Feature Story

As We Begin Our 59th Year

As we begin our 59th year as an organization, we think it good to reflect on where we have been. People committed to our same goals of preservation, preceded us in the Vermont Old Cemetery Association, and have left us with a legacy that endures and a challenge to continue the effort.

In 1991 VOCA published the first edition of Burial Grounds of Vermont, an extensive statewide survey of Vermont’s cemeteries. The Introduction, Preface and Acknowledgements in the first few pages carry a powerful message to us from our predecessors.

The Vermont Old Cemetery Association (VOCA) was founded in 1958 by the late Prof. Leon Dean with the calling together of a few friends interested in the condition of Vermont’s old cemeteries. They soon formed a statewide association with the stated purpose of "Promoting the Restoration and Preservation of Vermont Old Cemeteries". They expanded their membership with considerable success, and by meetings and publicity in the press, drew attention to the poor condition of many of the state's old cemeteries and succeeded in getting some groups, individuals and towns interested in improving them.

At the fall meeting of VOCA in 1972 Russell Farnsworth suggested they make a listing of all the cemeteries in each town with copies put in two places in the respective towns, a copy for VOCA files and another to go to the State Highway Dept. to add to their road maps. This plan was adopted and is the basis of the information in this book.

Russell Farnsworth headed up this project with an ambitious program of county chairmen to oversee the work. However, as with many volunteer programs, it apparently was hard to get volunteers, and although they made it a Bicentennial project to complete the survey by 1976, they had only about 70 towns done by the time Mr. Farnsworth relinquished the leadership about 1977. For a number of years after that, information apparently came in rather slowly although a few people kept working at it.

In the spring of 1987 the officers recommended and the membership voted to put on a drive to finish the survey and with the cooperation of many and a concerted effort of a dedicated few, good progress was made. It was later decided to make it a goal to publish the information in book form, to make it readily available to more people and to have it ready to publish for Vermont's Bicentennial Year of 1991. Although we are aware that a book of this type will never be absolutely complete and correct, we believe we have accomplished our goal for all practical intents and purposes.

VOCA is not a genealogical organization, nor do we have the personnel to do that type of research. We have mentioned throughout the book some of the resource people and places we are aware of, and have listed them again in the back of the book.

We see this book as a permanent record of pertinent information regarding nearly 1900 cemeteries and burial grounds throughout the state. Information also tells the period of their use and the approximate number of burials. Black "bullets" with white numbers on the map match up with verbal descriptions of locations on the upper page. Used together, the information on these two pages should make it possible to locate most of the cemeteries. A few may require a local guide.

The numbers of burials are derived from many sources; in some cases from town records and in others from the number of gravestones still visible. In large cemeteries they are estimates rather than actual counts. Efforts were made to update as many burial grounds as possible, knowing full-well it could never be done with all of them.

The conditions as listed under "Remarks" can vary from day to day and as the survey was done over many years, it can only be considered a "snapshot" of that time and as that particular person judged the condition.

In using “burial ground" in the title, we intended to include small family burial plots as well as large cemeteries. We know there must be other small burial grounds that we are unaware of and we would be interested in hearing about them. Please send any information on such places to Arthur Hyde, RR 1, Box 10, Bradford, Vt. 05033, together with a map showing the location.

Many cemeteries are known by several names and we’ve tried to include them. The only towns not having burial grounds are Averill, Ferdinand, Glastonbury and Lewis.

Occasionally you’ll find a burial ground has been listed, but its location could not be verified; this should give history buffs a chance for research and exploration. However, any serious searchers should be aware that some of these burial grounds are on seasonal roads, or off roads some distance requiring hiking, and that a compass may be handy.

We hope this book with its information, pictures, epitaphs and space for notes will be helpful to its readers in their search for old cemeteries and the history within them, and that it will encourage them to help in advancing the aims of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association.

Many people have contributed to the publication of this book and we have tried to recognize those who had a major input in any specific town record on that town's page. However these records have accumulated over a long period and some of the preparers' names have been separated from their work or they never included their name. Also, many tips have come from hunters who have found a long abandoned burial ground or from someone who remembers a small cemetery from long ago which may have been abandoned. To all of you, we say a heartfelt "Thank you".

In addition there are some who have done an outstanding job on several towns and some over an extended period that we wish to give special credit to. Among them are Professor Leon Dean who contributed the leadership in VOCA'S early years. Russell Farnsworth, whose idea it was to inventory all the state's cemeteries led the effort through nearly a third of the initial collection process. Harold Farnsworth, who already had much of the material, succeeded in turning in the whole of Addison County within about a year; with some help I am sure.

VOCA's long time secretary, Charles Marchant, over many years has made a major contribution, especially in the southern part of the state. Margaret Jenks of California did a large part of providing the information on Rutland County Towns and has provided VOCA with copies of her books of cemeteries and burials in eleven towns. Lynne Cassano did a great job on many Bennington County towns and Wayne Alexander and Douglas Tobin, VOCA's editor and treasurer respectively, did a lot of our northern Vermont towns along with Rachel Sherman who did some of the big ones in the Burlington area. Even your editors of this effort have visited many towns in the last few years trying to clean up the scattered ones not done and updating some of the earlier material. As a member of Vermont's 251 Club, the male member of this team hopes, over time, to visit the major part of the cemeteries in all the towns in the state.

We also wish to thank the Vt. Highway Dept. for the use of their maps.

The 1991 edition of Burial Grounds of Vermont was edited by Arthur L. & Frances P. Hyde.