Brigadier General John Swift Cemetery

Palmyra, N.Y.

Wayne County, NY

Gen. John Swift Cemetery

Photograph Contributed by and
© 2005 Daryl VerStreate Jr. and Amanda VerStreate

Church Street across from Catholic Church.

2005 Driving Directions - Rte. 31 West into Palmyra. Follow to the four churches. Make Right onto Maple Avenue. Cemetery is down road about 1/10 mile on the left. There are Historic Markers to mark the location near the roadside.

Barnes Cynthia, wife of John, Aug. 28, 1836, 50y 4m
Barnes Betsy J., dau., Oct. 4, 1825, 6y 11m 4d
Barnes Henry C., son, Aug. 25, 1829, 19y 3m 25d
Beers Laura, wife of David R. B. and dau. of Stephen & Anna Blanchard, June 6, 18827, 26y
Bortles Jacob, Aug. 11, 1836, 28y
Bradt Maria Angelica, dau. of Isaac & Lucretia B., June 10, 1837, 1y 12d
Chapin Jane, July 6, 1813, 1y
Finch Eugene, son of Daniel D. & Elizabeth F., Aug. 11, 1831, 7m 21d
Finch Elsey Elizabeth, dau. of Daniel D. & Eliszabeth F., Aug. 10, 1833, 3m 26d
Godard Eliza M., wife of M.J., Sept. 29, 1836, 25y
Harris Thomas, Dec. 28, 1812, 48y
Hurlbut Cynthia, wife of Jeremiah H., Aug. 5, 1824, 23y 6m
Hurlbut Mary Ann, dau. of Jeremiah H., May 2, 1838, 17y
Jackson Sophia, dau. of Robert C. & Laura J., Feb. 1831, 9y 4m 5d
Lilly Asa, Jan. 26, 1844, 67y (sandstone beside it illegible)
Mann Derwazow, son of Stephen & Zeriah, Jan. 17, 1831, 2y 6m 23d
Moore Peter V., Sept. 6, 1837, 27y 6m 9d
Palmer John J., son of James & Ann Eliza, June 20, 1810, 5y 11m 20d
Robinson James, Oct. 28, 1805, 28y
Robinson Abigail, wife, May 25, 1803, 20y
Smith Alvin, son of Joseph & Lucy, Nov. 19, 1823, 25y
Stewart James, native of Ireland, sailed from Londonderry, May 3, 1823, died Sept. 3, 1832, 28y
Swift General John, born June 17, 1761 in Kent, Conn, who was killed by the enemy of his country, July 12, 1814, near Newark, Upper Canada, aged 52y 25d
Swift Capt. Elisha, brother of John, Jan. 23, 1813, 35y
Thompson George, Feb. 6, 1833, 27y 8m
Woodward Elizabeth, wife of William, Nov. 13, 1837, 51y
Woodward Fanny, dau. of William, Dec. 9, 1837, 19y
Woodward Marvin, Dec. 21, 1839, 18y
Woodward Klein, Feb. 6, 1854, 38y
Two stones completely illegible.

At the back of this cemetery in one row, are the following graves:
Win Mary, wife of Joseph, May 21, 1833, 32y 6m 18d
Win Cordelia, May 3, 1831, 1y 9m
Win Mary E., Dec. 25, 1837, 6y
Shepardson Ezra, Sept. 22, 1819
Shepardson Mary Joana, Oct. 19, 1839, 2y
Shepardson Clement Ames, Oct. 25, 1839, 3m 26d
Shepardson Amos Phillips, March 2, 1821, 12y
Sherwood Anthony, July 23, 1827, 55y 8m 15d

NEW 1/9/11   From The Newark Union, Saturday, September 28, 1907, page 6


Movement to Honor Memory of General John Swift.

Who of all this region knows where is buried the man who saved this section from pillage in the War of 1812? He is scarcely remembered in name. He has been forgotten so long that even in history he is mis-called, and in the "Military History of Wayne County," carefully compiled as it was, his Christian name is wrongfully given and the hero of Wayne county at the time of the War of 1812 passes on as Philetus, although his tombstone erected by his family makes it John Swift.

There is a neglected patch of earth but a few steps inside from Palmyra's main street, within sound and sight of the trolley road, hedged in by dwellings, a road and a manufacturing plant, but withal so overlooked that it seems to be regarded as something uncanny or haunted. It is a grave-yard, perhaps the first burial plot of the county, for dates on the moss-grown headstones are as early as 1803. Buried there are men and women who redeemed the wilderness, hewed the forest and made the highways, laying the foundations of the country's prosperity, but their graves are trodden down, their tombstones fallen and their memorials slighted.

The grave of greatest interest to the antiquarian is that of General John Swift, whose energy and bravery saved the farmers of the lake shore from pillage and ruin when the British soldiers landed in 1813, and set about despoiling the stores known to be kept at Pultneyville and Sodus Point. General Swift gave to Palmyra the land where lies his grave, one acre of it, in 1792, on condition that the same be used for a cemetery and belong to the village. He clinched the condition by a clause providing that should it cease to be a cemetery it should revert to his estate. And there is where is found the reason of the seeming neglect of the graveyard.

