The Ballston Spa Cemetery Association (BSCA) is working on a huge puzzle, and needs your help to put all the pieces together.
BSCA is a not-for-profit organization that was incorporated in 1898 and is charged with the upkeep, ongoing sales (yes, they still have room!) and management of the historic Ballston Spa Village Cemetery.
BSCA President Mr. Bill Curtiss and the BSCA Board of Directors have laid out a multi-tiered vision to improve the cemetery’s current condition, including a Garrett Road facelift, new signs, historical markers and hopefully, a lot of community involvement.
I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with historic cemeteries. When I lived in Boston I could often be found walking through the Granary Burial Ground on my way to class, or studying under the tree near Paul Revere’s headstone. The Granary is often a busy stop along the city’s Freedom Trail because of the important Bostonian’s interred there, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock. When I passed through The Granary I’d imagine how life was at the time that those guys lived and wondered what they would think of our world today. When Angela emailed me to tell me the story was all mine I literally jumped. I couldn’t wait to find out, with help from Mr. Curtiss, all about the history that is literally buried in my own backyard.
The Ballston Spa Village Cemetery started in 1803 when Elias Lee, the Pastor of the Baptist Church in Ballston Spa, donated a plot of land to Ballston Spa Baptists on which to build what was to be the first house of worship in The Village. As a result, burials were also performed there. In 1840 land south of the Baptist burial ground was purchased as a burial site for Village Catholics. When, in 1865, St. Mary’s Church purchased the current Church Avenue site for Catholic interments, the care of the old Catholic burial grounds was assumed by the BSCA in exchange for the unused remaining lots. Since then various expansions to the south and southwest have increased the acreage of the Ballston Spa Village Cemetery, although it has been difficult for Curtiss to trace the transactions that resulted in these expansions.
The first step in the BSCA’s plan is to replace the chain link fence on the Garrett Road entrance with wrought iron gates to match the original Ballston Avenue entrance, as well as to beautify the entrance with shrubs, ornamental plantings and landscape architecture. These plans have been approved and the BSCA is looking forward to a groundbreaking this summer.
The puzzle solving will continue with the hopeful formation of a “Friends of the Cemetery” group. The “Friends” group would help restore and document the cemetery’s rich history.
Ballston Spa Village Cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent Villagers, including US Congressman John W. Taylor, Beriah Palmer, Anson Brown and more. Taylor was born in Charlton in 1784. A Union graduate, he established his Ballston Spa law practice in 1807. Mr. Taylor served as Speaker of the House for four years, and later became a NYS Senator. He died of a stroke in 1854. Beriah Palmer surveyed the Kayaderosseras Patent, fought in the Revolutionary War and, among other things, became a delegate to the 1801 Constitutional Convention. He was a NYS Assemblyman, a judge and also served as a US Congressman from 1803-1805.
Anson Brown, one of the founding members of Ballston Spa State Bank (now known as the Ballston Spa National Bank), as well as a Congressman, is also buried here. The Village Cemetery is also the final resting place of many Union Soldiers and the G.A.R (Grand Army of the Republic, Ballston Spa Post) Circle memorializes them.
The BSCA aspires to replace all of the cemetery’s tin signs with more attractive posts to guide visitors more easily, fix headstones, plant perennials, place historical markers, collect historical documents and possibly publish a collection of stories to tell the story of the cemetery.
The Annual Meeting of the BSCA is to be held on Saturday, May 2 at 10 a.m. the Village Library, and the board hopes that all members (lot owners) will come hear about all of the improvements that are set to take place this Spring.
Do you like to garden? Are you a student or do you know a student who needs service hours? Are you a teacher that can work this Ballston Spa history into an assignment? If you have any interest in helping to restore this piece of history, help with the beautification process, or get involved in any way please email Mr. Bill Curtiss at [email protected].
Do you know about any other famous Villagers buried at the Ballston Spa Village Cemetery? Do you or your relatives have any interesting cemetery stories to share? Log on and tell me all about it!
The views and opinions expressed by Ariana in her Before There Was Facebook blog are not necessarily those of the Ballston Journal Online. To contact her, email [email protected].