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Batavia Cemetery

History comes alive in annual Batavia Cemetery Ghost Walk

By Howard B. Owens
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Photo by Howard Owens

The Batavia Cemetery Association sold 160 tickets -- a sellout -- for the 2023 Ghost Walk on Saturday, which is the third or fourth straight sellout for the association's major fundraiser, said President Sharon Burkel. 

"The money goes for the upkeep of the cemetery," Burkel said. "We have some small investments, but we mostly survive on fundraisers and donations."

Beyond raising money, the 10 stops on the walk help tell the story of early Batavia, from Joseph Ellicott to Dean and Mary Richmond, William Morgan, and John Yates.

"It also brings awareness of the cemetery so people realize that it's here," Burkel said. "They can come and walk through and enjoy the architecture and the genealogy and the history.  There's some very impressive people in here."

Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.
Photo by Howard Owens
batavia cemetery ghost walk
Connie and Charley Boyd as Mary and Dean Richmond in the Richmond Mausoleum.
Photo by Howard Owens.
dean richmond
Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.
Photo by Howard Owens
Dan Snyder as Albert Brisbane.
Photo by Howard Owens
william morgan ghost
Joshua Pacino as William Morgan.
Photo by Howard Owens

Juneteenth memorial service to reclaim the truth, honor for Addy

By Joanne Beck
Sharon Burkel with Addy gravestone
Sharon Burkel, president of Batavia Cemetery Association, shows the gravestone of Adeline "Addy" Barbara, a slave who lived in Batavia in the mid-1800s. In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, there will be a memorial service for Addy at 10 a.m. Monday at the cemetery, 65 Harvester Ave., Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

When the Rev. Shiela Campbell McCullough, pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, learned of Batavia’s cultural history, she was surprised, to say the least, about one particular person who lived and died here.

Her name was Adeline “Addy” Barbara, as listed in the 1850 census. Her gravestone, weathered and worn, bears the etching of her burden from age 4 until she died at 50: “faithful colored servant.”

“I never thought about it here in Batavia until (City Historian) Larry Barnes unearthed it, and then he published his findings (in the book “History by the Hearth”). And then it was not until Mike Stuart … brought it to my attention I had no knowledge of this, and when Mike met me at the cemetery to show me the marker, it was overwhelming. I was so full of pain,” McCullough said during an interview with The Batavian. “I’m a grandmother, and at that time, my granddaughter was four years old. And I just could not even imagine someone treating her like that. And the mere thought that just a four-year-old child was snatched from her mother, and I put my daughter in the place of her mother. I mean, in my mind, it was just, that was painful. And the only thing I could do is to lay some flowers at her marker.”

Turns out that’s not the only thing she could do. McCullough and members of Batavia First Presbyterian Church, including the Rev. Roula Alkhouri and her husband Mike Stuart, and Batavia Cemetery Association will not only remember Addy and celebrate her life during Juneteenth’s Freedom Day at 10 a.m. Monday, but will also reclaim the narrative from those words so horribly skewed on the gravestone, McCullough said.

A faithful servant? “That’s not the truth,” she said.

“Honoring Addy is paramount in certain form and fashion, but we’ll be pointing out the truth, and being her voice: no, no, no, I didn’t have a voice in the matter. I was a slave,” McCullough said.  “It’s a celebration of her life, but more than just her life, her humanity. To be a slave, especially in America, meant you were sub-human, which meant the animals had more value than you.”

McCullough thinks about that fragile child and all of her “little girlness.” She would have been attending preschool in present day America instead of doing chores and being stripped of her family, her rights, choices, and future.

Another action that organizers will take in her name and spirit is to restore the marker, not to destroy any of the history, the reverend said, but to enhance it and, again, “reclaim the narrative” with scripture affirming Addy’s spiritual worth in the eyes of God versus how she was undervalued by her human owners.

The graveside service to honor Addy is to begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the Historic Batavia Cemetery, 65 Harvester Ave., Batavia.

