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< Gouverneur Stories — Riverside Cemetery Origins


Early in August 1808 a shadow came over the settlement of Cambray in the sudden death of Emily Porter, a sprightly little girl of 2 years, and daughter of Isreal Porter. She had been out during the day with some other children gathering peas; and it is believed ate a quantity of the half-ripened kernels, which swelled in the stomach causing her death. This occasion led to the selection of the first burying ground, which was in the area of the present Presbyterian Church in a hemlock grove. Here Emily Porter was laid to rest in a pine coffin.


This first cemetery was ceded to the inhabitants of Cambray by Gouverneur Morris and consisted of two acres bounded by the Oswegatchie River and roughly by what are now John, William, and Church streets. In 1857 it became apparent a new and larger cemetery was necessary.


After looking over the various lots offered for sale, a committee settled upon the former Pardon Babcock farm, which had become the property of Harvey D. Smith. It lay southwest of the village on the banks of the Oswegatchie.


Thirty acres of this farm were purchased at a cost of $1500.00 and "one burying plot" from Mr. and Mrs. Smith by the Gouverneur Cemetery Association, which had been organized on June 23, 1857 B.F. Hathaway of Brookline, N Y. was employed to layout and grade the new ground. More than 600 lots were prepared for use with miles of walks and avenues - trees were planted and everything to make the cemetery attractive was done. The first burial was that of Joseph B. Smith August 25, 1857 (19 B31) By 1860 records indicate 11 acres had been added and in 1866 there is an entry in the minutes of the annual meeting noting $800 spent that year for land. 


By 1860 the public mind became reconciled to transferring the dead from the old burying ground. The most picturesque portion of the new cemetery was selected for this purpose, boxes were provided, and the whole accomplished in two weeks at the expense of the corporation. In all, 637 removals were made under the direction of Thomas Thayer. Emily Porter was relocated to her family plot. (9 H75) Many of the removals were from unmarked graves. 

The new cemetery adopted the name Riverside at a meeting of the association held April 14, 1858, and the dedication ceremonies took place Sunday, June 23 that year.


In the year 1954 it became apparent to the officers and trustees that more ground was a necessity. All 1676 saleable lots in Riverside had been purchased, and using a figure of 3 burials per lot (actually probably more) it can be said that the population of Riverside is greater than that of the village. 


A site on the east bank of the Oswegatchie was finally selected which consisted of 10 acres purchased for $3500 and a perpetual option was granted for up to 30 more acres. This addition is designated as East Riverside and should serve the area for many years.

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