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Old 11-15-2006, 11:47 PM   #1
JCP
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Arrow Merritt Beardsley's Tomb

Jennifer Ostrom asked: I've just read the story of the little boy whose grave has a headstone with a window in it (in Oxcarts Along the Chenango). The book doesn't say exactly where the grave is - does anyone know where it is, and whether I can go see it?
Hi Jennifer,
I've started a new thread, because this is more of a report now. The prior posts had my first discoveries.
MERRITT BEARDSLEY'S TOMB
I went to the Miller Cemetery (in Oxford) today to see the tomb of Merritt Beardsley (-for the very first time). I might add that I got lost. My previous directions weren't exactly accurate (to me). If you take West State Street (you'll pass Gallery 3-2-1) to the end, that's the first mile (you have to turn either left or right here). Turn LEFT at the "T". That road is Hoben Road. (I didn't see a sign here. Later the sign I saw said "Hoben Rd." (not Joe Hoben like the map had.) This road is going uphill, it's windy, and it curves to the right. (Don't take the fork to the left. That's a different road completely.) You are driving 2 miles (just like Fred said), and the cemetery is on your left. It never says anything about Ingraham Hollow anywhere. I kept driving until I found Ingraham Road - that's too far. The cemetery is just before a big house with the name Seiler on it.
This is a very small cemetery with no sign, no road going leading into it, and almost no way to see that it is a cemetery at all. There's a low stone wall with an opening, and a few tombstones sticking up here and there, uphill from the road- that's it. You have to pull your vehicle over to the side of the road, park and walk in. (As the driveways on either side are to private residences.) There's green moss and "growth" on everything as the shade has made it damp and dark.
There's no one to stop you, so permission isn't an issue. I would simply suggest that you treat this not only with respect for the burial grounds, but as antique relics too. All the tombstones here are from c. 1850's. Several headstones are falling over and there are even jagged pieces of stone sticking out of the ground that might be broken head stones, I wasn't sure. Basically, if you do visit, step very carefully.
[About rubbings: Anyone who might be considering making stone rubbings, I was informed by the Historical Society that head/tomb stone rubbings are not safe to do. The pressure of paper and crayons can create terrible wear on the stones. Take pictures instead.]
The Beardsley family plot is under the shade of a big pine tree. As you approach, you won't be able to miss the tomb of "Little Merrit Beardsley". (The misspelling is the way it appears on a carved stone sign above the tomb. I don't know whose fault it is or what is really the right way, however, I believe Merritt with two t's is correct.) I took some pictures. I couldn't see into the window, however, it was after 3 PM, and the sun was already low. I will have to come back some time in the morning to see if the sun actually does shine in.
This is probably the first time that actual pictures of the tomb have been published on the internet. I hope that no one is disrespectful or unkind in any way with this information. Please let them rest in peace.

(Click on thumbnail photos to enlarge.)
Photo 1: The Miller Cemetery from the road. You can see the pine tree that hangs over the Beardsley plot.
Photo 2: The Beardsley plot. Very shady and green. I believe the tall stone is his father. There are a couple of shorter stones as well.
Photo 3: "Little" Merrit Beardsley's tomb with window. There was a plastic Tigger toy here, I removed it for the picture, then put it back. Some child must have left it for him.
Photo 4: A close up of the window (which has a crack in it). Without a strong light, there's no way you could see into the tomb. I don't know that I really want to see into it.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Miller-Cemetery_sml.jpg (85.8 KB, 51 views)
File Type: jpg Beardsley-family-plot_sml.jpg (52.2 KB, 47 views)
File Type: jpg Merritt-Beardsley_tomb_sml.jpg (67.8 KB, 53 views)
File Type: jpg Meritts-window_close_sml.jpg (78.6 KB, 60 views)

Last edited by JCP; 11-15-2006 at 11:59 PM.
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Old 11-16-2006, 12:43 AM   #2
dgryan
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Default Do it again!

JCP: Could you go back there and post pictures of what is inside? Through the window, of course. Unless there is a dead body or something creepy like that. Thanks for the info, and happy grave-hopping!
-dgryan
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Old 12-11-2006, 04:52 PM   #3
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I remember the story and have always been intraged by this one as I grew up in Norwich and lived in Oxford for some times I was happy to see this story as I have told my boyfriend about it and he thought I was trying to fool him I would love to see this for myself on one of my trips home
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Old 03-08-2009, 07:56 PM   #4
R_D_Howard
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Default Little Merritt's Tomb

The skeleton was disturbed in the 1970's by a local drug addict who stole the skull, painted it and used it a decoration in his room. He was arrested, the skull was recovered and it was placed back in the tomb. A sad tale of grave desecration that was fortunately resolved. I only happen to know this story because my father was the Oxford Town Justice at the time.
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:40 PM   #5
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Default We visited the crypt in 1967

My family lived in Norwich from 1959-1969. We were familiar with Merritt Beardsly's tomb from reading Oxcarts Along the Chenango. A family friend knew where it was located and took the entire family to see it. During our visit, we observed that the glass had been broken and bone fragments were scattered in front of the tomb. Obviously, the guy who vandalized the grave in the Seventies wasn't the first. Although I was only 11 at the time, the memory is still vivid and will stay with me forever.
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Old 11-18-2010, 06:55 PM   #6
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Default merritts tomb

The story of the local drug addict that stole the skull was my uncle. My family is sorry for what had happened and are not proud of what he did. I hope all the people who knew him and know the story will somehow find it in their hearts to forgive him for his actions. Although my uncle has since passed, I want to personally apologize to the Beardsly family for any disrespect.
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Old 08-25-2011, 01:45 PM   #7
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Unfortunately it seems that it gets vandalized from time to time. When I went up there a couple of years ago, the glass was intact. Now I see it's been cracked again. I wonder how much it would cost for a piece of bullet proof acrylic that size? Probably less than you could raise in one chicken BBQ.
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Old 06-11-2012, 02:40 PM   #8
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Jeanie, have you ever found out why the grave site has a window and if they left the body in full view behind the window? Or, perhaps it was a coffin left to view?

