The Northeastern Coalition for Cemetery Studies (NCCS) is a community project in western New York State for cemetery preservation. NCCS will eventually become a regional project. NCCS will affect multiple communities throughout New York State, and beyond.
NCCS is currently exploring resources and partnering options in the western New York region. If you are interested in partnering with us or sponsoring this important work, please contact us at northeasterncoalitioncs (@) gmail (dot) com.
NCCS will act as an advocacy and resources hub for those communities that currently do not have such resources for cemetery preservation and restoration available.
NCCS will provide guidance, advocacy, and resources to communities struggling to maintain their pioneer and historic cemeteries for future generations.
The communities especially empowered by NCCS shall be those communities hit the hardest by fiscal recessions and are finding it difficult to advocate for their cemeteries.
The pilot project for NCCS is the Leon Hollow Cemetery in Leon, New York.
About Leon, New York
Leon is a small farming community that was first incorporated in 1832.
Originally, there were three geographical areas to Leon: East Leon, Leon Centre, and Leon Hollow. The cemetery in East Leon, Kendall Flats Cemetery, was established about 1800; Leon Centre’s cemetery was established originally as Fairview Cemetery about 1815, but was later moved across the road to become Treat Memorial Cemetery circa 1900; and Leon Hollow Cemetery was originally established about 1820 by the James Franklin family. Treat Memorial Cemetery was originally known as Leon Union Memorial Cemetery. Its cemetery association was established in 1891 and was disbanded in the 1980s.
It is widely considered as fact that Leon contributed one of the highest numbers of volunteers of any small town in the state to the Union Army during the American Civil War. Indeed, Treat Memorial Cemetery contains about 150 Civil War veterans. In the early 1900s the local Grand Army of the Republic and the Women’s Auxiliary chapters raised funds for a Soldiers Monument to honor those who fought in the Civil War. The monument was established in Treat Memorial Cemetery in around 1912.
By 1949, the Old Order Amish began settling in the community of Leon. Today, Leon and its neighboring community, Conewango Valley, contain the oldest and largest Old Order Amish community in New York State, with the Amish comprising about 65-70% of the area’s population.
About Leon Hollow Cemetery
Leon Hollow Cemetery was established about 1820 by the James Franklin family. It is surrounded by a stone wall. Until 2016, the cemetery had been largely overgrown and the surrounding forest had reclaimed part of the cemetery.
According to oral history, about 2008 there was a large amount of dirt imported into the cemetery to treat sunken graves. Also around this time an individual was allegedly removed and re-interred in Treat Memorial Cemetery.
In December 2016, the Town of Leon approved a budget to preserve and repair the cemetery. This followed a cleanup day the Town of Leon sponsored, in which we completely cleared the entire stone wall in the cemetery. The fourth wall of the cemetery has been identified and we are working to determine the best resources and methods to reclaim it.
Where to from here?
Our next step is to determine what we need to do to repair and restore the cemetery to its former glory. In the summer and fall of 2017 we will be conducting surface surveys of the cemetery to study domesticated botany and its relation to the tombstones; we will be charting stones to scale on graph paper so that we can repair or replace the stones with proper techniques; we will be photographing stones; and we will be investigating the most appropriate geophysics survey techniques for the situation.