BELFORT The graves of Jerden Falls residents lost to a diphtheria epidemic in the late 1800s have gone unmarked. Thats changed after cooperation between residents and the New York Power Authority. A new stone and surrounding fence are at the site, remembering those who were lost.
As family member after family member was stricken and died during the epidemic, they were quickly buried in blankets in unmarked graves, in a cemetery off Jerden Falls Road. At the time, this area was a back street full of log homes.
The number of deaths and haste in burial has caused few, if any, records to be found.
To this point, no one has been able to find any death records, said Linda Brouty-Baxter.
The knowledge of some deaths has been passed on through family stories. Researching census records has corroborated those family stories for some.
Members of the Frank Dott and Susan and Daniel Baker families who died during the time have been confirmed to have been buried at the location.
Because there are many more suspected burials, but no records, those unknown deaths also are remembered on the newly placed stone.
The property where the cemetery is located was in the Chartrand family for a number of years. The grounds had been fenced from the early tannery days for more than 100 years. Mrs. Brouty-Baxter said her great-grandfather cared for the cemetery, as did her grandfather.
In 1943, the land was sold to the state, and at some point, the fence surrounding the site was lost. To replace the fence, aerial photos from the 1960s were used to verify the size and location. The New York Power Authority then paid for and installed a new fence.
A memorial service for those who died will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the cemetery.
Directions to the cemetery from Route 812 are: Turn onto Jerden Falls Road. Drive approximately four miles to a bridge and cross the Oswegatchie River. On the right, turn onto a trail under the power lines. Volunteers will help with parking and aiding those in need with a ride to the cemetery. Visitors should be prepared for a short walk. Carpooling is encouraged.