Addy, Batavia slave, gravestone at Batavia Cemetery
Photo by Howard Owens.

She lived from 1807 until she died Jan. 28, 1857, according to the marker, Batavia Cemetery Association President Sharon Burkel said, and lived with the family of Episcopal priest Rev. Lucius Smith.

“She’s listed right in the census with them in 1850 … We don't know a whole lot about her,” Burkel said. “We had thought for many years, because that section of the cemetery is where the first plots were laid out in 1823, that was the part where a lot of the people buried in there were from St. James Church and the Presbyterian Church. They owned the cemetery initially.”

This service is a reminder of the importance of recognizing and confronting the legacy of slavery in our society, organizers said. All are welcome to attend and pay their respects. 

It’s an important part of Batavia’s history, and people might want to attend to acknowledge our shared history, McCullough said.

“To acknowledge that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place for the generations that come behind us to begin to see our shared history, as also the type of legacy that we're leaving behind,” she said. “At least I do, I want to leave my granddaughter with the truth of who she is, where she comes from, which includes being an American in this country. I want her to know all the ins and outs, the good and the bad. I want her to know.”

Photos: Ghost Walk at Historic Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavia Cemetery Association held its annual Ghost Walk on Saturday, which is both a fundraiser and a chance to provide area residents with an entertaining history lesson about the people who shaped the development of Western New York.

Photos by Howard Owens, Top photo, Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.


Tim Buckman as Maj. Philemon Tracy.


Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.


Dan Snyder as Albert Brisbane.

Video: Restoration work, Richmond Mausoleum

By Howard B. Owens
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Restoration work on the Richmond Mausoleum was recently completed by the Batavia Cemetery Association.

Photos: St. Joe's students visit Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


St. Joe's teacher Anne Marie Starowitz got to take her class on a field trip for the first time since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic today, walking her students over to the Batavia Cemetery to visit the gravesites of many of the historically important people buried or memorialized there.

Students are undertaking projects that include researching and writing about these people as well as created related artwork.

Above, students learn about Philemon Tracy, who was a colonel in the Confederate Army. His uncle, who lived in Batavia, had his body disguised in a Union officer uniform and transported to Batavia to be buried here. He's the only Confederate officer who died in action who is buried north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Below, students visit the William Morgan monument, a one-time Batavia resident who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after publishing a book that purportedly revealed Masonic secrets. His death helped ignite the Anti-Masonic Party.


Photos: 2018 Ghost Walk

By Howard B. Owens


Tracy Ford reprised his role as the Rev. John Henry Yates during the Batavia Cemetary Association's annual Ghost Walk, which gives guests an opportunity to be treated to a lively lesson on Batavia's history.

This year's addition included Gregory Hallock, director of GO ART!, as Eli Fish, the former local brewer who has come to life again, so to speak, in the brewery and restaurant now occupying the former Newberry's building downtown.

Diana Buckman, also pictured below, played Nannie Hunt, whose sons Thomas and Joseph served in the Civil War, with Joseph dying in battle in 1862. She read a letter from Hunt's daughter Martha about Joseph's death.

Once again, the event was a sellout.




Photos: Ghost Walk at the Historic Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


For the first time in its history, last night the Ghost Walk at the Historic Batavia Cemetery, a fundraiser for the cemetery, was sold out.

Top photo: Tim Buckman as Philemon Tracy, the only Confederate officer killed during the Civil War who was buried north of the Mason-Dixon Line.



Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.


Tracy Ford as John H. Yates, poet, preacher, philanthropist, journalist.



Bonnie and Charley Boyd as Mary and Dean Richmond in the Richmond Mausoleum.

Catherine Roth's many decades of work to help make Batavia better honored with a bench in Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


Longtime community activist Catherine Roth was honored today in a dedication of a new polished granite bench in the Batavia Cemetery.

Roth, 95, and now living in Albany, wasn't able to attend, but Richard Beatty, a member of the board of directors of the Landmark Society of Genesee County, said her presence is still felt in the community.

