The Colden Family Cemetery—now owned by the town of Montgomery—is inaccessible to the public and according to the family, has not been maintained for some time. Although veterans dating back as far as the Revolutionary War are buried in the small cemetery, no wreaths are placed and no memorial services are held there.
Robin Assenza, a descendant of Cadwallader Colden, told the Montgomery Town Board last week that these and other issues are “a little disturbing to the descendants.”
Assenza pointed out that in every deed from 1837 to 1997, the cemetery is described as half an acre in size. However, in 1974 it was inexplicably reduced to just 0.12 acres in county records, or about a quarter of its former size.
“As direct descendants of Cadwallader Colden, Sr. and Cadwallader Colden, Jr., we are concerned with the reduction in size of the cemetery’s boundaries, which was made in 1974 without any apparent attempt to contact the family,” said Assenza and another descendant in a letter previously provided to the board.
Town Councilman Mark Hoyt explained that the reduction was done by the county when it was going through a mapping process and it was likely reduced after no one came forward to claim it.
The new boundary follows the existing stone wall around the cemetery, which leaves it with no buffer. Concern was also expressed that some of the earliest burials’ which date back as far as 1729, may not be located within the wall, but on the remaining half-acre which has been taken away.
The cemetery is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places and dozens of Colden family members are buried in the cemetery.
Among those buried in the cemetery is John Fell, a judge and member of the Continental Congress who signed the Constitution. During the Revolutionary War he was imprisoned in the infamous Provost Jail in New York City by the British. Also buried in the Colden cemetery is Alexander Colden Rhind, who served with the U.S. Navy in the Mexican War and Civil War and retired in 1883 as a rear admiral. He is the namesake of a World War II-era U.S. Navy destroyer, the U.S.S. Rhind.
Town Historian Suzanne Isaksen called the cemetery “one of the most important historical sites” of the town and even the county because of the notable people and historical figures who are buried there.
Assenza and Isaksen expressed concern about the lack of maintenance and pictures were presented to the board showing recent conditions and the deterioration of the centuries-old stone markers.
“The more time you waste not doing anything, the more problems we’ll have with the stones,” said Assenza.
Currently the cemetery is landlocked and inaccessible at its reduced size. While descendants of the Colden family are granted the right to access over private property, maintenance and public access are another story.
Isaksen also questioned what happened to the trust (established in a 1911 will) which was taken over by the town in 1988. The trust provided for the maintenance of the cemetery and contained more than $2,300. She reminded the board that the supervisor at the time had signed an agreement to accept and maintain the trust and cemetery. The board admitted that the town has not been maintaining the cemetery.
“Since the town did take responsibility for it, what are we going to do about it now?” asked Isaksen.
Assenza said the descendants of the Colden family are looking to restore the cemetery to its correct size, restore and preserve the stones and establish better access for visiting and maintenance. At the moment, they are just asking the town for a plan of action.
“We have some homework to do,” said Supervisor Mike Hayes.
By RACHEL COLEMAN