Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Lakewood Cemetery
By Holice and Debbie

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The cemetery was organized by a number of gentlemen of the village of Coopertown, during the summer of 1856, to meet a requirement which had been long felt by the citizens of the village and vicinity of providing a more suitable place for the interment of the dead than the limited accommodations of the crowned church-yards.

A site for the cemetery was selected on the hillside overlooking the lake, in the town of Middlefield, a short distance from the corporate limits of the village of Cooperstown; and on Sept. 3, 1857, it was appropriately consecrated to the repose of the dead. A deep interest was manifested in the cemetery, and the consecration services were of a very interesting character. The Rev. Mr. Tomlinson read a portion of Scripture, which was followed with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Beadle, at the close of which the choir sang an appropriate anthem. The Rev. Mr. Bush then read a part of the 4th Chapter of 1st Thessalonians, and the following dedicatory ode, written for the occasion by Theodore Keese, Esq.:

Join in the praise we offer
To Him who reigns above;
Whose had can clothe with beauty
The graves of those we love.
For here, in pleasant places,
Our dear ones may repose,
Till our life's day is ended,
And we join them at its close.
Here let the graves be opened
Beneath these deep'ning shades,
Or when the cheering sunshine
The hallowed spot pervades.
By the lake whose sparkling waters
Lie before us clear and deep;
In the grave or by the hillside,
May our beloved sleep.
No gloomy pall enshrouds them,
Or hides them from His sight,
Who spreads His curtain o'er them,
Whole folds are decked with light.
Here shall no faith uncertain
Unhallow'd symbols trace;
But holy Truth and trusting Hope
Shall guard their resting place.
Our willing feet shall often
These pleasant pathways tread,
Where beauty breathes its fragrance
O'er the dwelling of the dead.
And voices sweet with music
Wake the solemn stillness round,
As the pine-tree and the hemlock
The sleepers' requiem sound.
We have not sought to hide them
In the wildwood's sombre shade;
Nor distant from our living homes
Shall their last bed be made.
But while we walk among them,
The whispering gale shall hear
The softened sound of village bells
Upon the list'ning ear.
And from the lake's calm bosom
Shall echo-calls resound,
When summer's twilight deepens
The shadows o'er the ground.
Every charm of Nature greets us
As we tread, with lingering feet,
These paths upon the hillside
Where shade and sunshine meet.
When absent, thought will wander
To those who share our love,
While our hands hold sweet communion
With their spirit from above.
And when our pilgrim journey
Brings us here at last to rest,
Be out footsteps safely guided
In the pathway of the blest.

At the conclusion of the reading of this beautiful ode a psalm was read and sung, when the dedicatory address was delivered by G. Pomeroy Keese, from which the following extracts are made:

"Friends and neighbors, you are here today to inaugurate a good work. Following the example of many towns and cities in the land, you have organized and established a rural cemetery,-- eminently a rural one. Not among the busy haunts of trade and commerce, where man jostles his fellow in his eager anxiety to secure as much as possible of this world's goods. Not in the outskirts of a teeming city, where the din and clamor of an ever-restless population penetrates even the sanctuaries of the dead. But far above the strife of tongues, here among the evergreen hills of Otsego, where the deep shade of the primeval forest still surrounds us, overlooking the bosom of the placid lake, alike the theme of story and of song, spread out under the canopy of heaven, and reflecting from its mirror surface the cerulean hue of sky above.

"Truly we stand on classic ground. Here, at the very base of Mount Vision, whose rugged sides have for years been trod by every lover of quiet beauty in the landscape, and almost under the shadow of Prospect Rock, equally celebrated for its perpetual view of nature's loveliness, while but a few minutes' walk from hence lie crumbing in the dust the bones of many a red man who once walked proudly through the forest; for here, at the source of the Susquehanna, were accustomed to meet the Six Nations of the Mohawk, with their brothers of the Delaware; here was their council rock, where they met in solemn conclave; here they smoked the pipe of peace and amity; and here they laid the bones of the warrior to his rest. Methinks I almost even now see a dusky form gliding through yon thicket, so little removed seems we from the traces of the past.

"The spot we have chosen seems peculiarly adapted for the purpose intended. Do you seek retirement and repose, and desire a shady nook where perpetual twilight reigns, emblematic of the shadow of death; beneath these evergreen pipes whose clustering tops shut out the glare of day; is all you wish for. Or do you prefer the lighter foliage of deciduous trees, whose leaves of brilliant green sparkle in the rays of noon day, joyous and hopeful; the maple and the beech, the oak and the chestnut, are in mingled groups, awaiting your advances. Or further still, do you look for a more open spot, where the genial sunshine is ever present, typifying the glories of eternal day; 'tis there before you. Here may you unite with friends and relatives, and secure in company a permanent place of sepulture; or preferring retirement and seclusion, the grounds are ample enough to gratify your inclination. The commanding eminence, the retired grove, the open terrace, all are here."

Following the address of Mr, Keese, a consecration hymn, written for the occasion by Mrs. A. R. Elwood, was sung, and the service concluded with a benediction by Rev. Mr. Shank.

The interest manifested by the people in the inauguration of this enterprise has steadily increased. There are many costly monuments in this cemetery, prominent among which is that erected by Edward Clark, a wealthy citizen of Cooperstown.

The monument erected to the memory of J. Fenimore Cooper occupies a delightful spot, affording a fine view of the lake, the hills, and the village he so dearly loved, and around which his gifted pen threw the charm of fiction, and rendered them familiar to the literature-loving world.

The monument is a white marble column, about thirty feet high, executed by Launits. The sculptures near the base include emblems of literary, nautical, and Indian life, and on its capital is a statue of Leatherstocking.

"My glance took in an obelisk,
High towering near the solemn wood,
Where Natty Bumppo's stalwart form
In lifter grandeur stood.
Careless his hand the rifle grasp'd,
That weapon known throughout the world;
And, crouching at the hunter's feet,
His faithful hound was curl'd.

The lake and landscape view from this cemetery is unsurpassed, and art vied with nature in rendering "Lakewood" one of the most enchanting burial-places within the boundaries of the Empire State. (The History of Otsego, NY, by Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young

December 24, 1999

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