East De Kalb Cemetery
by Bryan Thompson
The East De Kalb Cemetery (NYS's cemetery #45015) is one of the oldest in continuous use in the Town of De Kalb. One acre of land was deeded to the trustees of the Methodist and Presbyterian Societies at East De Kalb May 28, 1846 by Elisha Griffin for the sum of $50. However burials began before this date as the original deed makes reference to the grave of one John Williams who died in 1842 and other stones date back as far as 1831.
The cemetery remained in the care of the two churches until 1887. By this point the "the cemetery had been sadly neglected for a long timeÓ a call for a "bee" to clean up the grounds was given on June 19, 1887. A meeting was held June 25, 1887 where it was resolved "to appoint a committee to talk with those interested as to forming a cemetery association under the statutes of the state and getting a deed from the church trustees then holding title to said grounds". The committee members were L. Burnett, George Akley, and Charles A. Heligas
The first meeting of the association was held at the Methodist Episcopal Church at East De Kalb on July 2. It was agreed to incorporate and the Association was duly incorporated on July 5, 1887.
Photo: East De Kalb Cemetery Office
The first officers were: Miles Farr president, N. J. Alexander vice- president, C. C. Spencer treasurer and Liecester Burnett secretary. Trustees were the above officers plus George Akley and R. C. Hayes.
The first meeting of the association was held at the Methodist Episcopal Church at East De Kalb on July 2. It was agreed to incorporate and the Association was duly incorporated on July 5, 1887. The first officers were: Miles Farr president, N. J. Alexander vice- president, C. C. Spencer treasurer and Liecester Burnett secretary. Trustees were the above officers plus George Akley and R. C. Hayes.
At the meeting it was agreed that the annual meeting would be held on the first Saturday after the second Monday in April of each year at the East De Kalb M. E. Church. They also agreed to purchase one acre of additional land one half to the Northeast and one half to the Northwest of the original acre from Charles W. Spaulding for $115. This transaction was completed in September 1887. This new section was laid out into lots that fall by L. Burnett.
In 1888 a tax was levied on all lot holders "for the purpose of improving the grounds of the cemetery and repairing and rebuilding the fences about the same". They also voted to have the superintendent "remove all milkweed and moss from the old grounds". The levied lot tax was to be collected for the association by the Board of Trustees of School District #1 (East De Kalb).
In August 1889 further improvements were instituted when the association agreed to erect the unique barrel roofed outbuilding. From the minutes, ÒThe question of an office and tool building being put in the cemetery of a size 10' by 16' 8' high. This the proposition of L. Burnett to put up said building and rent it for 99 years at 2 per cent on cost. L. Burnett appointed building committee. Cost limited to $130. It was agreed that the site of the building be fixed North of the large tree at the left of the entrance gate." The building was erected that fall. It is doubtful how much rent Leicester Burnett collected as he died January 13, 1890. The building is not mentioned again until Elmer Heligas offered to paint "the vault and tool house for the price of the paint" in 1904.
The beautiful maple trees that grace the grounds appear to date from 1891. In that year it was voted at the annual meeting that "Notice for Arbor Day be given verbally to bring a maple or elm tree for the purpose of beautifying the grounds". The Cemetery association continued to meet yearly at the East De Kalb M. E. Church until 1903. This was 11 years after the last religious service was held there. From that point on meetings were held at individualÕs homes.
Few major changes were made to the grounds until 1976 when additional ground to the Southeast was purchased for the erection of a new vault. The old tool shed was moved to its current site outside the gate at that time. (Moved to Town of De Kalb Historical Association grounds in Fall 2007). Additional land was purchased in a U shape around the existing cemetery in 1986.
Today the classic rural cemetery grounds are a living testimony to the hard work and dedication of the cemetery association over the last century.
East De Kalb Cemetery Association Annual Meeting Minutes 1887- Records of East De Kalb Cemetery Association.
St. Lawrence Co. Clerks Office: Deeds Liber 44W Page 653.
St. Lawrence Co. Clerks Office: Deeds Liber 127B Page 124. St. Lawrence Co. Clerks Office: Deeds Liber 127C Page 1286.
St. Lawrence Co. Clerks Office: Deeds Liber 915 Page 657.
St. Lawrence Co. Clerks Office: Deeds Liber 1001 Page 99.
Stevenson, Samuel Letter to East De Kalb Cemetery Association June 19, 1889 Records of East De Kalb Cemetery Association.