Time has a way of diminishing artifacts, but some groups strive to reverse this phenomenon.
Members of the Martinsburg Historical Society in Lewis County spent three years restoring the cemetery in the back of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. Bette S. Lathan said that in the middle of the 19th century, the Tug Hill section of Martinsburg had a thriving Irish population.
Many immigrants who escaped the Great Famine in Ireland settled in the region in the 1850s. They had previously worked on the Erie and Black River canals, projects that helped grow New York’s economy.
“They built a church in 1860 and could seat 400 people. … It is now an abandoned area — very remote,” Mrs. Lathan said, according to a story published Monday by the Watertown Daily Times. “The only remains of the church are the steps and a cornerstone. … The altar to the church was found and has been restored. Many Irish descendants are still in the area, my family included.”
Much of this immigrant community’s presence in Martinsburg has vanished. The church stopped holding services in 1941, and the items contained within it were sold in 1944.
But it’s not only physical objects that erode. Memories of all those who lived here have faded as well. So it’s good that work is being done to recall what they did.
Mrs. Lathan said members of this community did not want to fight in the Civil War. This sentiment wasn’t uncommon for Irish immigrants at the time. Some of them targeted black people in several days of rioting in New York City in opposition to being drafted into the military in July 1863.
But like many of their fellow Irish immigrants across the country, those in Martinsburg put aside their misgivings about the conflict and took up arms on the Union’s behalf. Mrs. Lathan said the gravesites of at least seven Civil War veterans have been discovered in this burial ground.
Veterans of the American Revolution as well as the Civil War were laid to rest at cemeteries throughout Northern New York. Ceremonies will be held Saturday at four sites to honor their service.
One is at 1 p.m. at the cemetery in Martinsburg on Maple Ridge Road. A shuttle bus will leave the town offices, 5405 Cemetery Road, at 12:15 p.m. to take people to the event.
The Adams State Road Cemetery Association, Union Cemetery and Adams Rural Cemetery joined six other Jefferson County cemeteries in receiving grants by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to erect historic roadside markers signifying burial sites of 24 veterans of the American Revolution. Dedication ceremonies for these signs begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Adams State Road Cemetery, State Route 177 in Adams Center. This will be followed by events at Union Cemetery, Route 11 in Adams Center, and at Adams Rural Cemetery, Main Street (Route 11) in Adams.
Historians, genealogists and members of the public are invited to attend these ceremonies.
Descendants of veterans of the Civil War and American Revolution are being sought to participate.
Numerous people visited the Moving Wall in Sackets Harbor in August. A half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., it evokes strong emotions about this period of our history and the loss of more than 58,000 lives. It is appropriate for us to continue grieving the consequences of this war.
But just the same, we must honor those who fought in our nation’s conflicts from eras long passed. They too made sacrifices that deserve our attention, and we commend these local groups for acknowledging their service.