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Ghost Walk, lecture series will raise funds for chapel at Hillside Cemetery

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Visitors walk out of the chapel at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon during an open house last September. Volunteers and the town are trying to raise $225,000 for repairs to the chapel, which was built in 1894.

CLARENDON – Genesee Community College history students will immerse themselves in Holley history as part of a ghost walk at Hillside Cemetery on Oct. 3.

The students will serve as guides and “ghosts” of some prominent residents from Holley’s past who are in the cemetery.

This will be the first ghost walk at Hillside. Derek Maxfield, a history professor at GCC, is working with the Clarendon Historical Society on the event, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be a fund-raiser for the restoration efforts at the cemetery’s chapel. Admission is $10.

“This chapel is an important piece of local heritage that we shouldn’t lose,” Maxfield said.

He praised the Historical Society for getting the chapel listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for pursuing grants and cleaning up the building, made in 1894 from local Medina sandstone.

The society is trying to raise $225,000 to restore the chapel, which needs a new roof, wooden window frames, some mortar repointing and repainting inside.

Derek Maxfield, shown here as a guide last October at Philemon Tracy’s grave at the Batavia Cemetery, is leading a ghost walk on Oct. 3 at Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon. Tracy is one of the few Confederate officers buried in the North. Maxfield said ghost walks are a way to highlight local history and draw attention to historic cemeteries.

Maxfield is pleased his students have shown a strong interest in the ghost walk. About 20 have already jumped at the chance to help with the event.

Maxfield and the students are looking through biographies of notable residents in the cemetery. The students will do their own research, developing the characters for the ghost walk.

“Any historic preservation project gets my attention,” said Maxfield, who is on a committee that picks “Heritage Heroes” from Orleans County. He also was coordinator of the Civil War Initiative the past four years through GCC, including from 2013-15 at the Medina campus.

Maxfield, the GCC History Club and the Clarendon Historical Society also have developed a lecture series at the chapel as part of “Hillside Heritage Events” in October to benefit the restoration effort of the chapel that was built in the Gothic Revival style.

Hillside Heritage events will include a series of evening lectures, without technology. The chapel will be lit only with oil lamps inside the chapel itself at Hillside Cemetery, just south of the village of Holley. Lectures begin at 7 p.m. and are free, though donations to the restoration fund will be gladly accepted.

The lecture series includes:

Oct. 26: GCC Associate Dean of the Orleans County Campus Centers and Historian Jim Simon will present “The Philosophy of History: What Does it Matter?”

Nov. 2: GCC Associate Professor Derek Maxfield will present “Victorian Death and the Civil War.”

In addition, retired Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin will give a lecture at 4 p.m. on Oct. 3, the day of the ghost walk. Lattin will speak in the chapel about Victorian Mourning Art.

Other heritage programs are being planned for Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the day culminating with the ghost walk from 7 to 9 p.m.