Very strange burial by today's standards but I would think worse in the 1850s. I've thought it may have been because the little boy was afraid of the dark.

Well.. did a Google search and answered my question:



"But, Daddy, I don't want to die. I'm afraid to be up there in the cemetery in a dark grave alone. Daddy, do I have to die?"
Little 8 year old Merritt Beardsley turned a hot feverish face to his father, who sat by his bedside. The cold wind of mid-December beat against the old farmhouse in the hills near Oxford and blew tiny jets of snow in around the window. The child was growing steadily weaker. It could only be a few hours now.
"Daddy, can't I have a window in my grave so I won't be in the dark? I am afraid of the dark Daddy."
Stalwart William Beardsley nodded his head. He was silent as his rough hand, made hard by years of toil in the fields, held the soft hot little hand of his son. Yes, if it would make the journey across the silent river any easier for the child, he would promise. Some way he would keep that promise.
"Yes, son," he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking, "you shall have your window. I'll make it so the morning sun will come in it every day. You shall not be in the dark."
So, on that bleak, cold night in late December, 1865, little Merritt Beardsley smiled faintly in gratitude to his grief-stricken father, and turned to greet an Unseen Messenger who had come to bear him to another realm, where pain and fever are unknown.
Today, in a tiny forgotten cemetery, far up in the Chenango hills, an unusual grave lies amoung a group of pines. The grave is a sepulcher built from stones from the field, and covered with a large stone slab. On one end of the tomb is a large, solid flat field stone, but in the middle of this stone is cut a square hole, into which is fitted a glass pane -- a window through which the morning sun can shine!
The little grave now has few visitors. Hidden behind the fieldstone wall of the cemetery, and lying in the midst of tall grass and weeds, it is not seen from the road. Neither are two other graves that are near it. A marker nearby tells how, 23 later, the father came to join his little son, to whom he had made a sacred promise one wild December night long ago. Another inscription, without a date, tells that Sarah, "The Beloved Wife of Williiam Beardsley" had also forgotten the toils of this world. The family is finally reunited in death.
Around the little group of pines a soft carpet of myrtle silences the tread of the visitor. Wild pinks, digitalis and ferns add an everlasting funereal atmosphere to the scene. Each morning as the sun rises over the hills to the east, the first gentle rays shine in through the window, as though to comfort the child who sleeps there.
The winds of a hundred Decembers have blown across the little cemetery in the Oxford hills, and the story of little Merritt Beardsley has been forgotten by all but the very old folks. But the grave is still there and the tiny coffin can be seen through the window cut in the slab of field stone.
As one stands and silently studies the hewn window, he tries to imagine what a labor of love it must have been for that forgotten father who kept his promise to the dying boy who was afraid of the dark.

From "Oxcarts Along The Chenango" by Roy Gallinger; published 1965 Fay Edward Faulkner, Heritage Press, Sherburne, NY.



Sandy Goodspeed adds: Merritt F Beardsley (1857-1865 Dec 15), s/o of William L Beardsley (1815-1883) and Sarah (Walker) Beardsley (1819-1885). Sarah was the daughter of James Walker and Jane (Padgett) Walker. The Cemetery is the Miller Cemetery located on the Rounds Farm in Oxford, NY.

Last edited by Edee; 06-11-2012 at 02:48 PM. Reason: found more information
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edee View Post
Jeanie, have you ever found out why the grave site has a window and if they left the body in full view behind the window? Or, perhaps it was a coffin left to view?

Very strange burial by today's standards but I would think worse in the 1850s. I've thought it may have been because the little boy was afraid of the dark.

From "Oxcarts Along The Chenango" by Roy Gallinger; published 1965 Fay Edward Faulkner, Heritage Press, Sherburne, NY.

Sandy Goodspeed adds: Merritt F Beardsley (1857-1865 Dec 15), s/o of William L Beardsley (1815-1883) and Sarah (Walker) Beardsley (1819-1885). Sarah was the daughter of James Walker and Jane (Padgett) Walker. The Cemetery is the Miller Cemetery located on the Rounds Farm in Oxford, NY.
Hi Edee- those posts from 2009-10 were pretty enlightening too. As you can see from my photos, you can't see in. (I was curious enough to try, but I was honestly a little scared of what I might see. I have no reason to believe there's a coffin, but I don't know.) The historians, I understand, don't consider Gallinger's work to be gospel because he used here-say to write it. (Something like the Native Americans oral history getting passed from generation to generation.) Historians are like scientists - they depend on facts in documentation. I do believe it's written somewhere that 1. the little boy was afraid of the dark and 2. that's why his father put in the window. The rest is embellished based on the facts. Personally, I think Gallinger did a good job. He has kept the memory alive and we still think about the little boy to this day.
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Old 06-13-2012, 08:20 AM   #10
Edee
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Jeanie, yes, lovely piece, I agree the details were beautifully embellished.

But, the grave is as described and a child being afraid of the dark seems credibly logical. I'm interested in more, I want an old newspaper article or notes in a family bible to surface.

It's a very curious burial to say the least. Makes me wonder what the town folks and church thought. It must have raised some eyebrows, in agreement or not. There was still superstition back then, no?
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