Second South Farmington Friends Cemetery tour helped fund chapel restoration

FARMINGTON — Voices from the past told colorful tales Saturday at a fundraiser to help restore a historic chapel on Shortsville Road.

The second annual historic cemetery tour at South Farmington Friends Cemetery featured nearly a dozen costumed figures who shared stories of life in the 1800s and their roles in helping shape the Town of Farmington.

All proceeds from the event will fund the continuing restoration of the 1890 South Farmington Friends Cemetery Chapel, an effort that was launched one year ago.

Posted at points throughout the cemetery, character reenactors like John, Amy and Lindsay Rynders of Williamson brought history to life.

For the Rynders, historical reenactment is a family affair — something they’ve been doing together for about 20 years.

John Rynders played the role of Captain Harvey Paddleford, who’s buried a stone’s throw from the cemetery’s stone vault. Lindsay and her mom, Amy, stood next to the vault in period costume.

“A lot of times when you see Civil War movies it’s mostly soldiers, but the women played a big role, too,” said Lindsay. “Usually we play soldiers at events, but every once and awhile we get to drag out the dresses.”

Not far from the Rynders, Jenna DeBrock of Canandaigua sat by the grave of her great-great-great-grandmother, Amy Smith, and told her tragic tale.

In a horrifying turn of events, Mrs. Smith and four of her six children — Miranda, Albert, Amy Glee and Catherine — were killed when their horse-drawn carriage was rammed by a Lehigh Valley express train at the crossing on present-day County Road 8.

It was the worst railroad accident that had occurred to that time in the history of Farmington. Mrs. Smith’s son, Gardner, survived and is DeBrock’s great-great-grandfather.

Joshuah Barry played former Farmington Town Supervisor and Town Clerk, Jared S. Rose, known most for being one of four Farmingtonians who attended the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.

“He saw the first ever Ferris Wheel, tried ketchup for the first time, Vienna sausage with mustard and onions, and had a sip of beer out of a can,” said Barry. “Woah, right?”

The gigantic Ferris Wheel was built to rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris, he said. It held 2,160 people and weighed 1,300 tons.

“It’s incredible, it’s amazing the things that he saw,” said Barry. “I’m trying to picture what it would be like to make that journey to Chicago not long after the Chicago Fire. They built all these temporary buildings out of plaster so it’s this huge, white city across this burnt landscape.”

Rose came back from the World Fair with a cold, lasted through the fall, and passed away in December from pneumonia at age 44, Barry said.

Bryan Adams challenged attendees to a game of checkers over the grave of Farmington’s Francis Walker, who was the National Checkers champion in 1880s. Walker was also famous for working on one of the first traction engines, Adams said.

“I live in South Farmington, I’ve been here for five years and thought it was time I got out and got involved,” he said. “I’m not one of the founding family members — I’m not a Herendeen or Bowerman or Holtz — but I’ve really grown to love the community. And I think it’s good to do things and learn some history and educate yourself and maybe not be an armchair citizen.”

Adams said he doesn’t believe “a glass case at Town Hall is enough to talk about the rich history that’s here.”

“It’s easy to live your life digitally, but events like this are timeless,” he said. “It transcends the mundane stuff. There’s a lot of development, a lot of growth in Farmington and that’s moving quick. Hopefully venues like the South Farmington Cemetery and traditions like this will stay around for awhile.”

At the helm of the South Farmington Friends Cemetery Foundation is Dave Plante, who also led tours on Saturday.

“Last year we were just starting our fundraising in order to start our first project,” said Plante.

A $1,000 grant from the Canandaigua Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution fueled facade improvements, including the rebuilding of the front porch and steps, along with window pane replacement, Plante said.

That, and hundreds of hours of volunteer work. A generous donation by Sandman's Sandblasting & Coatings also brought a new coat of exterior paint, he said.

Next on the to-do list is roof replacement at a cost of up to $10,000, for which another grant had been requested, this time from Lowes, Plant said.

“That’s what we need to really make the inside watertight,” he said. “Once that’s done we need to do the inside.”

All told, another $25,000 to $50,000 is still needed to complete the restoration. And ultimately, the chapel will serve as community space that’s open for members of the public to rent, and also a museum with pieces that tell the story of the cemetery of South Farmington, Plante said.

A November pancake breakfast fundraiser is planned at Mertensia Lodge, and a second year of Wreaths Across America is set for December, Plante said.

“We’re quadrupling our effort this year to get a wreath on every veteran’s grave in Farmington,” he said. “We’ve got close to 400 veteran’s graves, between North Farmington, South Farmington, Power, Hathaway Corners … We’re working with Amvets in Farmington to get that going.”

“It was tough to get 76 wreaths last year — it was a lot of stress,” said Plante. “But it was less stress compared with what these veterans went through. It’s the least we can do.”