By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — As the weather becomes less biting and the outdoors more inviting, you may begin exploring new and familiar trails. Another option for those who have exhausted the local trail systems might involve long walks around the area’s cemeteries. Clifton Park Town Historian, John Scherer, shared his extensive knowledge of the town’s many small family and church cemeteries and the stories that lie within their gates, waiting to be retold.
- Clifton Park Center Baptist Church Cemetery
Scherer said that one of the nicest church cemeteries in the area is the one behind the Clifton Park Center Baptist Church which has stones dating back to 1809. Scherer pointed out that one stone in the cemetery, a mid-nineteenth century stone made of limestone, has the image of a lamb carved on it — a symbol of the death of a child.
- Amity Cemetery
Another local cemetery can be found on the hill behind Amity Reformed Church in Vischer Ferry, just a stone’s throw from the Vischer Ferry General Store. Many of the stones at the Amity cemetery have weeping willow trees carved into them, said Scherer. He noted that Isaac F. Fletcher of Cohoes was responsible for carving many of the mid-nineteenth century tombstones in the area, citing “a receipt signed by Fletcher dated 1858, stating that a tombstone was purchased for an Adam J. Van Vranken for $16.”
- Cemetery at the site of the former Groom’s Methodist Episcopal Church
If you continue up Vischer Ferry Road until the entrance to the town landfill you’ll come across another small cemetery which once stood beside the Groom’s Methodist Episcopal Church before it was burned down in 1975. According to Scherer, the church was founded in 1788. “Alexander Macintosh and his family are found in this cemetery. His tombstone, dated 1807, is one of the earliest, and many people still call the cemetery the “Macintosh Cemetery.” Scherer added, “It was Alexander’s son, John, who went to Canada and discovered the Macintosh apple.”
- Shepherd Cemetery
An orchard on Sugar Hill Road is home to the old Shepherd family cemetery. “James Nessle, killed in an accident at the Vischer Mill in 1841 is buried here,” said Scherer. He added, “It was his continual trips to the Vischer Ferry General Store to purchase sugar for his wife’s canning needs that gave Sugar Hill Road its name.”
- Nanning Vischer Cemetery
Next time you take a drive passed the Stony Creek Reservoir, keep your eyes open for the Nanning Vischer cemetery on the reservoir’s banks. “Nanning, son of the first settler, Nicholas, was a captain in the American Revolution. Rumor has it that when he was buried here in 1813, his silver tankard was interred with him. In fact, some years ago kids unsuccessfully tried to locate the tankard,” said Scherer. He added, “According to Nanning’s will, however, his silver tankard was given to his son Francis, who is also buried in the small family cemetery.”
- Garnsey Family Cemetery
This cemetery can be found on Route 146 near Nott Road in Rexford according to Scherer, though he said it isn’t visible from the road.
- Van Varnken Family Cemetery
“On the south side of Riverview Road east of Vischer Ferry and opposite the home of Paul and Connie Kowalchyk was located the old Van Vranken family cemetery. Unfortunately, all that remains are a few tombstones that now form a path to the Kowalchyks’ back door,” said Scherer.
- The Jonesville Cemetery
Scherer said the Jonesville Cemetery is “an example of the rural cemetery movement, popular during the mid nineteenth century” which transformed cemeteries into a place to relax and enjoy an afternoon in the sun. “Rolling hills, cast iron benches, ponds, and exotic trees added to the effect. Cemeteries were like pleasure gardens where Victorians strolled and picnicked,” said Scherer.