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St. Joseph's Cemetery, Syracuse - some clippings/history, 1946-1966

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St. Joseph's Cemetery, Syracuse - some clippings/history, 1946-1966

Posted: 1126476163000
Classification: Cemetery
Edited: 1137589274000
Found the following articles (there may be more I couldn't find) compliments of the The Digital Archives of the Syracuse Post-Standard (and other newspapers, 1857-present; fee subscription) -

They shed a little light on the history of the abandonment of St. Joseph's and the relocation of buried remains to Assumption Cemetery in Syracuse:


-Once Mayor-

John Demong
Grave Stone

[photo caption: “VANDALISM. This heavy stone marker (foreground) was removed by vandals from the grave of John W. Demong, Syracuse’s mayor in 1882 (arrow indicates monument) and pushed down a bank on the edge of St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Pond st.”]

A chipped block of stone pushed off into a bank of weeds gives proof of today’s disrespect for the past.

In 1882, John W. Demong was mayor of Syracuse and its first citizen. Today, his grave in St. Joseph’s Cemetery has been desecrated by persons believed to be youthful vandals.

The stone marker bearing the simple inscription: “John Demong, Mayor of Syracuse, 1882” has been torn from its place on his grave, at the base of his pillar-like monument.

The heavy stone, which requires several persons to lift, was dragged to the edge of the cemetery and pushed several yards down a bank facing Pond st., near High st. The stone was chipped and defaced in its removal.

Upon discovery of the act, officials of St. Joseph’s Cemetery said the marker would be replaced and the grave restored to order as soon as possible.

Born in Friederickstahl, Prussia, in November, 1833, Mayor Demong was elected on the Democratic ticket and served only a year before his death. He was succeeded by Mayor Thomas Ryan in 1883.

[Syracuse Herald-Journal, Friday evening, 13 September 1946, pages 1 and 10]


BB Pellet Hits
Woman, Another
Just Misses Man

Four of five boys in a gang armed with a BB pistol were arrested by police yesterday after the boys took pot shots at two persons, hitting one.

Police rounded up the boys after Mrs. Monica Smiley, 30, of 717 Kirkpatrick St., said she was shot in the back about 2 p.m. at First North and Kirkpatrick Sts.

Later Andrew Reschle of 1204 First St. said a shot from the BB pistol narrowly missed his head and broke a window near him.

Patrolman Frank Sallen said he came across the gang at Spring and Kirkpatrick Sts. about 5 p.m. Two boys surrendered, but three ran. He caught two hiding in the old St. Joseph’s Cemetery. The fifth escaped. The four that were caught were issued blue tickets to appear at the Youth Bureau today.

[Syracuse Post-Standard, Monday, 13 August 1956, page 6]


Gangs, Neglect
Make Disgrace
Of Cemetery

[photo caption: “Broken fence and stones on Lynch plot in St. Joseph’s Cemetery”]

[photo caption: “Crucifix base is badly damaged”]

[photo caption: “Headstone from grave of Mayor Demong lies upside down”]

Neglect and vandalism have turned historic St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Pond street into a shambles.

Most of the monuments are tipped over and those that are standing are leaning in deadfall fashion. Some appear unsafe and could result in injury or death to children.

Less than 50 headstones are intact and the cemetery has become a source of complaint by nearby residents.

An inspection of the Roman Catholic burial ground reveals a disheartening situation. A solution to the problem appears to be complicated.

The cemetery is the property of the Franciscan Friars and was used as a cemetery for Assumption Church until the new one was started in Court street.

Brush, brambles, dying tree limbs and stubble line the cemetery floor along with papers, beer cans and bottles and other litter.

Headstones are scattered over the area like rubble following a bombing. Many are far removed from their original setting.

Steel fencing around some of the more elaborate family plots has been allowed to fall down while others were obviously ripped apart.

A large and once beautiful crucifix on top of the cemetery hill is covered with chalk initialing. The stone base of the cross is cracked.

Most of the people buried there were of German descent and many stones bear German inscriptions. The majority of stones date back from 1865 to shortly after the turn of the century.