She wasn't, however, as sometimes misstated, the founder of the Landmark Society. That was Sally Osborne. Roth was, though, a founding board member and served on the board for decades and for many years she was board president.

She was instrumental in saving the St. James Rectory and the Engine House. She also played a key role in getting published the book "Architectural History of Genesee County."

Her other community endeavors included serving on the City Council, the Holland Land Office Museum Board, Girl Scouts, and the YMCA board.

The bench sits on the edge of an arboretum created as a memorial to her son James and overlooks the obelisk of Joseph Ellicott. The project started with an anonymous donation to create something that would honor Roth and the Landmark board came up with the idea for the bench and completed the project.

Lucine Kauffman, a former Landmark board member, said she spoke with Roth this morning and asked if Roth had any words of wisdom to share, and Roth said, "I just wish I could be there to sit on it."

Beatty, who has only been on the Landmark board for two years, said he's heard Roth described as a "force of nature."

"Her name has come up many times, usually along the lines of ‘What would Catherine do?’ " Beatty said. "I got the impression that what Catherine wanted, Catherine got. I’ve learned from those who know her well that her desire to get things done is infectious and she brought many people together to help her achieve her goals. Catherine is the type of person every community needs to thrive.”


Photos: Batavia Cemetery Association hosts annual ghost walk

By Howard B. Owens


Timothy Bucknam stands in for Philemon Tracy, the only Confederate officer lain to rest north of the Mason-Dixon line, who is buried in the Batavia Cemetery.

Bucknam provided visitors to the cemetery last night with information on Tracy's life during the Batavia Cemetery Association's annual ghost walk.

Also pictured below are Tracy Ford as poet Rev. John Henry Yates and Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.




Photos: Obelisks restored at Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


A pair of large obelisks at grave sites in the Batavia Cemetery, which were knocked by falling tree branches in recent years, were placed and positioned on their stands earlier this week by Craig Wolcott and his crew from Wolcott Lawn and Cemetery Maintenance.

The project was funded through a grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and a donation by the Landmark Society of Genesee County.

Photos and information from Sharon Burkel.





Photos: HLOM summer history program for students visits Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


The Holland Land Office Museum's annual summer program, History Heroes, is in its second day of the eight-day schedule and today the children participating walked from the museum to Ken's Charcoal Pits for lunch and then to the Batavia Cemetery.

According to Anne Marie Starowitz, the students learned about some of the famous people buried at the cemetery, including members of the Richmond family, Joesph Ellicott and Philemon Tracy, and also visited the William Morgan monument.







Batavia Cemetery Association looking for help in dealing with latest round of vandalism

By Howard B. Owens


Press release:

Sometime between the middle of March and the middle of April this year, the Historic Batavia Cemetery was seriously vandalized. More than 50 headstones, some dating to the early 19th century, were overturned, broken or smashed, causing thousands of dollars of damage.

The Batavia Cemetery was established in 1823 and was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2002. Most of Batavia’s early settlers are buried at this site.

The Cemetery Association is a nonprofit organization and the funds available for this damage are limited. They are asking for donations to help reset and repair the damaged monuments. A GoFundMe page has been established under Historic Batavia Cemetery Repairs and may be found at

This board has worked very hard the past 25 years to restore and maintain the cemetery. This is a very devastating blow.

Under New York State Law, this amount of cemetery desecration is a felony offense. If anyone has information regarding this crime, they may contact Officer Cronmiller at Batavia City Police Department, 345-6350.

Any donations or information will be greatly appreciated.




Photos: Ghost walk through the Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavia Cemetery Association hosted its annual ghost walk last night, with local actors playing the roles of historic figures who are buried in (with the exception of William Morgan) the cemetery on Harvester Avenue.


Gen. John Martindale, played by Derek Maxfield.


Philemon Tracy, played Tim Buckman.


Mary Elizabeth Wood, played by Anne Marie Starowitz.


