A “Revolutionary” Discovery in Historic Middletown Cemetery
My entire life I have been lucky enough to live right here in New York's Hudson Valley. The area is known for being one of the most beautiful for sightseeing, especially during the Fall season and tourists flock to the region, take in the sights and visit all, of our scattered small towns.
While the Hudson Valley is a gorgeous area, it's also an area that is filled with history. Many of the towns and places throughout the region date back to the very beginnings of America as a nation. This brings me to present day where gravestones for soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War were recently discovered in a local Middletown Cemetery.
Historic Hillside Cemetery
For such a historic discovery, it makes sense that these Revolutionary War grave sites were discovered at a historic cemetery. That historic cemetery would be the Hillside Cemetery located in Middletown. In 1860 an attorney and member of the Hillside Cemetery Association by the name of James N. Pronk, approached one Calvert Vaux about designing the plans for the cemetery, which Vaux later did in 1861.
If the name Calvert Vaux sounds familiar, it's because Vaux was also the mastermind behind the creation of Central Park, which he built with Frederick Law Olmstead over a 20 year period from 1858-1878. 1866 also saw Vaux and Olmstead design the plans for one Prospect Park.
According to the cemetery website, Vaux's original plan for the 44 acre cemetery was for it to be a wide open space full of trees and paths designed for leisurely strolls. Each path is named for a different tree or plant that was planted there. Also, if you couldn't guess the name "Hillside" comes from the fact that the the cemetery was literally built into a hillside.
In total, the cemetery has acted as the final resting place for 98 of Middletown's first settlers as well numerous members of the towns most distinguished families. Later in December of 1994, Hillside Cemetery was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places and to this day is still open and welcoming for all those looking for a good spot to spend an eternity.
An Unexpected Find at Hillside
Finding grave stones for soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War is monumental, it by no means was planned. Actually the reality is that these graves stones were found by accident. According to Spectrum News, the story starts with a man by the name of Andy Mills, who has a long history of visiting the cemetery.
Mills explained that as a child, his grandmother would take him to the cemetery frequently and one particular area of the cemetery captured his attention. This one area was a section where a massive cluster of headstones were placed so closely together, that they were nearly impossible to read and that's in addition to the hundreds of years of weathering the stones have endured.
It is further explained that descendants of Middletown's founder David Moore were brought to the site to determine if one of the cluster of headstones was Moore's. It was in this act that while they did find David Moore's headstone, they found five headstones which belonged to Revolutionary War soldiers. One of these headstones was for Captain Daniel Denton, one of Andy Mills ancestors.
Upon the identification of the headstones, a fundraiser was put together where proceeds were then used to buy a new commemorative and honorary headstone for the cemeteries Revolutionary Soldiers. Mills would further go on to state that more work is being done to invest in more historic markers for the cemetery for the various other famous folks who reside on the grounds. That would also include several recipients of the Civil War Medal of Honor.
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