Saturday, July 03, 2010

"All the Lonely People, Where Do They All Belong?"

A few weeks ago, during my presentation at the local library on the life of Elizabeth Oakes Smith I met a history buff and a reader of Dude, Where Am I? named Gary T. who is researching Patchogue. He shared some information about the Smith family that he gathered through newspaper articles which is fascinating. One thing he uncovered, that no one else has caught yet, is that the graves of Elizabeth Oakes Smith and Seba Smith were moved twice. So, I owe all of the following information in this post to Gary T.

In November 1893, Elizabeth Oakes Smith died at the Hollywood N.C. home of her son Appleton Oaksmith after a three day illness. (1) Her body was transported to Patchogue. According to what Gary has read, when EOS's remains arrived at the Patchogue train station no one from the family was there to claim her. The only person present at her burial was the undertaker, Mr. Ruland. This sad story sounds like a Beatles song. I’m looking forward to seeing the article account of this lonely event, and I’m wondering where the heck Oakes Smith’s son Alvin was. (He lived in Blue Point.) Alvin and his wife Delfina were divorced at that point, and according to newspapers she and EOS did not get along. (2)

Elizabeth Oakes Smith was buried alongside her husband Seba Smith in The Old Willows Cemetery, (also known as the old Roe Cemetery). This information comes from a ridiculous obituary written for the Brooklyn Eagle that concludes with editorial content ridiculing the deceased as a Confederate sympathizer during the Civil War. (3) The idea probably comes from gossip involving Oakes Smith's son Appleton's alleged slave trafficking. It may also explain the rumor of slaves held captive in her basement at The Willows. Here a researcher can get a sense of the local social hostility toward the Smith-Oaksmith family at that time.

Unfortunately, in the case of an Ancient Burial Ground vs. Real Estate Profit, guess who usually wins? That’s right; move over dead early founders of Patchogue, here comes Progress. It seems that in 1900, seven years after the burial of Elizabeth Oakes Smith, The Old Willow Cemetery, located on the North side of Patchogue Lake on the corner of Roe Bld. and Lake Shore Drive was filled with a few dozen graves of early settlers. A Brooklyn Eagle article reports that some remains from the 1700’s had already been transported once from another cemetery “on the corner of Main St. and Ocean Ave.” in 1859 to The Old Willow Cemetery. (4) In 1900, the owner of The Old Willow Cemetery decided to move everyone out and sell or develop that property. However, the land is still vacant today, and the old fence remains. So, in 1900, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Seba Smith,(who died in 1868), and about 50 other people were disinterred and re- interred in Cedar Grove Cemetery.(4) That’s right next door to my house. Cue the spooky music now.

Then, for reasons unknown, in 1901, the remains of Elizabeth Oakes Smith and Seba Smith were moved again from Cedar Grove Cemetery to their current resting place, Lakeview Cemetery. (5) This is weird stuff. All this moving around might explain why Seba’s stone is so worn down, and EOS’s is not worn at all. Thank you so much Gary, for sharing your research!

(Now we are looking for picture of The Willows. If anyone reading this has any information on EOS’s home in Patchogue, I’d love to hear from you. My email is listed under Contributors on the side bar of this blog.)

Title is taken from lyrics in the Beatles Song, Eleanor Rigby.

Pictures: First two are the current site of The Old Willows Cemetery. Third picture are some of the oldest graves in Cedar Grove Cemetery- dated 1789. Last picture is Lake View Cemetery with newly restored iron gate entrance.

1- Port Jefferson Echo, November 25, 1893.
2- New York Times, February 23, 1873.
3- Brooklyn Eagle, November 20, 1893, p.12
4- Brooklyn Eagle, June 30, 1900, p. 17
5- Brooklyn Eagle, July 23, 1901, p. 16

Coming Up under the label Elizabeth Oakes Smith… a post on EOS’s Patchogue residence and her lectures/writing while living in Patchogue village.


Dr. Burrito said...

Your research is excellent. I believe that you are uncovering new and relevant research and history into the life of EOS.

Dr. Burrito

Loren Christie said...

Thanks Dr. "Burrito" lol.

Tim Scherman said...

This is pretty amazing stuff--something so basic I'm surprised Mary Alice Wyman or before that Edward(?) Bok--who wrote endlessly about EOS in her later life and afterwards--doesn't mention this.

Will definitely check out the Eagle articles, etc.

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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