Feature Story

Otis Cemetery

The Otis Cemetery was being lost to time when my father first introduced me, while telling stories of his childhood on one of our many meandering drives around his hometown of Danby in the early 1990's. In their time, my Otis grandfathers built and ran one of the largest dairy farms in Vermont at Cream Hill, and there left a multi-generational family graveyard, which they also shared with their Quaker Friends.

Fascinated by the history and alarmed at the condition, my father and I journeyed there many times to pay our respects and uncover our ancestors in the hope of preserving their memory for future generations. Over the years we have been honored and privileged with the help of family and friends to restore and maintain the yard and stones, make gate repair and replacement, and to receive the kind neighbor donations of a lovely stone/slate sitting bench and birdhouse.

Most recently, we embarked on a project to find lost or unmarked graves.

The Cream Hill legacy started with Dr. (David) Harris Otis, a devout pioneer Quaker from Norwell, Massachusetts who came to Danby in 1793. The Danby History, Quaker records, and Vermont Vital records document his marriage to Sarah Rogers and their ten children to a certain extent, but do not indicate any burial locations. For many years I was puzzled by the absence of Otis Cemetery graves for five of the Doctor's sons who passed from 1802 to 1826, four before adulthood, and one adult son with a wife who predeceased him. Endless searching led me to find that Quaker disciplines in the early 19th century forbade grave markers which were viewed as inconsistent with their plainness principles at the time. I learned that for the most part, these early graves were identified with only a mound of earth that would eventually level, and sometimes a raw piece of flagstone would be stuck upright in the ground.

And so, with the kind help of family and friend volunteers, and the professional assistance of Hartgen Archeological Associates, on June 1, 2017 we set out to find unmarked graves in the Otis Cemetery. Top soil was removed in three trenches to examine disturbed soil, and six "possible" grave shafts were determined by the archeologists based on changes in the soil. I still hope to someday find a graveyard layout in historical records to know for sure, but for the moment I hope it reasonable to believe, these are the unmarked graves of the five sons and one wife..... may they rest in peace.

by Susan A. Bradford
Great, Great, Great Granddaughter Of Danby's (David) Harris Otis, MD