for my Dad, Uncles and
cousin to arrive, my friend and I cleaned up the cemetery, i.e. did the
biannual cutting of weeds and raking. Then we built a simple 25'x35' rail
fence with interval fence posts. We spent most of the money people had
contributed, but I continued to collect funds. In 1998, on an annual visit
to Northern, NY, I stopped with another friend in Johnstown and began
looking for pickets. Eventually, I found them in Amsterdam, ordered 250
cedar pickets, picked them up the next day and set out to attach them.
Thanks to Jim Havelchek, whose mother-in-law grew up on the farm when the
Wilsons owned it, I was able to use an extension cord for an electric drill
to screw the pickets on. A Wilson cousin-in-law, Bill Harper in Ogdensburg
made the gate. This summer I tried to paint early in the summer, but it
was far too humid. I attended the Palatine Society meeting at St.
Johnsville on 25 September 1999, with flecks of paint on my hands, from
painting the night before. On Sunday, my friend and I who had helped build
the fence completed the painting.
"How did you get permission?"
I asked the present owner, a very nice farmer, Mr. Blowers, who lives next door. In fact, the cemetery is specifically mentioned in an 1838 Will [Jacob Wilson] and in subsequent deeds as a family burial ground for "descendants and connections." The
family is thereby guaranteed the right-of-way to "care for the cemetery."
Mr. Blowers has been very generous in allowing us to use the old Wilson
Dutch barn from the 18th century that sits across from the cemetery for
shelter [if it rains!] and to store some of our lumber.
"Who's otherwise maintaining it, etc. ?"
This is something of a hit-and/or-miss operation. A cousin of mine, Charlie Wilson, occasionally cuts the weeds and rakes. Otherwise, I'm the maintenance person. Encouraging other family members to help has been less successful. Although willing in principle, failure to find a convenient time to meet there, or reluctance to assume initiative, both contribute to making caretaking a one-person operation. However, there are plans for a sign and to restore stones. In my Christmas Newsletter every year, I keep people informed of the progress with a photo and description. Contributions, however small, occasionally still come in. The bulk of the most recent expense, I've paid for myself.
Headstone of John Wilson with American flag
View of full fenced in area showing upright headstones
View of fence from outside showing access and trees
Photos of the Wilson Cemetery before restoration
Source: The original reading and
photographs of the Wilson Cemetery were provided by Paul Russell, a descendant of the Wilson family. Paul also provided us with extensive obituaries of people of the Wilson surname. He'd appreciate hearing from people who want to share information about his family.