Cemetery neglect reversed
by Martha Ellen, Times Staff Writer
Face-Lift: Funding raised to spruce up Russell burial ground
RUSSELL--The resting place of some of St. Lawrence County's pioneers is being fixed up, thanks to a Norfolk couple who were shocked by the sight of a cemetery filled with teetering markers, broken stones and the accumulated dirt of centuries.
Russell natives Jean D. and Theron C. Given went from finding the graves of relatives at Russell Village Cemetery three years ago to the Town Council to ask to be on an improvement committee.
"It's like reading the history of Russell to walk through there," Mrs. Given said. "The town has mowed it twice a year. That's all the care it's gotten for as long as I can remember."
Among those buried in the cemetery on Russell-Pyrites Road is Revolutionary War veteran John Knox; state Assemblyman Julius M. Palmer; mill owner Hiram Bartlett; members of the Morgan family for whom the Morgan horse is named, and Nathaniel Higgins and his wife, parents of the first girl born in Russell in 1807. The Higgins family and Nathan Knox family were the first to spend winters in the area in 1805 and 1806, according to history provided by Mrs. Given.
The graveyard, which also is known as Balsam Cemetery, includes veterans from the War of 1812, Civil War and World Wars I and II. The earliest legible death date is 1813.
With the approval of the town, and the assistance of fellow committe members Roy and June I. Jenne, Mr. and Mrs. Given set about raising the $15,000 to $20,000 needed for repairs with food sales, raffles, silent auctions, 50/50 ticket sales and town help. Additional fundraisers are planned for this fall or spring.
Assistance also is expected from the Seymour Knox Foundation, East Aurora. The Knox family has a long history in Russell, and Knox Memorial Central School served residents until the merger of the Russell and Edwards school districts in 1986.
The committee started its work with an inventory of the buried and then settled on Witherbee & Whalen, Canton, for the stone repair. Crews from the monument company are laying new foundations for markers, cleaning graves and pinning together broken headstones, Office Manager Roberta L. Yaeger said.
Completion of the work should coincide with Russell's bicentennial celebration in the spring.
Many cemeteries have fallen into similar straits.
"If they get mowed, that's about it," Mrs. Yaeger said. "A lot of these are very rural, and they're rarely active."
Witherbee and Whalen also has done face-lifts at cemeteries on Risley Road and in Old DeKalb, both in the town of DeKalb, that were paid for by a private benefactor, and helped restore a monument in a cemetery on Sykes Road in the town of Canton that is a Veterans of Foreign Wars project.