It’s not uncommon to see colonial-era churches, and those from the early days of the republic, surrounded by burial grounds. In those days, churchyards = graveyards, and no doubt it was a successful business strategy, helping to keep folks on the straight and narrow. The “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement didn’t begin until the 1830’s.
But it always struck me as odd, driving by this schoolhouse, to see it with its own cemetery, like a perpetual after-school detention for wayward and recalcitrant pupils.
The epitaphs probably have misspellings and tell of fatal miscalculations and deadly grammatical errors, “died of a dangling participle,” etc.
“John Smith ~ We’re Just Spitballing Here”
“Billy Schmeider ~ Never Added Up to Much ~ And Has Now Been Subtracted”
“Here Lies Nathaniel Johnson / Under This Slate / Lies the Late Nate / Always Late / To Class”
“Jane Jones ~ Death is a Debt to Nature Due / Which I Have Paid and So Must You / Altho Death / Could Not Thwart / I Still Owe a Book Report”
Never send to know for whom the school bell tolls…kind of rang a bell with me, so I never stopped, just thumbed my nose and sped by.
But finally, one autumn day, I pulled over to take a few photos, and found the explanation for the strange combo – – the 1869 building was moved to this site, along Route 14A, in 1991.
After the move and restoration, the county historian wrote “The Baldwin Cemetery directly behind the school…has recently become active again,” which sounds mildly alarming, if you believe in ghosts, but I suppose it just means, they’d resumed burying people there again.
The new setting seems appropriate, because when I drove out to the original site – – there was another burial ground there, too, the abandoned “West Woods Cronk Cemetery.”
So now I can’t pass by with mentioning the Cronks, a name I’ve run across before, on farms and roads all around Upstate, and while reading about the early Dutch days of this state, when it was New Netherlands.
When I visited Pixley Falls (north of Rome, NY), there was a historical marker not too far away, for an old-time countryman named Hiram Cronk.
Even though he was a small-scale farmer, in an area that seems like the hind end of beyond, when he died in 1905, Hiram rated a funeral procession through Manhattan, and reportedly 50,000 people paid their respects as he lay in state in New York’s City Hall.
It was not just his extraordinary age. When he passed away, at the age of 105, Hiram was the last veteran of the war of 1812. He’d joined the army on August 4, 1814, as a drummer boy.
Another branch of the family kept a longer version of the original Dutch name, something like Krankheyt, and eventually produced a famous newscaster of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Walter Cronkite.
And that’s the way it is.