You’ve been by it a million times, but never stopped in.
Why not? Because you’re zipping past in your car and the shoulder of the road is only about a foot wide and by the time you see it it’s too late to turn into Orange County Choppers, whose parking lot is next door to it, that’s why!
And then you’re zooming on an overpass over the Thruway looking down momentarily at the long line of stopped cars and wondering where the accident was and how far it’s backed up, and now here’s the big intersection with Rt. 300 and what was it you needed at Adams Fairacre Farms?
Anyway, what you missed was a little cemetery of maybe 20 or so graves, scattered on a hill one side of which runs along Rt. 17K in the Town of Newburgh.
NOBODY walks there. It’s one of those horrible places in this country where, if a cop saw you walking, she wouldn’t be terribly out of line to stop and ask you what’s up.
But today Tim and i parked our car at Pier 1 at 17K and 300 and walked — deliberately WALKED — up and over the “grassy knoll,” as they say in Dallas, and onto the shoulder of 17K, specifically to take a look at that cemetery. It’s only 5 minutes west, by sneaker-power.
When we pulled even with the nice old stone wall that surrounds it, we were several feet lower than the few obelisk-type markers and the more numerous, falling-down headstones at the top of that hill on our left. We ducked into that weird, nobody-owns-this, pasture-looking space and climbed up to the wall, which conveniently had a broken section that we could easily step through.
The grander obelisks mark the graves of William Patton and his siblings and descendants; among them, sadly, were several markers for infants and young children.
The oldest markers are for people born in the 1700s; the most recently deceased died in 1866, if i remember correctly.
The Pattons (wonder if they were related to the general?) dominate the top of the hill, but some Clarks, who seem to have married into the Patton family, are nearby.
If you continue walking west, a few yards beyond the Pattons, you start downhill. (Your ankles also may start downhill, if you break them in one of the many, many chuck-holes in that cemetery!) On the slope are a family of Morrisons, who also seem to be the Pattons’ in-laws. Farther downhill still, in the weeds … are the Weeds. They must also have been family. Tim pointed out the special “surveyors’ stones” that mark the edges of the sections that are reserved for each family; we saw the same kind of thing in the Snake Hill Cemetery that our synagogue owns.
The headstones get smaller and smaller as you get farther from the Pattons towering above you. When you reach the westernmost edge of the cemetery, you are at the bottom of the hill and about to step over the broken rock wall and onto Orr Road, home of the Orange County “transfer station,” the less-stinky word for “the dump where you pay to drop off your junk.”
i bet Mary McTamaney, my friend and Newburgh city historian, would know who these Pattons, Morrisons, Clarks and Weeds were, or else she’d know how to find out.
I’d say the cemetery runs for no more than 40 yards along Rt. 17K, and is about 40 feet wide. If you climbed over the south side of that low rock wall, you could walk down a long, steep, grassy hill to Orange County Choppers.
But me, i’d rather be dead.