The second mayor of Syracuse is buried there. His grave marker, however, is in the same situation as most of the rest.

Mayor John Demong’s headstone lies 10 feet away from its base and rests upside down in mud.

The ground has been tunneled by rodents and a hound this morning was seen chasing a rabbit through the cemetery thickets.

The once stately oaks, elms and poplar trees are dying or dead and many heavy limbs appear to be waiting for the next good wind storm.

The cemetery measures about one block wide and three blocks long along Pond Street.

Parties Reported

Nearby residents said the burial ground is a hangout for gangs. They claim they have notified police of drinking and sex parties there.

Though vandalism in the cemetery is not new, many stones bear markings where one stone was used to crush another.

Last week an auto accident was averted only because of poor aim by four youths.

They reportedly waited for a car to drive past in Pond street and then rolled a huge piece of granite from one of the monuments down toward the car.

The stone was so heavy two men were unable to lift it. A Department of Public Works crew rolled it off to the side of the street.

Friars Would Sell

The Franciscans [sic] Fathers say they are eager to clean up the cemetery and sell the property, presumably for housing.

They say, though, this is not as simple a matter as it would appear.

They explain that in order to transfer a body from St. Joseph’s to Assumption Cemetery civil law, including permission from the family, is involved.

They say more than 50 per cent of the bodies have been removed and that an effort is being made to remove the rest.

Families have dispersed over the years, however, and it is difficult to contact them.

They claim, too, that the cemetery is in the state it is because families of persons buried there do not care for the graves.

No Arrangements Made

The priests say most of the deceased were buried before any perpetual rest arrangements were made.

They say they will transfer bodies free of charge if the families of the deceased would take enough interest to make the arrangements.

The cemetery is one of the oldest in the city. Pond street is the second site of St. Joseph’s Cemetery. The first was in Schiller Park.

Some other cemeteries that were allowed to fall into such a condition were made into parks. First Ward Cemetery and Rose Hill are examples.

These, however, were public cemeteries and though much legal work was involved presented fewer problems.

[photo caption: “Limb Litters Grave. The dead top of a huge poplar tree, blown down years ago, lies across the Schmidt family plot in St. Joseph’s Cemetery”]

[photo caption: “Weiss Grave in Ruins. Showing no respect for the dead, vandals virtually destroyed expensive stones and fence which mark and enclose the Weiss plot in St. Joseph’s Cemetery.”]

[Syracuse Herald-Journal, Thursday evening, 27 March 1958, pages 1 and 2]


Cleaning Up
St. Joseph’s

[photo caption: “Workmen reset monument tipped by vandals in St. Joseph’s Cemetery”

Sparked by the generosity of an Eastwood business man, vandalism-ravaged St. Joseph’s Cemetery is being repaired and beautified.

Karl Lutz, president of the Karl Lutz Monument Co., 2718 James St., volunteered to do what he could to fix up the historic cemetery after reading about its deplorable condition in this newspaper on March 17.

Lutz advised Franciscan Fathers at Assumption Church of his intentions and yesterday with four of his men started the task of resetting and repairing tomb stones.

Today Lutz and his employes were joined by four men employed at Assumption Cemetery. They started to cut brush and rake the grounds.

Lutz, president of the Liederkranz, said he offered to donate the services of his men and equipment free of charge today and yesterday.

This led Roman Catholic Church officials to ask Lutz to continue on with the work until the entire cemetery is restored. They will pay him for the remainder of the project.

Lutz, very busy at this time of year, said he would resume the work after Memorial Day.

The historic cemetery has been turned into a shambles by vandals, who have tipped over stones and desecrated monuments.

The old cemetery has been replaced by Assumption Cemetery and remains of many of the German settlers buried in St. Joseph’s have been transferred there.

This work is being continued and within the next few days the remains of 23 nuns will be moved. The Franciscans hope eventually to transfer all the bodies and sell the property.

Lutz expressed the hope that vandalism will cease so the repaired stones will remain intact.

