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Legion cemetery exudes history

TOM SCANLON, ADJUTANT of Middlebury American Legion Post 27, stands in the Farmingdale Veterans’ Cemetery, which hosts scores of servicepeople who served their country — including several local Revolutionary War soldiers. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents should be proud that some of their forebears played a significant role in the birth of the United States.

Evidence of their contributions can be seen in history books and museums. You can also see their presence in a peaceful, spacious graveyard off Middlebury’s Three Mile Bridge Road, called the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery.

The oldest portion of the property — owned and maintained by Middlebury American Legion Post 27 — was formerly known as the Seeley Cemetery. It’s where several local veterans of the Revolutionary War are buried.

Additionally, there’s an unmarked mound at the cemetery that Post 27 officials suspect contains human remains — possibly more Revolutionary War dead. The Legion is looking to collaborate with the University of Vermont and the Vermont Old Cemeteries Association to clear up the mystery, according to Post 27 Adjutant Tom Scanlon, who several years ago documented (in part using Seeley family archives) the identities of those known to be buried on the property.

Also keenly interested in the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery is John Reynolds, a Vietnam-era veteran who grew up on a nearby farm. As a child, he mowed the cemetery property and became inquisitive about those resting under the terrain he was clipping.

Reynolds went to the “Find A Grave” website and absorbed any information pertaining to the cemetery’s Revolutionary War inhabitants. He has family ties to that conflict — specifically, his fourth-great-grandfather, who was Lt. Jonathan Reynolds, who settled in Center Rutland in 1783.

“I had quite an interest in him, because he was born in 1740 and died in 1840 — just (a few weeks short) of 100 years old,” Reynolds said. “He was at (British General John) Burgoyne’s surrender (on Oct. 17, 1777, near Saratoga, N.Y.).”

The names on the weathered Farmingdale gravestones have faded, but their deeds are indelibly etched in the annals of U.S. history. As we approach Memorial Day, here are snapshots of Revolutionary War veterans interred in the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery:

Capt. Stephen Goodrich (1732-1823), who was a second lieutenant at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and later in the Siege of Boston.

He was a first lieutenant during the Battle of Long Island on Aug. 27, 1776, and appears to have served as a company leader in the two Battles of Saratoga (Sept. 19 through Oct. 17 of 1777), which led to the surrender of British Gen. Burgoyne, according to research compiled by the Vermont Old Cemeteries Association.

Goodrich left the Continental Army in 1777 and joined the Connecticut State Militia as a lieutenant. He earned his captaincy commission in that militia on May 20, 1780. 

THE FARMINGDALE VETERANS Cemetery is the final resting place of some Revolutionary War veterans. It is unclear if Capt. Joel Boardman, whose gravestone and that of his first wife, Esther, above, took part in that war or some other.
Independent photos/Steve James

An account of a dangerous encounter between Goodrich and a pack of wolves while walking through a stretch of Vermont woods at night can be found in the “History of Salisbury, Vermont” by John M. Weeks.

Goodrich and his first wife, Dorothy, moved to Middlebury in 1784, settling on a 100-acre farm. They sold that property in 1799 in order to buy — from Gamaliel Painter — a 205-acre farm on the Salisbury/Middlebury border.

Dorothy Goodrich died in 1811, and in 1812 Stephen Goodrich married Hannah “Ann Story” Reynolds — the so-called “Mother of The Green Mountain Boys.” She died in 1817, and Stephen Goodrich expired six years later.

• Ann Story (1736-1817) is also interred at Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery, and she remains a legendary figure of the revolution.

Her first husband, Amos, died in 1775 during a tree-related accident while clearing land on the Salisbury land to which they were planning to settle.

Undaunted, Ann Story continued clearing the land herself and moved there with her children.

While her neighbors fled the area in anticipation of a war with the British, Story stayed put. She fashioned a shelter, hidden in a nearby cave, for herself and her children. She refused to provide information to British forces and passed along a critical warning to the Green Mountain Boys. 

Samuel Keep (1732-1802) was born in Westford, Mass., and spent much of his early years in Connecticut, before moving to Crown Point, N.Y., in 1773.

“Being acquainted with the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, he was one of Ethan Allen’s advisors that led to the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775,” according to a biography on the “Find A Grave” website.

THE FARMINGDALE VETERANS Cemetery is the final resting place of some Revolutionary War veterans, including the Pvt. Abraham VanDuzer grave, which also has a Daughters of the American Revolution plaque designating VanDuzer’s status as a soldier in that war. Independent photos/Steve James

That bio sheds insight into his reconnaissance of the fort.

“In order to obtain a more perfect knowledge of the fort and its guards, (Keep) made pretense that his cow had strayed and could probably be found grazing somewhere near the campground, and accordingly he was allowed to pass the guard.”

Feeling targeted for his spying efforts, Keep moved himself and his family to Salisbury, Conn., where he “engaged in casting cannon for the Continental Army.”

At the close of the war, the Keeps moved to Salisbury, Vt., where he continued as an iron worker.

Col. John Chipman (1745-1829). In 1766, he set out with 15 other men from Salisbury, Conn., in search of settlement options in Vermont. Chipman picked Middlebury, where he cleared around eight acres of land by hand. He returned to Connecticut after the cold weather set in, but came back to Middlebury in 1773 — the year in which the town was formally founded.

He would go on to serve his town as meeting moderator and as Addison County sheriff. He would also join the Green Mountain Boys, who played a significant role in fighting the British during the Revolutionary War.

Chipman’s barn was also involved in the Revolution, according to a Middlebury College research project found online at tinyurl.com/sec9edha. When the British came into Middlebury during the war, they attempted to burn down the barn, but failed because the wood was so newly harvested that it wouldn’t combust. Henry Sheldon — he of Sheldon Museum fame — managed to procure a piece of the barn and incorporated it as a spindle in his “relic chair” on Jan. 19, 1883.

David Chapin (1757-1828), Thomas Foster (1735-1806), William Huntington (1736-1816), Pvt. Abraham VanDuzer (1742-1795) and Abishai Washburn are the other Revolutionary War veterans interred at Farmingdale, though less is known of their exploits.

Huntington saw action at Bunker Hill, helped build Benedict Arnold’s fleet, and served as a Minuteman throughout the war.

Washburn participated in the casting of cannon in Salisbury (Conn.) for use in the war.

Post 27 has a unique distinction of being the only American Legion Post in Vermont, and possibly in the nation, to own and operate its own veterans cemetery. The property had been used as a private cemetery until 2003, when the Seeley family turned it over to Post 27, which then renamed it the Farmingdale Veterans Cemetery, according to Scanlon.

“It gave us the opportunity to take care of all these fallen heroes, particularly from the Revolutionary War, and provide burial spaces for current (Legion) members and veterans,” Scanlon said. Farmingdale still maintains a section for members of the Seeley family. Post 27 ensures the cemetery is well groomed and that veterans interred there are identified with flags and appropriate markers.

Scanlon said there are more than 600 spots available to accommodate current and future veterans and their spouses — at around $100 per plot.

The Post 27 executive board recently voted to offer one of Farmingdale’s plots to the late Allan Moch, a Vietnam War veteran whose cremated remains were found last year in a vehicle that had been dropped off at a Pittsford scrapyard. The Independent first reported that story on May 4. Justin Grassano and Steven Heffernan — who are among the owners of the Pittsford scrapyard in question — rescued the remains. Heffernan, a 31-year Vermont Air Guard veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan, has been trying to find a member of the Moch clan, necessary to greenlight a burial effort.

“Our consensus, obviously, is that he deserves a proper burial — and not in a car that was about to be crushed,” Scanlon said.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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