Notables

Dozens of well-respected deceased citizens of the area are interred in our cemetery.  Included are leaders in government, politics, industry, clergy, military and law, to name a few.  There are also many not-so-notable ‘residents’ of the cemetery, although not as historical, they have very interesting stories.  Below is a short list of both of these type citizens.

Elias Lee 1765 – 1828

By all accounts Elias Lee was a powerful influence in the formative years of the village of Ballston Spa.  He moved here from Danbury Connecticut where he was educated and licensed by the Danbury Baptist Church to preach the Gospel.

One of Mr. Lee’s earliest acts was, in 1802, to donate a parcel of land to construct a meeting house for village Baptists.  It is said that Elias Lee “mortgaged one of his farms to obtain the money wherewith to complete the first meeting house”. [1] This meeting house served as a place of Baptist worship and as the first school in the village.  The surrounding church yard was used a burial ground.

“1803 – The earliest school of which any record can be found was opened about 1803, and was kept in the Baptist church, which was built in that year.  This school was started through the combined efforts of Revs. Elias Lee and Elisha P. Langworthy.  It was a public school and was discontinued on the building of “The Academy.” [2]

This meeting house was later moved to a place closer to the downtown area but the plot of land continued to be used as a cemetery.

An eyewitness account in the Centennial History if Ballston Spa by E.F. Grose, indicates that Mr. Lee was a forceful speaker.  “Whenever he began to speak every ear was open to the pleasant tones of his musical voice; a voice of great strength and compass, which he modulated to suit the occasion, so that in pulpit, in the court house, in a school-house, in a barn, or in the open air, its tones were rich, clear and silvery…..” 1

Elias Lee died in 1828 and is buried in the village cemetery near the original Baptist meeting house, “The Pulpit in this meeting-house is said to have been almost directly above the place where Mr. Lee was buried”. 1


[1] Centennial History of Ballston Spa by E.F. Grose

[2] Ballston Spa Central School District website


John W. Taylor

Taylor after

John W. Taylor was born in Charlton, NY in 1784. He studied law at Union College, graduating in 1803 as class valedictorian. He started the Ballston Center Academy then established a law practice in Ballston Spa in 1807.

He served in the New York State Assembly 1812-13 before being elected to the US Congress for 20 consecutive years. Mr. Taylor served as Speaker of the House for two of his ten terms in congress and to this day John W. Taylor is the only New Yorker to have held that powerful position.

Over the course of his career, John W. Taylor distinguished himself in the House with his anti-slavery actions, including support of the amendment of James Tallmadge to the Missouri Compromise, submitting a similar amendment to the bill organizing the Arkansas Territory, and delivering some of the first anti-slavery speeches in Congress.

After his service in congress, Mr. Taylor returned to his law practice in Ballston Spa. In 1840 he was elected to the New York State Senate, but resigned in 1841 after suffering a stroke.

John W. Taylor died in 1854 and is buried in our cemetery along with his wife Jane and daughter Malvina.

Note:
In 2015, after many years of neglect and damage, the gravestones of John W. Taylor, his wife and daughter were repaired and restored to near original condition. These repairs were made possible entirely due to the generosity of village residents Ed and Ellie Fernau. In the early 1970’s the Fernau’s purchased the home that Mr. Taylor built in the village. They were quite dismayed with the condition of the Taylor family stones. Ed and Ellie completely funded the process of straightening, stabilizing and repairing of these gravestones.

The Association wishes to thank Ed & Ellie for their underwriting of these repairs.


Beriah Palmer

Mr. Palmer was born in 1740 in Massachusetts. He came to this area on assignment to help with the Kayaderosseras Patent survey.

Legend has it that while his survey party was working in the now Village of Ballston Spa, Beriah Palmer noticed a natural spring near the creek by what is now Brookside. He and his fellow surveyors are believed to be the first non-Native Americans to partake of the now famous waters.

When the survey was completed in 1771, Beriah Palmer settled on a farm in the Town of Ballston near Burnt Hills. Mr. Palmer was very ambitious when it came to public service. He served in the 12th Regiment of the New York Militia during the Revolutionary War. [1] Some accounts of his military career put Beriah Palmer at the scene of General Burgoyne surrendering his sword after the Battles of Saratoga.