[Syracuse Herald-Journal, Tuesday evening, 15 April 1958, page 1]


Rundown cemetery’s
burials to be moved

At last Syracuse’s German pioneers will finally be able to rest in peace.

Father David Schulze Minister Provincial of the Franciscan Fathers, said it is hoped the transfer of burials from abandoned St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Pond Street to Assumption Cemetery will be completed by winter.

For years, the rundown condition of St. Joseph’s Cemetery has been the target for scores of newspaper articles and editorials.

It has been the hangout for gangs, thugs and drinking parties, according to Police Chief William H. T. Smith.

To find a monument you have to get down on all fours and crawl through the tunnels under 10-foot-high underbrush.

The Fathers said the reason the cemetery was in such poor condition is that no funds were avaialble [sic] for its upkeep.

Steel fencing around some of the more elaborate family plots has either fallen down or been deliberately ripped apart by vandals.

Father David said the order is in the process of getting permission to remove all the remains to Assumption Cemetery.

Prior to Father David’s announcement, Assistant City Corporation Counsel William Burrows was working on the problem of what should be done.

It wasn’t the city’s problem because it was private property. And the Franciscan Order did not have the means to take proper care of the cemetery.

St. Joseph’s is one of the oldest cemeteries in Syracuse. Many of the monuments date back before the Civil War.

[Syracuse Herald-American, Sunday, 19 September 1965, page 32]

Syracuse Herald-Journal, page 13, Thursday, Sept. 23, 1965

Fransiscans to move burials
from St. Joseph’s Cemetery

One of the largest burial transferrals in Syracuse’s history is scheduled to get under way before the end of this year.

The Franciscan Fathers have received permission from the State Supreme Court to move more than 4,000 remains from abandoned St. Joseph’s Cemetery to Assumption Cemetery.

For several years, St. Joseph’s has been over grown with brush and brambles. It has been turned into a shambles by vandals, who have tipped over stones and desecrated monuments.

Down through the years, many of the German settlers have been transferred to Assumption Cemetery. This will be the last move.

Efforts have been made in the past to reset and repair stones but vandals only knocked them apart again.

The property for the cemetery was acquired in 1859 by the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Albany.

Since then, the “character of the neighborhood has substantially changed,” according to the application to remove the remains.

Father David Schulze, president of the Order Minor Conventuals (Franciscan Fathers) said it will be possible to dispose of the property for other uses once the move is completed.

The reason the cemetery was not kept up was that there was no endowment fund in the early days and families were buried there without perpetual care arrangements.

A special section in Assumption Cemetery has been reserved for the reburials. Father David said monuments also will be removed to Assumption.

Descendents of families buried in old St. Joseph’s Cemetery have praised the fathers for their efforts to move their relatives to a better place.

In some instances, Father David said, multiple burials will be made and new monuments will be erected.

[Syracuse Herald-Journal, Thursday, 23 September 1965, page 13]

----SUMMARY, 1999----

“In 1859, Assumption Church established Syracuse’s second Roman Catholic cemetery. This north side parish of mostly German immigrants chose 8 acres at Pond and First North streets, then on the city’s outskirts. St. Joseph’s eventually housed more than 6,000 graves. By 1950, it was inactive and rundown. This cross, pictured in the early 1900’s, was the cemetery’s central feature. Assumption removed it and relocated the interred to a newer cemetery on Court Street during 1965-66. Since many bodies could not be identified, most were placed in a mass grave. The site of St. Joseph’s is now the location of a Wegman’s grocery store.”

[photo caption, The Syracuse Newspapers (Herald-Journal?), Cities/Neighbors supplement section (page 22); Thursday, 28 October 1999]


I have more information about St. Joseph's Cemetery at my website (see my "Cemeteries--With German Connections" page):

"German Immigrant Ancestors
in Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York"

A list of Irish plot owners for St. Joseph's Cemetery is here:

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
m1chellestone 1126476163000 
Anne Ruggeri 1126480657000 
m1chellestone 1126568434000 
Jim Hartigan 1126612644000 
m1chellestone 1126805953000 
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