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Gerrit Smith Estate Cemetery

Town of Smithfield

				THE PRIVATE CEMETERY ON THE GERRIT SMITH ESTATE

	On June 10, 1937, an article appeared in the Oneida Democratic Union, reporting 
that the remains and headstones from the private burial grounds on the Gerrit Smith 
estate had been removed to the local Peterboro Cemetery. Seven reburials were made, 
including an individual who had been a nurse of the Smith family for a number of years.1 
	
	The loss by fire of the Smith mansion on March 2, 1936, and the death of its last 
occupant, Gerrit Smith Miller (the grandson of Gerrit Smith), on March 10, 1937, resulted 
in the sale of the property and the subsequent removal of the private cemetery.2 

This private burial ground seems to have been situated to the east of the mansion house 
itself, although its exact location is still unknown. The earliest known reference to 
the cemetery is contained in an 1837 letter from J. Playfair to Gerrit Smith: “My mind 
was carried back to the deeply interesting spot in your garden where are deposited the 
remains of those formerly taken from you.”3 
	
	An 1840 tribute to Smith’s deceased son Fitzhugh contains the following:
	
	In sight from the library window of the noble paternal mansion, and within 
	his own grounds, the father has prepared with great taste a family burial 
	place. There sweetly sleep five of his little flock; all of them in hope 
	of a joyful resurrection. . . On one of the marble stones, which mark the 
	reposing place of the “beloved five,” is the following inscription: This 
	son and this daughter died too young to have names on earth, but not too 
	young to have names written in heaven. On another is written the name of
	HENRY; and on the third, the simple word NANNY, denotes the bed where 
	sleeps awhile the sweet Ann, who lived to be about five years old. 
	The next to these is the grave . . . of the beloved object of this 
	tribute. It is a pure white marble slab, with no other inscription 
	on it than the word FITZHUGH.4
		 
	A remaining mystery is the identity of LITTLE KATY, whose was among those 
removed in 1937. Assuming that Gerrit Smith’s deceased children were Ann (Nanny), 
Fitzhugh, Henry, and an unnamed son and daughter—the five that are known to be 
his—then who is “Little Katy”? She could have been another of his children who 
died young, but most sources state that he had a total of seven children.5 When 
including the two who survived to adulthood, Elizabeth and Greene, “Little Katy” 
doesn’t fit.

	Blandina Dudley Miller, probably writing around 1900, refers to the nurse, 
Laura Bosworth: “She died in Peterboro in 1883 and lies buried next to the younger 
children of the family in the enclosure in the orchard.”6 Her stone reads:
	LAURA BOSWORTH
	Born in Vermont
	September 23, 1796
	Died in Peterboro, N. Y.
	June 26, 1883

	The faithful loving and
	well beloved nurse of
	the children of
	Gerrit and Ann C. Smith
	A member of their family
	for thirty years
	
	How a young man named William C. Seidell came to rest with the others is 
especially poignant. He was the protégé of Susan Dixwell Miller, the wife of 
Gerrit Smith Miller. He overcame several handicaps, winning a scholarship 
to Cornell University and later a degree in civil engineering. However, due 
to poor eyesight, Seidell was unable to work on the detailed drawings and 
specifications required of his profession. When his health totally failed, 
he became severely depressed and took his own life. Susan Miller had his 
ashes interred at Peterboro in a secluded grove where he used to recline 
in the shade to study. It was she who chose his epitaph7:

	WILLIAM C. SEIDELL
	Born June 18, 1878
	Died Dec. 28, 1904

	He, the young and strong, who cherished
	Noble longings for the strife,
	By the roadside fell and perished,
	Weary with the march of life.

	So, we have the location of the cemetery as: garden – orchard – secluded grove. 
Interviews conducted with a number of older Peterboro residents resulted in not 
one person who remembered the cemetery. In 2000, Marian Bellamy Wedow, who once 
lived at the Cottage Across the Brook (on the Smith estate) and whose father was 
the last manager of Gerrit Smith Miller’s farm, said that she had a “memory” of a 
gravesite or cemetery on the estate to the east of the fountain (which was also 
located on the east side of the mansion).8 So the search continues to definitively 
establish the original site of the Smith family burial ground.

REFERENCES:

1Oneida Democratic Union, June 10, 1937, p. 16, “Private Cemetery Removed.”
2Liber 326, p. 515, Madison County Clerk’s office, Wampsville; Ernest S. Wheeler [prob. 
	first owner after Gerrit Smith Miller], Bingley, NY, sells Smith-Miller estate 
	to Asa R. Smith, Canastota, NY.
3Letter dated Glasgow, July 19, 1837, from J. Playfair to Gerrit Smith (letter also 
	refers to death of Smith’s son Fitzhugh), Gerrit Smith Papers, Syracuse University.
4“A Tribute to the Memory of Fitzhugh Smith, The Son of Gerrit Smith,” by the author of 
	“Thoughts on a New Order of Missionaries.” New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1840, 
	pp. 38-39 [author believed to be Josiah T. Marshall].
51865 Census, Madison Co., NY, Town of Smithfield, p. 31, 30 June, Family No. 215; 
	Gerrit Smith’s wife, Ann C. Smith, states that she has given birth to 7 children.
6“GERRIT SMITH – Many Facts About This Famous Man Very Interestingly Related,” by 
	Blandina D. Miller, n.d.; Scrapbook A, Box 154, Gerrit Smith Papers, Syracuse University.
7“Susan Dixwell Miller,” by William O. Dapping. Peterboro, New York, 1926, p. 37.
8Letter dated Aug. 24, 2000, from Marian Bellamy Wedow to Donna D. Burdick.


Donna D. Burdick
Smithfield Town Historian
May 24, 2008

Oneida Democratic Union, June 10, 1937, p. 16

PRIVATE CEMETERY
REMOVED
Peterboro – The remains and headstones were removed from the private burial grounds in 
the Miller estate to the family lot in the local cemetery the past week. There were 
seven burials, members of the Miller family and one who was a nurse for a number of years in 
the family.



Location of Removed Stones in Smith Plot - Peterboro Cemetery

WILLIAM C. SEIDELL  (Seidell to left [north] of Adolphus Lent Smith, bro. of Gerrit Smith)


This son &		LAURA			LITTLE
this daughter		BOSWORTH		KATY	
			

NANNY			HENRY			FITZHUGH


These 6 stones are west of Seidell’s stone and east of Greene Smith’s stone.


Notes:

1.	Ann (Nanny) Smith – c. 1830-1835	}
2.	Fitzhugh Smith – 1824–1836		}
3.	Henry – evidently d. in infancy		} no dates on any of these stones
4.	son		}			}
5.	daughter	} possibly twins?	}

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