WakeBy Mary Fox

Extensive restoration by Crandall’s Memorials has been taking place at the Jefferson Street Cemetery over the last few years with two thirds of the cemetery finished.

“There is still work to be done by Crandall’s cleaning up the gravestones and repairing those broken or fallen over,” said Gail Carucci, leader of the Jefferson Street Cemetery Committee.

“As funding becomes available, our first priority is to have a rock engraved with the names of 37 individuals known to be buried in the cemetery without a marker,” said Carucci, who has done extensive research into the families buried in the cemetery. “These people will not go unidentified.”

Other restoration plans include erecting a sign for the cemetery, a plaque for National Registry status, stone benches for meditation and landscaping.

As part of the Americana Folk Art Fair weekend, the Jefferson Street Cemetery Committee held a cemetery walk on July 20. Visitors first toured the Episcopal Church and then were transported by wagon to the Jefferson Street Cemetery where “they were taken on a trip back in time to hear the stories of some of the people who are buried there,” said Cathy Lacy, a tour guide on the walk.

“Walking through this or any cemetery can connect us to our past and help us realize they were real people with real stories to tell,” said re-enactor Della Moore, who played the part of Martha Maybee, wife of Abram.

The first man to be buried in the cemetery was Baker Leonard, who built the first frame house in the village in 1817 for the Holland Land Company. The Holland Land Company rejected it because of its high cost, so Baker opened it as a tavern, trading post and post office. It has been in the same family line throughout its existence. It is located on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets, next to the Episcopal Church.

Memorial stones help tell the stories of generations of some of Ellicottville’s first settlers, those who enjoyed a long life and those who were victims of their times. Over 90 children, from newborn to 10 years old, were laid to rest in this cemetery along with young women, many who died in childbirth, veterans, first settlers and people from all walks of life.

Re-enactors, stood next to gravestones, dressed in costumes representative of the time of the person buried there, and became that person telling the story of their life.

Carrie Litchfield played the part of Lillas, the daughter of the spiritualist Beals Litchfield. Lillas was one of the eight members of the Litchfield family buried in the cemetery.

“It was neat to step back into the past to portray a family member and tell their story,” said Litchfield.

“I died of diphtheria in 1864,” said Lillas Litchfield. “My spiritualist father communicated with me through séances.”

Twenty-nine people toured the cemetery, raising $290 for the cemetery fund.

Over $3,000 was raised for the ongoing projects and renovation of the Jefferson Street Cemetery on July 19 at Finnegan’s Wake, the brainchild of Bob McCarthy. Each year, McCarthy donates the proceeds from this event to a local charitable organization. (Thank you, Bob, for your support of the Jefferson Street Cemetery Restoration!)

Any donations made to the Jefferson Street Cemetery Project will help keep Ellicottville’s rich history alive for years to come.

If you’d like to donate, please call Gail Carucci at (716) 307-5510 or email her at glcarucci@aol.com.