I recently found out about an old cemetery in Penfield that I hadn’t known existed. I am transcribing an old newspaper column from 1911 and found this reference to the cemetery.:
“The first school house and pioneer burying ground was situated on the southwest corner of the village, and in 1809 when the then “new cemetery” was opened; on land given by General John Fellows many of the dead were removed, but about sixty were unclaimed, and remained until 1824 when the Presbyterian church was commenced. At the solicitation of Mrs. Penfield the sixty unknown or unclaimed dead were removed and placed beneath the church.”
Next I checked Penfield’s Past (1960) by Katherine Thompson and found some similar information but with varying dates. Then I corresponded with the current Penfield Historian, Kathy Kanauer, who added some more information .
Putting all the information together, here is what I found. On the southwest corner of Penfield Road and Five Mile Line Road was a small school house and to the west of that was the old cemetery.It dates back to 1800 or possibly a few years earlier. The church was organized as a Congregational Church in 1806 and then changed to Presbyterian in 1814. Oakwood Cemetery (referred to the “new” cemetery in quote) was begun about 1812 or thereafter. Probably about 1825 the old cemetery was dug up and those graves that could be claimed were removed to Oakwood. There remained the bones of 60 individuals that would have been placed in bone boxes and buried under the red brick Presbyterian Church that was dedicated in April 1826. In 1878 because of dwindling membership the church was sold to the Evangelical society to use as their church. That organization in turn sold the old brick church building in 1914 to Frank Hill who converted it into a three family apartment house. It remained as apartments until at least 1960.
Ms. Kanaur says that an old resident remembered that at one time some bones had been dug up near the cemetery site. More than likely most of the 60 individuals are still under the ground where the church was. Today that would probably be under the garage or parking lot of the auto repair shop that is now on the corner. The only way to be 100% positive that the graves are still there would be to do an archaeological dig. I can’t see that happening anytime soon.