DANSVILLE — Those who first settled in what would become the Dansville valley were buried in what was once a small field.
Nowadays you can visit these historic figures at Pioneer Park. On Nov. 2 St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Rev. Eric Thompson gave a Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Saint’s Day. His wife, St.Peter’s United Church of Christ Pastor Katrina Macaluso, helped him bless the land.
Thompson said that he wanted to recognize All Souls Day, and the history of the cemetery.
“All Souls Day customarily was when we pray for those in our lives that have died. After the Protestant Reformation it became customary to drop All Souls Day,” he said. “Those who weren’t so anxious about purgatory just folded it in to All Saints Day. Now it is okay to commemorate All Souls Day as its own day once again.
“The second thing is becoming aware in all our research the history of this park, and we are really impressed by how it has been restored. We also want to acknowledge its long history as a cemetery. Some bodies were removed, and some were determined to remain,” Thompson continued. “The place has had periods when it was subject to neglect. We want to recognize some spiritual acknowledgment of all the changes. That was the genesis of doing this short service.”
The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed at Pioneer Park was performed. There was holy water placed on the stone, and a blessing done within the center. There was a moment where some could talk about the park.
Jane Schryver has worked very hard to document, and keep the history of this place alive. She is very thankful to all who helped her make it possible to honor our first fallen settlers.
“A long time ago I was looking over Dansville’s early history, and I discovered that this was a cemetery. Nobody I knew talked about it, because over in the field was the Instructor Magazine,” she said. “F.A. Owen Publishing Company was a big business at the time. I thought it was a shame that we don’t have something to commemorate this first cemetery. I went on a more or less one person fundraising committee with the help of a few others in town. People kindly contributed to it.
“The village crew very nicely came over and set the monument,” Schryver added. “I really think we are going to do a powerpoint show for the historical society about Pioneer Park and how it got started. I think people will find it interesting. I am really happy to see this come to fruition, and to see our early pioneers (the first burial) commemorated.”
Schyrver mentioned how the first cemetery got started in the first place.
“How this all happened is over on Main Street the first person (Cpt. Nathaniel Porter) in Dansville died. They didn’t know where to put him, because they had no cemetery,” she said. “They looked over the fence where there were outhouses and cinder piles, and said ‘there is nothing over in that field, so let’s put him there.’ That is how the cemetery got started.”
Thompson and Macaluso began reading off all the names of those who were buried here, and rang a bell after a few names. This was a way of blessing the land, and honoring our first settlers who paved the way for a rich life to the community.