Volunteers sprucing up neglected Halcottsville Cemetery

By Brian Sweeney
The Halcottsville Cemetery is receiving some much-needed restoration work, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.

The historic cemetery, which dates back to the late 1700s, had become overgrown with grass and a various intrusive plants after several years of neglect. Dismayed by the appearance of the grounds, Halcottsville native Bob Eignor decided to take matters into his own hands.

It was about a year ago that Bob grabbed a weed-whacker and started the challenging task of removing the thigh-high brush that was steadily overtaking the cemetery, which is located off the Back River Road.

Like many projects of this type, the early progress led to a desire to further improve the premises. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Bob had some assistance.

Helpers sign up
“As soon as Steve Cartwright and Adam Cooke found out what I was doing, they started donating their time to the project,” Bob recalled.

“When people realize you’re trying to do something like this, they really want to help,” he added.
Once the overgrown grass and other plants had been tamed, further needed repairs came into focus. Bob said the workers have unearthed a number of headstones that had sunken into the ground and they have repositioned dozens of gravestones that have fallen over or have become misaligned.

The volunteers are also distributing soil to even out low spots where gravesites have settled. Once the dirt is in place, they are seeding and mulching these areas. Bob said he hopes to fertilize the grounds to further enhance the cemetery’s appearance.

“It’s kind of a labor of love for me,” Bob explained the longtime Halcottsville resident.
A number of Bob’s relatives are buried in the cemetery and he plans to wind up there himself. In the meantime, Bob is doing his part to ensure that the cemetery receives the respectful treatment it deserves.

Hard to keep pace
The Halcottsville Cemetery Association oversees the burial ground, but the group’s efforts weren’t keeping pace with the forces of nature.

“They tried to mow it a few times a year, but it wasn’t being done properly,” Bob pointed out. Eventually, the maintenance work lagged so badly that Bob felt the need to take over the situation.
“It just kind of got abandoned,” he recalled, surveying with pride the improvements that he and the other volunteers have put into place.

Bob said he intends to finish the work that’s been started and continue helping to maintain the cemetery for another year. At that time, he hopes, the association will have raised sufficient funds to pay someone for upkeep.

He noted that the cemetery has nearly 350 gravesites and is still utilized as a burial place.
In addition to Steve Cartwright and Adam Cooke, Bob credited Brookside Hardware owner Will Finch with being instrumental in refurbishing the cemetery, through the donation of time, equipment and materials.

Others who have generously donated time and/or equipment to the effort include: Herb and Sue Finch (topsoil), Lynn Johnson (tools), Jim Whitney (loader), Austin Sanford (mowing), Gordy Stahl (brush hog), Main Care (50 pounds of seed) and the Middletown Highway Department (brooming).
Bob said that anyone wishing to make a monetary donation to help with the preservation work is invited to send checks to the Halcottsville Cemetery Association to: General Delivery, P.O. Box 45, Halcottsville, NY 12438.
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