Dean and Mary Richmond, played by Charley and Connie Boyd.


Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.

Candlelight guided ghost walk at Batavia Cemetery is Oct. 18

By Billie Owens

Press release:

From 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18th, the Batavia Cemetery Association will host a candlelight guided ghost walk through the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue in Batavia. The tours will feature the famous and infamous movers and shakers who shaped and influenced the City of Batavia.

The guided tour will bring guests to meet men and women of Batavia who, for various reasons, held great power and exerted great influence in their day, were victims of tragic events, or both.

Some of the ghosts who will tell their stories on the tour are: Philemon Tracy, one of the few Confederate officers buried in the North; Ruth, the unknown victim of a horrendous murder; Joseph Ellicott, a man of great power and great flaws; and William Morgan, the man who disappeared and was allegedly murdered before he could reveal the secrets of the Masons.

Tours begin at 7 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes refreshments. Tickets are available at the gate the day of the event at Historic Batavia Cemetery, Harvester Avenue, Batavia. Reservations are suggested. Proceeds benefit the upkeep and restoration of the cemetery. For more information, or to make reservations, contact 343-0248.

Join us for some spooky fun!

Take a Candlelight Ghost Tour at historic Batavia Cemetery Oct. 19th and 26th

By Billie Owens

Press release:

On Saturday, Oct.19th and 26th, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the Batavia Cemetery Association will host its annual guided Candlelight Ghost Walk through the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue. The guided tours will feature some of the famous and infamous characters who shaped our community.

Guests will meet some of the men and women of Batavia who, for various reasons, exerted great influence in their day. Dean and Mary Richmond and Joseph Ellicott will tell the stories of their interesting lives and very powerful families; William Morgan may finally reveal his fate after he threatened to expose Masonic secrets and one Confederate ghost will tell why he should be buried in Macon, Ga. Mrs. Hunt will share the moving story of the two sons lost in the Civil War and visitors will be asked to help discover the name of the unidentifed murdered woman.

Fortunes will be told and futures revealed by a visiting Gypsy!

Tours begin at 7 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes refreshments. Tickets are available at the gate the day of the event at the cemetery or by calling 343-0248. Reservations are recommended.

Proceeds benefit the upkeep and restoration of the cemetery.

Photos: Boy Scouts place memorial flags at Batavia Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens

Photos and information submitted by Steve Ognibene.

Catherine Roth gathered some local Boy Scouts from Troop #6069 this evening at the Batavia Historic Cemetery on Harvester Avenue to place new flags on veterans' gravesites.

Members in attendance were assistant scoutmasters Paul Crowley and John Petry. 

Boys who assisted were: Senior Patrol Leader Alex Hansen, his Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Dominic Brown, Tyler Mann, Zachary Lovell and LJ Petry. Not pictured but in attendance was Savannah Karn from Venture Crew #164.

Photo: Richmond Tomb, the afternoon of Feb. 6

By Howard B. Owens

I think the person going behind me on Harvester Avenue got a little irritated when I suddenly slowed this afternoon. I did go forward and turn around and come back.  It's not like I haven't taken photos of the Richmond Mausoleum before, but I was struck by the way the light was hitting it around 3:30 p.m.

Photos: Batavia Cemetery Association's Ghost Walk Tour

By Howard B. Owens

It's the time of year again for The Batavia Cemetery Association's annual Candlelight Ghost Tours at the historic Batavia Cemetery. The first tour was Saturday night and another will be held at the cemetery this Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost is $10 and proceeds benefit the association and upkeep of the cemetery.

Sue Conklin as a Gypsy fortune-teller.

Tim Buckman as Philimon Tracy.

Charlie and Connie Boyd was Dean Richmond and his wife.

Photo: Richmond Mausoleum

By Howard B. Owens

I've taken pictures of the Richmond Mausoleum before, but while I was on Harvester Avenue today, a gorgeous early spring day, I had an idea for a different approach (at least for me) to the shot. This is the result.

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