By Captain Franklin Ellis134



Link to transcription of burials, click here


    Along the northeastern declivity of Prospect hill, and extending down to the old Columbia turnpike, lies the ground of the Hudson cemetery; a spot combing all the requisites that enlightened modern taste demands in a place of graves,--rural quiet, great natural beauty, and a conformation of surface peculiarly adapted to received those artificial embellishments which sore-hearted mourners love to lavish around the resting-places of their dead.

     But for the clustering stones, many of ancient date, a stranger would believe that this ground had been laid out in recent years, and that professional skill had aided in the selection; when he had been told the true story of its first use as a burial-ground by the Quaker proprietors of Hudson almost a century ago, he would not fail to wonder, as we do, that a commercial people, who were essentially and avowedly utilitarian in their ideas, should in that early day have decided on a spot so lovely and appropriate.

     At the time of the arrival of the settlers at Claverack Landing a grave-yard was situated on the southerly side of the old country road, a short distance east of the ferry.  Its location was upon sloping ground in an orchard owned by Justus H. Van Hoesen,* and it was usually known as the Van Hoesen or "Van Hoesen and Hyatt burying-ground." This would indicate that the burials in it were only of members of these families, but such is not known to be the fact, particularly in regard to the earliest interments.  Indeed, there is no reason to doubt that it was also used by the Van Alens and other residents at the landing.

   The old "Hardick burying-ground" is in the northeastern part of the city, near the Hudson and Chatham branch railroad, at a place formerly known as Schermerhorntown.  It was in use long before the New England settlers came, but received few interments afterwards.  Among the latest buried there was Francis Hardick, Jr.  The number of graves is about thirty, and these still remain; no transfers to the cemetery having been made.

     The proprietors at once looked about them to find an eligible site for a new ground, and in accordance with their usage a committee was appointed for the purpose.  Cotton Gelston was (almost as a matter of course) one of the members of this committee; the other was Daniel Paddock.  Their selection fell upon a lot of some five acres,--the property of their friend Colonel John Van Alen, who, on being requested to name his price for the lot, promptly replied that he would convey it as a free gift for cemetery purposes.  His offer was thankfully accepted, and the land transferred and set apart as a burial-place.  This was in 1784; and near the close of that year the ground received its first tenant,--Mrs. Phebe, wife of Benjamin Folger.  The first man who was laid here was the donor, Colonel Van Alen, who died Dec. 15, 1784, respected and mourned by all who knew him.  The two next interments are believed to have been those of Hannah, wife of Gideon Gardner (died April 26, 1785), and William Mayhew, who died July 13, 1785.

     A portion of the lot was set apart, and soon after inclosed, as a Friends' burying-ground.  We do not know the precise time when it was fenced, nor the area of land within the inclosure, though the old ground of the Friends can yet be distinguished near the present small gate of the cemetery.  On the 9th of March, 1795, the proprietors conveyed by deed to the city the burial-ground tract, excepting the part which the Friends had inclosed, which was afterwards conveyed to that society.  Thomas Jenkins and Alexander Coffin were made a committee (June 2, 1795) "to fence the burying-ground," but nothing appears to have been done by them under this authority.  In 1798 the entire tract was inclosed; Cotton Gelston and Samuel Edmonds being appointed by the council (May 10) " a committee to build a Suitable fence round the burying-ground of three Boards high, with red Cedar posts and a suitable gate, and to have the Bushes cleared up from the said Ground."  The committee made the improvement as directed, and the cost of the same was eighty-four pounds, five shillings threepence.  Four shillings more was expended for a lock, which was procured by Reuben Folger.

     The first enlargement of the ground was made in March, 1801, by purchase of land by the city from Joel Bliss, for the sum of one hundred and fifty-five dollars.  This appears to have been in advance of actual requirement, for we find that soon after James Laraby, the sexton, requested and received permission to till a part of the land.  On the 1st day of May, 1804, a committee was appointed by the city council "to survey and stake out a public square adjoining the Burying-Ground, and to take deeds of cession from the persons holding lands which will be affected thereby; and the Common Council will lay out such part of the said Burying-Ground as shall fall within the said square."  And on the 5th of the same month it was ordained by the same body "That so much of the ground taken from the Burying-Ground as is now left out be appropriated for a public Square."

     For more than half a century from that time the burial-ground received but little care, and remained neglected and overgrown until about 1855, when an attempt was made to improve it, resulting in partial success; but the effort was not sustained, and it was not until 1872 that the work was taken resolutely in hand, and prosecuted with an energy which has produced excellent results.  At that time a number of public-spirited citizens associated themselves for the sole purpose of improving and beautifying the cemetery, and to that end agreed each to pay a certain sum annually for the period of five years to produce a fund additional to the insufficient amount appropriated by the city for the purpose, and all to be expended by a committee appointed by the common council.  By this means two thousand five hundred dollars was raised the first year; and although during the remaining four years the interest grew somewhat less, and the yearly receipts were therefore diminished, yet the object of the association has been accomplished, and this ground, so beautiful by nature, has been improved and embellished, so that, instead of being a neglected waste, as formerly, it is now an ornament to the city and an object of pride to the people of Hudson; a lovely retreat, where along the shaded walks and avenues of the silent city,--many an hour of leisure is spent in profitable musing among the graves of almost a century.

     A searcher among the inscriptions that mark these graves will find here the names of many of those sterling men, the first proprietors of Hudson; the names of noble women whose deeds of benevolence are well remembered, and whose memory will be green for many a year; of judges and orators who added lustre to the annals of old Columbia, and of heroic men who died in defense of their county's flag, on land and on the sea.  There are few burial-places more beautiful or more interesting than the Hudson cemetery.

     The ground has been added to from time to time until its present area is about thirty acres.  The burial-ground commissioners for 1878 are Frederick F. Folger, Allen Rossman, D. M. Haviland, and Stephen B. Miller.


*Justus H. Van Hoesen and his wife, Janneke (whose residence stood on the present site of Daniel Limbrick's house), came to their deaths in a tragic manner, which created very great excitement in the city and vicinity.  They were seized with sudden and violent sickness in the morning of Feb. 4, 1794, from the effects of which Mr. Van Hoesen died the same evening, and his wife, after five days of agony, died in the morning of the 10th.  It was found that beyond doubt their deaths were caused by arsenic taken accidentally, but how taken was never discovered, though the general belief at the time was that it had by some means become mixed with a preparation of flowers of sulphur, which they were taking as an alternative.  They were buried in this old grave-yard, and forty-four years afterwards, when the ground was taken for the opening of Allen street, their remains, with others, were transferred to the cemetery.