Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 12 November 2010 00:00
With the sesquicentennial, the 150th year anniversary, of the Civil War, quickly approaching, the Farmingdale - Bethpage Historical Society is preparing to honor Farmingdale’s Civil War veterans. The organization plans to unveil a new war memorial on the Village Green on Memorial Day 2011.
A little more than a year ago, high school student Patrick Looney took on a restoration task as part of his Eagle Scout project which included the preservation and beautification of several gravesites at the Lyceum Cemetery, an abandoned location just west from the present-day Sportime gym location on Hempstead Turnpike.
Village Trustee Bill Johnson said, “It’s easily overlooked.” He explained that in New York State, if there is no board appointed to administer the function of the property, it is deemed abandoned. There are about 4,000 known abandoned cemeteries in the state.
Townships mow a couple of times each year, but Trustee Serena Brochu told the Observer that the property is often overgrown, but occasionally local civic groups and organizations take an interest in its appearance and stop by to do some light clean up and beautification. The last major clean up to the property was by Looney as part of his Eagle Scout project approximately one year ago. Looney sought the assistance of the Society for historical matters regarding the gravesites that he was restoring.
Three of the known Farmingdale Civil War veterans are buried at this abandoned cemetery, two being brothers, Alfred and Cornelius Walters.
“As part of Patrick’s project, he was the driving force behind it, but we did a cemetery tour last May; from obtaining Civil War pension files and some census data, we were able to compile a little bit of the biographies of a couple of the men,” said Brochu. “How tall were they; what color were their eyes, their hair; who did they marry; who were their children? There weren’t cameras, so these descriptions were recorded in their service records, mostly in case they went AWOL.”
The list is not conclusive, but some of the confirmed Farmingdale veterans are: John Powell, Andrew Powell, Philip Darby, G. Theodore Smith, Zachariah J. Hendrickson, Silas C. Haff, William McVeagh, Alfred S. Walters, Harlan G. Newcomb, William W. Wood, Cornelius B. Walters, John W. Hendrickson, and William Murphy. There are other possible Farmingdale veterans that the Historical Society has partial information for, but more facts are needed to be sure of their origin and residence.
Brochu said, “How we’ve been determining who should be on the memorial are people who lived in Farmingdale prior to the War, not people who went to war, returned and then moved to Farmingdale after the war when they had never lived here before; sometimes that is very hard to determine, the records are not that great from that time period.”
Johnson explained how the historical research and fact gathering has progressed. He said, “The beginning of this little project was sort of inspired by a story in a book; there’s a chapter in there called ‘Sermons In Stone’ about a cemetery out on the Turnpike.” Back in 1984, the Historical Society published a book by Iris and Alonzo Gibbs called Harking Back: An Account of the Bethpage Purchase and Sundry Long Island Events, Persons and Places. The chapter “Sermons In Stone” tells of 13 soldiers who went off to war, including Alfred Walters, from Farmingdale on Aug 21, 1862.
“For a long time we’ve had the idea that we need to recognize these fellas, put their names up because it was the first time that Farmingdalers had really gone to war,” said Johnson.
The names of the confirmed Civil War soldiers will be inscribed on the new memorial and placed with the other war memorials on the Village Green.
The Historical Society plans to raise $10,000 to complete the project, prior to the Memorial Day observance.
Trustee Brochu said, “As the unveiling of this project gets closer, I wish that more people took an active interest in the preservation of things like this because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Descendents with information about Farmingdale’s Civil War veterans are asked to contact the Historical Society, but to expect that legal documentation and other service proof will need to be vetted before soldiers’ names are added to the honor roll.
To keep with the Civil War theme of historical activities, the Society will be hosting “Long Island and the Civil War,” a 60-minute illustrated program exploring Long Island’s role in the War Between the States. The presentation will be on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Board Room of Village Hall, 361 Main Street in Farmingdale by Harrison Hunt. The program, part of the fall-winter lecture series of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, has been thoroughly researched by Hunt, a professional historian and museum curator. He is the author of Hallowed Ground and Heroes of the Civil War.
The program includes information on historic units and ships on which Long Islanders served, home front activities, and famous leaders and events connected with Long Island. The presentation is the complete summary of Long Island’s role in this crucial struggle.
Additionally, checks can be made payable to: Farmingdale - Bethpage Historical Society, noting “Civil War Memorial” on the memo line, and mailed to Civil War Memorial Fund, Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, P.O. Box 500, Farmingdale, NY 11735.