Tuesday, November 1, 2011

(Not quite) Tombstone Tuesday ~ James McAlpin

In October, we visited Dutchess County, New York, with the hope of finding the gravesite of my third great grandfather, James McAlpin. According to Pyle, Smith, and Allied Family Histories (privately pubished, 1951), James McAlpin died on July 28, 1849. According to McAlpin(e) Genealogies 1730-1990 (Baltimore, MD:  Gateway Press, Inc., 1990), by Doris McAlpin Russell, he died in 1849 and was buried at Fishkill Landing, Dutchess County, New York.

Fishkill Landing was combined with another village, Matteawan, in 1913, to form the city of Beacon. With assistance from people at the First Reformed Church of Fishkill, at the public library in Fishkill, and at the public library in Beacon, I found the cemetery where I believe he is buried.

At the Fishkill Public Library I found a book that I had previously found a transcription of online. Old Gravestones of Dutchess County, New York, Nineteen Thousand Inscriptions, (Vol. II), collected and edited by J. Wilson Poucher and Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, was published in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1924. Pages 92-97 list the 343 inscriptions collected by volunteers of the Dutchess County Historical Society.

From page 92 of Old Gravestones of Dutchess County, New York

Page 92 indicates that the Dutch Churchyard at Fishkill Landing was in an "overgrown and disorderly" condition in October 1915 when the volunteers named in the image above transcribed the gravestone inscriptions.

Two pages later, I found the following listing:

From page 94 of Old Gravestones of Dutchess County, New York
I'm pretty sure this is "my" James McAlpin and there was an error in the reading of the stone in 1915 or an error in the transcription. Mystery: why were James McAlpin and (presumably his daughter) Catherine buried at Fishkill Landing when he lived about five miles away in Fishkill (1830 and 1840 U.S. Census), and more than 20 miles from the church where his children were baptized (in Pleasant Valley, NY)? Also, his wife died many years later and is buried in New York City.

Given directions by the reference librarian at the Beacon Public Library, we found the Reformed Church of Beacon on Wolcott Avenue (Route 9D). (The back of the cemetery is on Beekman Street.) Interestingly, this church and cemetery are not indicated on Google Maps.

Reformed Church of Beacon, from Wikipedia. See a negative image of this church.

It turns out that the cemetery that was "overgrown and disorderly" in 1915 is now a small forest. Mystery: why was the cemetery allowed to become so overgrown?

Photograph taken behind the church of the overgrowth

In the image below, from Google Maps, you see the church and behind it (towards the upper left) a wooded area which is a steep hill downward from the church to where the cemetery is. This photo was likely taken in early spring so you can see white where there are probably gravestones. When we were there, it was mid-October and the trees were still covered with leaves, which made it too much of a challenge to attempt to get a photograph of what we could barely see through the trees.

Reformed Church of Beacon, NY, from Google Maps (29 Oct 2011)
I wanted to go down the hill and into the woods, but we were told that there were sinkholes and, although we didn't see any, there were supposedly "No Trespassing" signs. (Also, my husband wouldn't let me.) Driving along Beekman Avenue, below and behind the church (upper left-hand corner of this aerial photo), you wouldn't know that there was an old cemetery there!

Update: Thanks to a commenter on this post, I now do have a picture of his gravestone. See Tombstone Tuesday ~ James McAlpin.

My descent from James McAlpin and Jane Hunter > David Hunter McAlpin > Frances Adelaide McAlpin > Charles McAlpin Pyle > Charles McAlpin Pyle, Jr. > me.

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.


  1. I enjoyed this post--and found the Google maps photo particularly interesting. It's amazing how there are never seem to be dead-end alleys with genealogical research--there always seem to be interesting new byways and things to learn. That said, it's really sad how the cemetery has been abandoned.

  2. Sheryl - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. The fact that the Google Map was made when there were no leaves on the trees certainly made the image useful for this post.
    Yes it's very sad that no one can visit this cemetery, but the cost to fix it up at this point would be substantial!

  3. Great post Elizabeth! I agree with you that local librarians can be just as helpful as historical societies. Such a shame that this cemetery was left to run wild.

  4. Excellent post! Very pleasing visually, and delightful writing. I am descended from David Hugh McAlpin (1821-1895), a son of James McAlpin and Jane Hunter. While his brother David Hunter McAlpin was excelling in commerce in New York, David Hugh McAlpin (known as Hugh) was preaching the gospel as a Baptist minister in North Carolina and later in Southern Illinois. What an interesting comparison in lives! I am very curious about the religious proclivities of the McAlpins, and how Hugh came to be a Baptist preacher. I would sincerely appreciate any insight or knowledge that you are able to share in these regards, and will attempt to send you an email with my contact information.

  5. CTH - thank you for reading and commenting. This is one of my favorite posts that I've written. Do contact me at elizhandler at gmail.com with your line and we'll see how we're related!

  6. hey there, I went there last week and found some pictures online after I did some research. Not sure if you've seen this but it looks like it may be what you're looking for...


    1. Dusty - thank you for sharing! This photo on facebook is very cool and is the gravestone of my third great grandfather!