The Old Burying Ground
Not much is yet known of the history of Oak Orchard during the first half of the 19th century. Deeds are sporadic and maps are inadequate to reconstruct the development of the parcels along Wood Creek that were subdivided from the original lots of the Wood Creek Reservation.
But by the closing days of the Civil War, considerable development had occurred here. An extensive "burying ground" had developed on the sandy hill, one or two houses were occupied in the immediate area, and a lane ran from Wood Creek Road to a saw mill that had been constructed on the south bank of Wood Creek north of the cemetery. Known as "Patrick's Mill," this industry appears to have been connected by a woods road along the east side of Beaver Brook to another mill north on Teelins Pond.
The mill appears to have ceased operations before the end of the century, but some timber remains possibly associated with that mill may still be seen eroding out of the stream bank at the northwest corner of the Oak Orchard site.
The 20th century has seen the site become integrated into a single family, agricultural complex. Slowly the low field stone markers and simple headstones of the old burying ground, still known a half-century ago as "Oak Orchard Cemetery," toppled and disappeared under the weeds and sod. This historic site, which had served as a landmark to so many explorers, traders, soldiers, and travelers for over 200 years, had slipped into obscurity.
Access and Preservation
We are indeed fortunate to have re-discovered this virtually forgotten fragment of our past. It is part, not only of the history of the Town of Verona and of Oneida County, but of the early development of transportation routes across New York that were of national significance.
We can stand here once again and imagine the hundreds of boats and thousands of people who have passed this historic landmark in the wilderness - pursuing new lives in the west, rushing to secure our tenuous military hold on our frontiers, exploring new lands for future settlement, or carrying profitable cargoes to and from Schenectady.
The excitement of history comes alive in the actual places where history was created, and the preservation of these places and their natural settings is an opportunity to perpetuate this sense of excitement.
There is still much we can learn from Oak Orchard. Much of the original site is now occupied by the old burial ground. This place, which holds the earthly remains of some of Verona's earliest pioneers, is itself of historic interest. The cemetery now falls under the jurisdiction and protection of the Town of Verona. The continued maintenance of the burying ground and associated historic sites is a volunteer project carried out by the Verona Historical Association in conjunction with the Town of Verona.
The surrounding lands are privately owned and the landowner has graciously provided an easement for purposes of access to the cemetery and the historic area. Continued access depends on all visitors respecting the site and the owners' rights.
A map of the general area. (60KB)
A detail of the location.(60KB)
A sketch of the site.(60KB)