No burials have taken place there for two generations at least. Shrubbery planted for decoration has thrived, and grown and tangled until it is like a jungle, and weeds flourish; bushes form a dense shade, and only boys and tramps ever visit the spot. Burrows through the undergrowth lead about the spot, showing that it is a playground for truants and a lair for juvenile outlaws. The old marble headstones have been pushed down until many lie around, broken and despised.

Offers have been made the heirs of Swift in recent years to give their ancestor's bones fitting interment elsewhere, to erect a suitable monument to the first and greatest man of the town, but one refuses to sign, and nothing more can be done. As gravel, the land is valuable to the village. As a cemetery it is a desecration. It is "no man's land."

Perhaps by chance - certainly not for reason of respect - as the inscription is scarcely legible, the gravestone of General Swift has escaped the fate of almost all the others and stands nearly erect, the weeping willow at its crown spreading out as if mourning for the dead hero lying there. Swift was killed in Canada in 1814, when 52 years of age. His son, as tells the next stone, had died the previous year, aged 25 years. He, too, had achieved something of military renown, for he was Captain Elisha Swift.

Tombstone poetry of the philosophical order was popular in that period, and if General Swift chose the verse which was to be inscribed on his son's headstone he certainly was not gloomy.

How blest is our brother bereft
   Of all that could burden his mind.
How easy the soul that has left
   This wearisome body behind.

A battered fragment of marble in this field of the forgotten announces cheerfully an intention.

Depart, my friends, dry up your tears.
I must lie here till Christ appears.

The name on the stone is that of James Robinson, whose death in 1805 following that of his wife, Abigail, who died May 25th, 1803, aged 20 years, so soon that opportunity is given the imagination to picture the young husband; he was but 28 when he went, pining for his lost bride. Abigail's epitaph bids him come with:

Behold and see as you pass by
   As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be,
   Prepare for death and follow me.

It is noticeable that so many of those interments were of men and women who died in the flush of youth. So many were just entering maturity. It would see that death smote the young more frequently than He does now. Children lie there, who, if they had lived, would now be senile, decrepit men, yet their headstones remain, mossy and defaced, speaking of their infantile charms as imperishable and unfading.

However time may treat the marble set over the grave of General John Swift, and however neglected may be his last resting place, he carved his name indelibly on the hearts of antiquarians and hero worshippers. Whence he came to Central New York is not recorded, but he purchased the town site of Palmyra, giving it a name chosen from classic literature and carrying with it doubtless a meaning that is lost to the present generation. A monument to the memory of General Swift would keep his beneficiaries reminded that it was not an accident that England did not recoup her lost fortunes in the War of 1812 in Wayne county and that perhaps the battle of Sodus Point was the crisis of the nations's time of peril.

***** There are two age and relationship discrepancies between the article and the cemetery list:

Swift was killed in Canada in 1814, when 52 years of age. His son, as tells the next stone, had died the previous year, aged 25 years. He, too, had achieved something of military renown, for he was Captain Elisha Swift.

Swift General John, born June 17, 1761 in Kent, Conn, who was killed by the enemy of his country, July 12, 1814, near Newark, Upper Canada, aged 52y 25d
Swift Capt. Elisha, brother of John, Jan. 23, 1813, 35y

From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Saturday, August 18, 1923

Palmyra, Aug. 17.- An interesting feature in connection with the dedication of the General John Swift cemetery next Saturday is the fact that the monument will be unveiled by a great-great-grand-daughter of General Swift, Miss Edna Frantz, of Geneva.

A bronze tablet has been placed on the large boulder with the following inscription:

"In Memory Gen. John Swift. Honored by the State of New York as Soldier and Pioneer. Founder of Palmyra, 1790. Erected by James R. Hickey Post, No. 120, American Legion, and Citizens of Palmyra, 1923."

From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Sunday, July 10, 1932


Palmyra Pioneers Rest
In Old Plot Given
By Gen. Swift

Palmyra, July 9- Men are now at work cleaning up and beautifying what is known as the Gen. John Swift Cemetery in Church Street. The grass and weeds have been cut down, hollows filled in, shrubs trimmed and a general improvement has taken place.

The eastern slope has been terraced, the wall is being re-pointed and refaced and a coping is being added. This eastern slope will be seeded or sodded.

Gen. John Swift donated the lot for this cemetery, which was the first in the village. It is just north of where once stood the Union Church, the first church here. In this old cemetery most of the pioneers, including General Swift, the founder and settler of Palmyra, were buried.

Members of the James R. Hickey Post undertook the task of clearing up this forsaken place and for many weeks during 1922 and 1923 the members worked diligently. The markers were cleaned and set in concrete. A flower garden was planted, together with shrubs which transposed this sacred spot into a place of beauty. On Memorial Day, 1923, five trees were planted and dedicated to the comrades who had fallen in the five great wars, Revolutionary, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American and World War.

A large boulder bearing an inscribed brown plate has also been placed on the grave of General Swift.

Volunteer Typist - Co-coordinator Allyn Hess Perry

Back to Wayne County Cemeteries Page

Back to Town of Palmyra Page

Created: Sometime in 1998
Updated: 1/9/11
Copyright © 1998 - 2011 Office of the County Historian
Copyright © 1998 - 2011 Allyn Hess Perry/ M. Magill/ Marge Sherman Lutzvick
Photo Copyright © 2055 - 2011 Daryl VerStreate Jr. and Amanda VerStreate
Wayne County NYGenWeb
A County Site of the USGenWeb Project
All Rights Reserved.