ESSEX — The volunteer effort to reclaim the Old County Home and Infirmary cemetery here is nearing a first anniversary but has hit a snag.
Vicki and Randy Dickerson spearheaded the effort, which has since uncovered and cleared 378 grave markers in a remote field south of Route 22 between Wadhams and Whallonsburgh.
They are simple graves marked mostly with names and dates, Mr. Dickerson said, with each granite stone measuring about 16 inches long and 8 inches wide.
They make seven neat rows in about 2.5 acres of what otherwise is a hay field.
"Six full rows and one partial row," Mr. Dickerson said of the site.
It is the otherwise nameless resting place for indigent, transient, often elderly people who lived and then died at the County Home between 1874 and the late 1960s.
But the land is now privately held, sold in 1985 for $60,000 to the Sherrill family by the Essex County Industrial Development Agency, according to the deed recorded at the Essex County Clerk's Office.
The property was sold — along with its burial ground — after Horace Nye Home opened in 1980.
As the cemetery reclamation group got ready to raise a flag amid the graves, the property owner, Ruth Sherrill Morgan, asked that no further work be done.
Contacted Monday by the Press-Republican, Morgan said her insurance company refused to cover any work at the cemetery, a situation she feels leaves her vulnerable.
"My insurance company won't allow it. I didn't expect publicity where people would be drawn to this place," she said.
The Sherrills bought four parcels, about 18.2 acres of land, between the road and the railroad, she said.
"This is a narrow, narrow piece (of property). The cemetery was part of a parcel that is eight-acre (rural) zoning; it's right in the middle. On any side of that — and on either side of me — is all swampland; it's all wetland. You get the picture. I live in one end of it. I live in the old railroad station."