Mr. Palmer was one of the founding Trustees of Union College in Schenectady.

He also served as assessor, commissioner of roads and postmaster. He was a member of the Albany County safety committee. He was supervisor of Saratoga County in 1790, 1791 and 1799 and was the moderator of the first Saratoga County board of supervisors meeting in 1791. A practicing lawyer, Mr. Palmer became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas and surrogate of Saratoga County. During our young nation’s constitutional convention, Beriah Palmer was a delegate from New York.

Mr. Palmer was elected to the US House of Representative and served in congress from 1803 to 1805.

Beriah Palmer died in 1812 and is buried in the Ballston Spa Village Cemetery.


[1] Roberts, James A “New York In the Revolution as Colony and State: Albany County Militia – Twelfth Regiment”


George West

DSC_0087

When George West emigrated from England to this country in 1849, he was already experienced with the manufacture of paper. He originally settled in New Jersey but moved to Massachusetts to work in a paper mill, where he eventually became its manager, then a partner. In 1861 he relocated to Ballston Spa to become the manager of a paper mill in Rock City Falls.

When cotton became scarce during the Civil War, Mr. West leased a mill along the Kayaderosseras to produce a reinforced paper bag to replace cotton bags needed for the grain business. He continued to expand, buying several more mills along the creek. He collaborated with other bag manufacturers to develop the folding bottom paper bag (and the machinery to produce the bags) that is still in use today. He owned nine mills along the Kayaderosseras at one point including paper mills, a pulp mill and bag making mills.

Upon his retirement in 1899, George West sold his immense business holdings to the Union Bag and Paper Co.

George West also had a political career, serving in the New York State Assembly from 1872 to 1876. He was then elected a US Congressman 1881 to 1883 and again 1885 to 1889. He also served as President of the First National Bank of Ballston Spa from 1879 until his death in 1901. [1]


[1] All of the above is summarized from the George West biography In the E .F. Grose book ‘Centennial History of Ballston Spa”


Anson Brown

Anson Brown was born in Charlton in 1800; attended the public schools, and graduated from Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., in 1819; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Ballston Spa; one of the first directors of the Ballston Spa State Bank (later the Ballston Spa National Bank), which was organized in 1838; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-sixth Congress and served from March 4, 1839, until his death in Ballston Spa, N.Y., June 14, 1840; interment in the Ballston Spa Village Cemetery. [1]


[1] Biographical Directory of the United States Congress


James M. Cook

James M Cook was born in the village of Ballston Spa in 1807, the son of Judge Samuel Cook. He studied law, being admitted to the Bar.
In 1838 Mr. Cook was one of the original organizers of the Ballston Spa Bank (now Ballston Spa National Bank). He became one of the bank’s first trustees and its first president, holding that position until 1856. [1]

During his tenure as bank president James Cook was also elected/appointed to several offices of New York State government. He was treasurer, comptroller, supervisor of banking and served in the New York State Senate for several terms. Mr. Cook also served as President of the Village of Ballston Spa 1842-1845 and was Supervisor of the Town of Milton for three terms. 1

James Cook was also a businessman, owning a cotton mill on the Kayaderosseras creek and partnered with his brother Samuel Cook to produce cotton bags. 1

Note:
The James M. Cook family plot in our cemetery is a large private plot with a family vault, granite obelisk and individual gravestones surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Over the years the fence had become completely rusted and the stonework was deteriorated to a point that the stones were falling away from the vault.

In the summer of 2015 the Ballston Spa National Bank contracted with a local firm to have the James M. Cook plot repaired. The stones and masonry were completely reinstalled and painstakingly mortared back in place. A new masonry cap was made to fit the crumbling original and the wrought iron fence was completely painted to prevent further corrosion.

The Ballston Spa Cemetery Association wishes to thank the Ballston Spa National bank for its funding of this restoration project. BSNB has always been a model of community involvement in our community and we are happy to be recipients of its generosity.


