Brier Hill Cemetery in Town of Washington Interred residents, history remembered

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Brier Hill Cemetery in Town of Washington

Interred residents, history remembered

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Watch a video about Brier Hill Cemetery with Dutchess County Historian Will Tatum.

On Veterans Day, Dutchess County acknowledges the service and sacrifice of all veterans, past and present, whose unique stories have become woven into the fabric of Dutchess County’s history. Today, many will mark the Veterans Day holiday with a visit to a local cemetery to remember and honor those who served our country and have been laid to final rest. Centuries old cemeteries are found throughout Dutchess County and are poignant reminders of all those who have come before us. One such cemetery, the Brier Hill Cemetery, in the Town of Washington, has been restored as a respectful resting place for more than 800 individuals who once lived at the Dutchess County Poor House, including Civil War veteran and Fishkill Landing (now Beacon) resident Robert Scofield.

Brier Hill CemeteryThe Brier Hill Cemetery sits nestled in a woodland area adjacent to Dutchess County’s Eastern Dutchess Government Center (EDGC) at 131 County House Road, Millbrook. The EDGC campus, which today houses the departments of Community & Family Services, Behavioral & Community Health, and Probation & Community Corrections, once served as the Dutchess County Poor House. The Poor House, which was later known as the Alms House and then as the Dutchess County Infirmary, housed destitute, ill, and abandoned residents of the county as well as transients. The 1.5-acre cemetery, which was in use between 1864 and 1955, served as the final resting place for many residents of the Poor House. Over several decades, the cemetery became overgrown and neglected.

Several research and survey projects have been conducted at the cemetery site by Vassar College research students led by Professors Brian McAdoo and April Beisaw as well as local historians including Virginia “Ginny” Buechele. Their combined research, including a geophysical remote sensing survey, provided evidence of more than 800 graves at the site. Research in associated burial and local records has paired only a fraction of the graves at Brier Hill with names of those interred, the rest remain unknown and unmarked, or marked by only a small, numbered marker or ceramic tube.

List of those interred at Brier Hill CemeteryFollowing extensive tree and brush clearing, site grading and creation of an access road, the Dutchess County Department of Public Works installed educational panels with a list of some of the individuals known to be buried at Brier Hill Cemetery, some of the stories of those individuals, and information about the research projects and surveys by local historians and students. A memorial plaque was also installed to honor all individuals interred at Brier Hill, known and unknown.

Though the exact location of his grave is unknown, researchers discovered Civil War veteran Robert Scofield was born in New York City in 1818 and moved to Dutchess County in 1846. He enlisted and served with the 26th US Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Scofield moved to the poorhouse in February 1894, where he died in March of that year.

grave markers side by sideThe only conventional gravestone at the site remembers Lewis Brown Hubbell. Born on March 23, 1814, likely in Amenia, Mr. Hubbell was orphaned by his tenth birthday according to historic records. He spent his life working as a farm laborer in Dutchess County before coming to the poorhouse in ill health. He died in 1874 and was buried at Brier Hill. His sister, Caroline Hubbell Cole, dedicated the gravestone to him. Hubbell is a distant relation of Edwin Powell Hubble, an astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named in memory of.

Dutchess County Historian William Tatum said, “Our region is steeped in rich history. But in many unique ways, the individuals who found themselves at the County’s Poorhouse left an indelible mark on our heritage. Each had their own story, and we are grateful to the researchers and local historians whose work brought to light many stories of those laid to rest at Brier Hill and to our dedicated Department of Public Works staff who respectfully restored the property to a condition fit to be a final resting place for the more than 800 individuals interred, and a site for visitors to contemplate the beauty and history of the area.”

Plaque at Brier Hill CemeteryLimited parking is available at the EDGC, located on County House Road, for those wishing to visit the cemetery; access to the cemetery grounds is limited to foot traffic. After parking at the EDGC, visitors will walk down the Brier Hill Cemetery access road, located near the southeast corner of the campus. The cemetery is approximately one-tenth of a mile from the trailhead along a gravel roadway.

Author: Harlem Valley News