Read by Joseph C. Boyd
Date Read: May 14, 1973
Typed by: Debora M. Vanhook Park
Location: Town of Big Flats, Chemung County, Chemung, NY
Note: A 1999 reading of this cemetery was done my Debbie Moore and it will be online shortly, also
See another photo at bottom of page
Joseph C. Boyd made the following record on May 14, 1973.
|Last name||First name||Birthdate||Deathdate||Age||Comments/Relationship/Inscription|
|BROWN||Rubina Whitney||(9/5/1852)||1/26/1882||29y 4m 21d||Wife of William M. BROWN|
|GOFF||Roswell, Rev.||1762||10/27/?||(The death date cannot be read on the original tombstone, which lays face-up on the ground, directly behind a large boulder which carries a metal plaque honoring the pioneer Baptist minister. The tombstone is broken into two pieces. The plaque, placed on the boulder in 1940 by the New York State Education Department, Chemung River Baptist Association, reads: "Rev. Roswell Goff 1762-1825. With other settlers from the Wyoming Valley, in his log cabin on September 2, 1789, organized in the old Township of Chemung, the first church in the vast wilderness centering in the Chemung Valley. This became the Wellsburg Baptist Church. Deriving his main support from farming and shoemaking, he served as the militant and successful pioneer preacher for a wide area. On August 30, 1807, he organized and became the first pastor of the Baptist Church of Big Flats."|
|At the top of the boulder over the plaque is a small metal circlar disc which was placed there by the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution, and reads around it's border: "Roswell Godd, Private, New York Levies, Revolutionary War.")|
|GROVER||Sarah||(1795/96)||9/15/1841||Wife of Mason W. GROVER. (An old shale tombstone laying on the ground with the bottom portion broken off and missing.)|
|GROVER||Jerusha||See entry for Jerusha Grover WHITNEY|
|LOBDEL||Phebe||(3or4/1743)||12/12/1819||76y 8m||(An old fieldstone tombstone with faint, home-made lettering. It is the only marker in the cemetery outside the Whitney Plot.)|
|MEAD||Betty||8/5/1823||58y||In memory of.|
|STARK||Amos||(10/28/1767)||3/21/1850||82y 4m 21d|
|STARK||Mary||See entry for Mary Stark WHITNEY|
|WHITNEY||Aaron||4/2/1774||5/6/1823||(The engraving on the home-made tombstone is in a style of handwriting and is most pleasing to the eye. The marker is sunk into the ground and protrudes about 8"to 10" above the surface. He has a second tombstone.)|
|WHITNEY||Aaron||(4/12/1774)||5/6/1823||49y 24d||(Note the date difference from the above tombstone.)|
|WHITNEY||Judith||(2/20/1775)||3/18/1839||64y 26d||Wife of Aaron WHITNEY.|
|WHITNEY||Benjamin||(1/24/1799)||7/17/1871||72y 5m 23d|
|WHITNEY||Mary STARK||(7/7/1795)||3/20/1893||97y 8m 13d||Wife of Benjamin WHITNEY.|
|WHITNEY||Daniel||(8/26/1829)||10/29/1855||26y 2m 3d|
|WHITNEY||Amos||4/11/1826||7/30/1864||Co. C, 5th New York Heavy Artillery.|
|WHITNEY||James, First Lt.||1/19/1823||1/21/1899||First Lt, Co. C, 5th New York Heavy Artillery|
|WHITNEY||Jerusha GROVER||2/16/1823||3/31/1895||Wife of James WHITNEY.|
|In the Whitney Plot there are four very small fieldstone tombstones with no data. In the remainder of the cemetery outside the Whitney Plot, there is evidence of many unmarked graves, such as broken off tombstones which can be seen at the surface of the ground and slight depressions in the earth. There could be as many as 35 or 40 unmarked graves.|
MISHA T. KWASNIEWSKI/Star-Gazette
Whitney Cemetery in Big Flats may one day be in the National Register of Historic Places if a boundary dispute can be resolved.
The Syracuse woman didn't plan to stir up controversy with her dream of designating a small, unimposing cemetery as a historic site.
But when Davies, a keen student of genealogy and cemetery history, started the work to include Whitney Cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places, she inadvertently walked right into the middle of a property dispute between the town of Big Flats and one of its most outspoken residents.