[1] Centennial History of Ballston Spa, Edward F. Grose


Rebecca Jones (Obstinate Becky)

rebecca jones - obstinate becky

Ah, me as we fall by the wayside
And lie sleeping the long, dreamless sleep;
How soon we’re forgotten by others,
How long will out dearest friends weep?
But I care not how soon they forget me.
Or if no wreath is laid at my brow,
If they’ll gather the roses of kindness
And keep away from me now.

The above epitaph was self-scripted by Rebecca Jones.  Rebecca was born in Gallupville, Schoharie County in 1822.  Her father was a shoemaker and part time fish dealer.  He moved his businesses to Ballston Spa in the early-mid 1800’s to take advantage of the waning summer resort and growing industrial businesses in the village.

Rebecca and her siblings we able to find employment as domestic help to some of the wealthy visitors.  Rebecca began working for the family of A. Gordon Hamersley, a wealthy land owner and banker from Manhattan.  She quickly became a trusted employee and returned to New York City with the family where she eventually became in charge of the Hamersley household.

Mr. Hamersley trusted Rebecca entirely and instructed her to never discuss matters of the family with anyone.

Mr. Hamersley died in early 1883, then four months later, his son and only heir, Louis Hamersley, died.  A long court case ensued challenging the will of the younger Hamersley.

Rebecca had since moved back to Ballston Spa and was called to testify at the trial.  She refused to go to the trial and when police from New York came to collect her, she would hide.  She was taken into custody twice (the first instance she jumped from the train in Round Lake) and taken to New York.

Honoring her promise to Mr. Hamersley, Rebecca refused to answer any questions about her former employer.  She was found in contempt and jailed for nearly a year.

Her refusal to answer questions at the trial earned her the nickname of Obstinate Becky or Silent Becky by the press.

When the court case was finally settled, she was released and returned to her home on West High Street. Rebecca died in 1905 and is buried in our cemetery.

Note:
The wife of Louis Hamersley was Lily Price of Troy, New York.  After the death of her husband she eventually married the Duke of Marlborough, England.  The Duke’s last name was Churchill, the uncle of Winston Churchill.  Lily’s life story is told in a book by Sally E. E Svenson, Lily, Duchess of Marlborough.


G.A.R. – The Grand Army of the Republic

Shortly after the close of the U.S. Civil War, known as the War of the Rebellion, Union veterans formed may chapters of this organization throughout the northern states. The G.A.R. was developed to advocate for better recognition, pensions, and benefits for veterans that became members of the local chapters.

The William H. McKittrick Post No. 46 was organized in May of 1875 in honor of Captain McKittrick, a veteran of both the Mexican and Civil Wars. Captain McKittrick died at the battle of Fort Gilmer, Virginia in 1864. [1]

The G.A.R. circle (aka Civil War circle) in our cemetery was allotted to memorialize veterans belonging to this organization.

There are many more veterans of the Civil War buried in the Ballston Spa Village Cemetery. Possibly these veterans were not members of G.A.R. or the G.A.R. circle was simply full at the time of their deaths.


[1] Centennial History of Ballston Spa by E.F. Grose


Mexican War Monument

mexican war monument

The following text is summarized from Centennial History of Ballston Spa by E.F Grose

‘The first soldiers’ monument in Ballston Spa was erected in memory of the volunteers from this village who lost their lives in the war with Mexico, 1846-48.  The monument was dedicated on Wednesday, October 25, 1848, with appropriate ceremonies, a heavy rain preventing the dedication on October 19, the anniversary of the surrender of Burgoyne.’

A procession was formed on Front Street that included the Ballston Band, the Saratoga Independent Artillery and veterans who returned from the Mexican War.  Also part of the procession were several clubs, lodges, fire companies and village citizens.

‘The procession marched to the shop of O.D. Vaughn, and from there escorted the monument to the village cemetery, where it was erected with simple ceremonies, the prayer being offered by Rev. Norman Fox.’

‘The monument is a white marble obelisk …..’  The monument’s inscription reads “Erected by the citizens of Ballston Spa and vicinity October 19, 1848.” The names of four Ballston Spa volunteers who lost their lives in this war are inscribed on the monument; James Schermerhorn, Ransom B. Pettit, Alvin Luther and Hiram Smith, their dates of birth, dates and places of death and military affiliations are included. [1]


[1] All information from Centennial History of Ballston Spa by E.F. Grose