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Millville Cemetery adds historic marker, paints chapel

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Shelby site is listed on National Register of Historic Places

Photos by Tom Rivers
SHELBY – Alice Zacher, the Shelby town historian, speaks after a new historical marker was unveiled on Sunday at the Millville Cemetery on East Shelby Road.

Zacher wrote the application to have the marker paid for by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

Shelby Town Councilman Ken Schaal, left, and Mike Fuller, the highway superintendent, remove a cover from the historical marker on Sunday. The town pays for the upkeep of the cemetery. Fuller and the Highway Department installed the marker.

The Millville Cemetery was established in 1871. The cemetery was an early Quaker burial grounds. Back then the graves were close together. The cemetery would take on the rural garden cemetery style, with bigger spaces between graves, towering trees and ornamental grave stones.

The cemetery in 2007 was included on the National Register of Historic Places. Three other cemeteries in Orleans County are on the National Register: Mount Albion Cemetery, Hillside Cemetery in Holley/Clarendon; and Boxwood Cemetery in Medina.

Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County historian, leads about 30 people on a tour of the cemetery.

Lattin praised the Shelby citizens from more than a century ago for creating such a beautiful place. Those residents went to one-room school houses and graduated with eighth-grade educations, Lattin said.

They may not have earned college degrees, but they they knew about the power of trees, a well-designed chapel and an attractive landscape, Lattin said.

“This cemetery tells a lot about the people back then,” he said. “Look at their appreciation of nature and aesthetics. There is no other chapel like this in the world.”

The monuments and Victorian funerary art reflect the prosperity of the community back when it was home to three sawmills, gristmill and turning mill, according to the description of the site on the National Register.

The cemetery is elevated in an otherwise flat area. “The landscaping and roads and the plantings make it an exemplary vernacular rural cemetery,” according the Department of the Interior, which decides whether a site meets the threshold to be on the National Register.

Bill Lattin leads the group on a tour of the cemetery. He discussed many of the Victorian features of the gravestones, the ornamental symbols to reflect mourning and a belief in an afterlife.

Lattin congratulated current Shelby citizens, led by Alice Zacher, for getting the Millville Cemetery on the National Register and for the work in getting the chapel (behind Lattin in the photo) repainted this past August.

“They should be commended,” Lattin said about the Shelby citizens. “You’re carrying on a tradition of aesthetics.”

Lattin has family buried in the cemetery. He noted the names of many family plots, such as Dresser and Pask, that are names of roads in the community.

Many prominent local residents are buried at Millville, including this large grave marker for Arnold Gregory, who left money to start a hospital in Albion. The statue in back left marks the grave for Asa Hill, a Civil War soldier and local farmer.