"It's one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers are there," said Davies, who still has family in Beaver Dams, Wellsburg and Southport. "The cemetery at one time was much larger. Unfortunately, over time and neglect, it was turned into a pasture area. A lo t of the stones were destroyed or lost unfortunately.
"Nobody knows where the (property) line falls. We need to clear that up first," Davies said. "Any property dispute can stop the nomination process."
At issue is:
- Davies and nearby property owner Bruce Miller don't want the town to disturb the cemetery.
- The town is deeming a fenced-in graveyard to constitute the entire cemetery, but Davies and other historians believe the original burial site is much bigger.
- Davies and Miller believe experts should better determine the actual boundaries of the cemetery before the town does any work on its new park.
Whitney Cemetery sits on a small plot of land near a busy intersection -- Chambers and Sing Sing roads, just north of the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport -- but there is little there to draw the attention of passing motorists.
In fact, no controversy about the cemetery surfaced until former Big Flats resident Mary Barnes last year donated the adjoining 20 acres of land north of the graveyard to the town for a new park.
When the town started talking about relocating grave sites to facilitate development of the park, that drew the attention of Miller, whose Sing Sing Road property sits just south of the cemetery. Miller and another resident, Rob Izzo, have filed numerous lawsuits against the town over what they felt was improper conduct by town officials.
Miller, who said much of the cemetery lies on his property, was outraged by the town's initial plans.
"I can't allow that. Human decency doesn't allow that kind of thing," he said. "It's unthinkable."
Town officials claim it was never their intention to dig up bodies, but in a February 2004 letter to Barnes' son Dennis, a Rockville, Md., lawyer, Big Flats town attorney Thomas Reed indicated the town would try to obtain a perpetual easement from Miller or would consider relocating graves.
"If the neighbor rejects the offer, the town will obtain the necessary authority to remove the graves located in the encroaching area and re-intern such remains in another area of the cemetery, wholly within the parcel's boundaries," the letter stated.
The letter also confirmed that the cemetery encroaches about 2 to 4 feet onto Miller's property, but Reed later said the boundary line is south of the fenced-in cemetery.
"The fenced-in area is known to us as Whitney Cemetery. There's a sign over the fence," Reed said. "There is some argument as to where that line is, but from the best we've been able to put together, (the cemetery) is all on Barnes' property."
That may be true, but the enclosed area is only part of a much larger burial ground, both Miller and Davies said.
A large boulder that sits on Miller's property outside the cemetery fence is inscribed with a plaque in honor of the Rev. Roswell Goff, who died in 1825. Goff was one of Davies' ancestors and among the pioneers who settled the area, she said.
Inside the fence are 25 to 30 stone markers of various size and condition. The oldest tombstone is dated May 1817, and the latest is dated January 1899.
There could be as many as 30 or 40 unmarked graves outside the fence, said Davies, who has studied Whitney Cemetery for three years.
The town later backed off any plans to relocate graves and currently has no intention of disturbing the cemetery at all, said Town Supervisor Mary Ann Balland.
"Our plan is to construct a paved walking path around the perimeter of the park. As a matter of fact, we've ordered seedlings and we're going to plant some blue spruce to provide a natural buffer," Balland said. "We don't have any plans involving anything with that cemetery. For right now, we'll just let it stay."
But if there are people buried on Miller's side of the cemetery, it's possible there are people buried in unmarked graves on the town's side as well, Miller said.
"It's very convenient to put a spin on it, and say it's separate. And it comes back again to the fact that the town is avoiding the obvious," he said. "There are at least two Revolutionary Wars soldiers buried there. We don't know where."
There needs to be more research to determine the exact boundaries of the cemetery, said Davies, who said she's even contacted some preservation groups about raising funds to buy the land from the town.
"It's one cemetery. It needs to be treated as a whole," she said. "I'm anxious to get it solved. I hope they can come together to preserve it. We are actively pursuing it. I have contacted immediate family. It's not even an option by the town to disturb it in any way."
More information about Whitney Cemetery and who is buried there is available at the Tri- Counties Genealogy & History Web site maintained by local historian Joyce M. Tice at www.rootsweb.com/ ~srgp/cemc/whitney.htm