Volunteer caretakers sought for historic Milford cemetery

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:17

MILFORD - The US Forest Service is recruiting volunteers to help care for the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, on the grounds of Grey Towers National Historic Site, along Old Owego Turnpike, in Milford. Forest Service spokesperson Lori McKean said that anyone interested in local history - especially descendents of those buried in the former town cemetery - is encouraged to apply. Over the past several years, the Forest Service and partners have performed maintenance and rehabilitation work in the cemetery, a longstanding cultural resource that once served as the town cemetery. The Pinchot family donated the family estate, including the cemetery, to the Forest Service in 1963. It is the burial site for many of Milford’s early residents, including Constantien and Mary Pinchot, Cyrille Constantien Desire Pinchot and his wives Sarah Dimmick and Eliza Cross, and their sons Cyrill H. and John F. A total of 112 monuments, ranging from undressed fieldstone markers for paupers’ graves to more elaborate obelisks and carved markers, were recorded in the graveyard in 1992. Volunteers are needed to assist the Forest Service with landscape and maintenance of the cemetery. Descendants of those interred at Laurel Hill are encouraged to participate in the on-going maintenance, care and rehabilitation of the cemetery. Rehabilitation work in the cemetery began several years ago with extensive archeological studies and tree removal. The trees, which had grown in the cemetery over the past 100 years and were not part of the original cemetery landscape, had to be removed because they were damaging the headstones. Studies showed the acids from the hemlock trees were causing deterioration of the stones and the top-heavy trees were easily uprooted in the sandy soil. In addition, invasive plants, shrubs and brush were removed and the Forest Service recently repaired the cemetery steps. The Pike County Historic Preservation Trust provided a sign for the cemetery. Future plans call for care of the monuments and headstones, a costly process because of the level of expertise required to clean, repair and reset the head and foot stones onto their masonry bases. The Forest Service also would like to repair the dry-laid stone wall along Owego Turnpike. The cemetery now is more accessible and safer for public visitation. Port Jervis historian Peter Osborne, director of the Minisink Valley Historical Society, will lead a program at the cemetery on July 1 and a self-guided tour, complete with an interpretive brochure and map, also will be available beginning this summer. To volunteer or for more information, call Grey Towers at 570-296-9630 or email at greytowers@fs.fed.us.