By Allison Collins
UNADILLA – Fundraising efforts are underway to save the crumbling walls framing the Evergreen Hill Cemetery on Poplar Hill Road in Unadilla.
Members of the Evergreen Hill Cemetery Association launched a mailer campaign in December, hoping to generate the $110,000 needed to preserve and repair the nearly 350 feet of stone wall.
The stones forming the walls, board members said, are almost as historically significant as the cemetery itself, founded in 1887.
“The stones are from the original Unadilla Academy,” explained just-elected association vice president Kathy Ouimet. “When that was torn down and the new school built in its place, the stones were brought up to Evergreen Hill.”
According to an informational booklet published by the association in 2015, the stones were moved in 1934.
Association treasure Sheri Kinsella said, “The walls came from the Unadilla Academy many, many years ago and to keep them as a part of our history was important to all of us.” Noting that the walls “have a lot of meaning,” she added, “Taking them down was not an option.”
Following the December distribution of mailers to lot owners and Unadilla residents, Kinsella said, members of the 10-person association board are optimistic.
“Approximately 2,200 (mailers) were sent,” she said, “and we have raised approximately $13,500 so far.” She added, “Our cemetery is one of the nicest around (and), to us, (this) is money well spent. Having so many people feel the same way … we do just confirms why we are going to make it happen.”
Association president Craig Van Cott commented, “We’re really pleased with the response we’ve gotten and we’ve had pretty good luck, but we’re still quite a ways from our goal.”
Van Cott said, while the campaign is recent, the restoration effort has been ongoing for years.
“We’ve been gradually doing it over the last few years and we’re doing it piecemeal, as we get the funds,” he said. “But now, the walls have deteriorated to the point where we want to do it all at once if we can.”
Costs, Kinsella said, were determined by the amount of work required in specific sections of wall. Repairs to the upper wall are estimated ate $35,025, while the lower, more-damaged sections will require $84,450.
Kinsella noted, “The lower wall is in need of much more work to renovate it properly.” Van Cott, too, described the lower wall as in “pretty rough shape.”
The work has been contracted to Wakeman Construction, LLC of Unadilla and will likely begin in spring, Kinsella said.
“We are expecting the wall repair on the upper wall to begin in the spring,” she said. “I am hoping it will be done by Memorial Day or sooner.”
As keepers of the cemetery and, by extension, the village’s past, Ouimet said, preservation is the responsibility of not only the association, but community members, too.
“This is where our forefathers are resting,” Ouimet said. “There are streets named after these people … and we need to take care of the people that settled the town.” She added, “We’re taking care of our past to ensure the future. And it’s important to keep it up, we owe it to those folks.”
To contribute, mail tax-deductible donations to:
Evergreen Hill Cemetery Association, PO Box 764, Unadilla, NY, 13849.
For more information, find ‘Evergreen Hill Cemetery’ on Facebook or visit evergreenhillcemetery.com.