HISTORY MYSTERY: Pine Plains Cemetery History
On April 9, 2012, the cemetery celebrated its 200th birthday to honor the first burial on April 9, 1812 of Peter Young, a member of the Young family, one of the first Palatines who settled in Clay. At that time it was called Old Town Cemetery. The Palatines later renamed it Pine Plains after the area where they were settled in camps by the British to make pine tar and other munitions to pay back Good Queen Anne for their passage to America in 1709. It is believed that the original land was acquired from Allan Gilmour’s farm. It was selected because it was soft earth and easy to work, just as was farmland.
Peter Young was one of eight siblings who migrated here calling their settlement Young’s in the north-eastern part of Caughdenoy in what is now the Town of Clay. They farmed and were self-sufficient, raising all their own produce and livestock. They started blacksmith shops, a saw mill, a granary, a grocery store, and other businesses. Over the years, the Young descendants were buried in Pine Plains along with relatives as the Moggs, Wellers, Becker’s and Anthony’s. In 1886, this became its new name when a meeting was called at the cemetery with John M. McCoughtry, acting president, and G. L. Brown, acting secretary, to incorporate. The first entry was “in the book of minutes of the Pine Plains Cemetery Association (PPCA), July 12, 1886.” On February 11, 1887, the Town of Clay gave the PPCA title to the old cemetery with the stipulation that they would maintain it.
They joined the New York Cemetery Association. Since then additional land was obtained from the Scanlon farm and the Bednarski farm. With the annexation of the Tobias Shaver family cemetery and property owned by Sarah Button, the cemetery grew to 70 acres. In the beginning, it was chiefly a Protestant cemetery with internments facing east, the standard practice of that time. Now Pine Plains is interdenominational with a modular plan to allow for burials to face all directions. As of 2012, there were 787 veterans buried there including 52 Civil War and three Revolutionary War veterans; more recent veterans have been added. There are 35 metal monuments donated by descendants.
The Board of Trustees through the years has made the cemetery successful with wise investments and staying in touch with the community and its needs. Anyone is invited to take a tour. They cater to young people wanting to know history of their own families and the community as boy scouts and Girl Scout, Sunday school classes, etc. One fund raiser is renting out the still unused land to grow cabbage and potatoes to donate to the Food Bank. Also at the end of summer, they donate the plant stands to a historical society to make Christmas wreathes.
On November 11, 2014 a historical marker was presented to honor their heritage. Those present in the photo are in the back row: The Rev. Richard Yost, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church Clay; Damian Ulatowski, Clay Town Supervisor; Paula Miller; Executive Director of The Pomeroy Foundation; Richard Williams, President of the Pine Plains Cemetery Association; and front Dorothy Heller, Clay Town Historian. The William G. Pomeroy Foundation provided the marker and can be reached at their Website.
The Pine Plains Cemetery is so well kept that it feels like a park. Many people enjoy touring it to view all the names from Clay’s history and some of the very unusual monuments and stones. To contact the office, check their website.
Dorothy Heller, Historian