Beginning in 2022, a committee of people made up town officials, EST members, motivated community members, and archaeological staff from the Schoharie River Center - in consultation with community leaders and tribal historic preservation officials - launched a project to research and rededicate the predominantly African-American Burial Plot in the northern corner of the Middleburgh Town cemetery.
Like too many predominantly Black cemeteries in the US, this area of the town cemetery (Section 11) had been badly maintained for many years, and was marked by signage with dated and racially offensive language. Efforts to care for the area through regular mowing and maintenance began in the early 2000s, led by Wes Laraway. The chance in 2022-23 to rededicate the area with a new interpretive sign offered an opportunity to learn more about the lives of those buried, and 'right the record' by celebrating their memories in a way that also would recognize and honor the diversity of identities, nations, cultures and life histories present.
Our research included historical, archival, and non-invasive archaeological surveys to uncover the names of many of those buried and locate the locations of unmarked graves.
Archaeological surveys revealed many more graves than we have names, meaning that the names of many people buried in the area are still unknown. This project is still, then, very much ongoing and won't be finished until the name of every person is known. If you know any names of additional folks buried here or would like to be involved, we'd love to hear from you!
Black and Indigenous History in Schoharie County; a brief overview
For thousands of years people from many places and backgrounds have called the place now known as the Schoharie Valley "Home." Their lives and accomplishments helped nurture the vibrant communities in which they lived. Regardless, racist beliefs, slavery, and segregation over the past three centuries have impacted people's lived experience in the Schoharie Valley. These practices, based on imposed racial categories, segregated people in life - but also in death - and have impacted and the ways they have been remembered into the present.
Painting of Vroman's nose by contemporary Seneca artist Linley Logan. Used with permission by artist
Members of the Cemetery Rededication Commitee
Raema Obbie, Committee Chair
Special Thanks to Joseph Stahlman, former Director of the Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center and Director of the Seneca Nation’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office;
to Karen Cuccinello, from the Dr. Best House and Medical Museum;
and to EST memebrs Jake Starman and Ava Shinaver