HISTORY MYSTERY: John Lynn Gravestone
This mystery began April 29, 2008 when I received an email from a woman which said that she might have a piece of Clay history that would be of interest to the town and asking if I would be of help, and signed Carla Reid. Of course it peeked my interest and I answered her back with an of course! Carla returned my email April 30 telling me she had what she thought was a gravestone that was about 39 x 21 x 3 inches. Engraved on it was: “John Lynn, DIED Aug. 16, 1868, AGED 49 yrs. 5 m’s & 16 days. There is rest for the weary.” Working around her daughter’s soccer and lacrosse games, we finally set a date of Monday, May 8, at 3:00 p.m. for me to see it. Her home was off of Maple Road in Gatewood.
The gravestone was in her rock and flower garden. In the photo, she is holding back the foliage for the camera. And that is her shadow! Carla remembered over 30 years previously seeing it on Maple Road at a friend’s home over a drainage ditch used to step on when crossing the ditch. Many years passed and when the house on Maple Road burned down, Carla toted the gravestone to her home for her garden near her fish pond. The first mystery was why it was over the ditch and who put it there?
In June, Carla met Glenn Sotherden when they were both at a service Pine Plains Cemetery and he showed her a Stone on which was engraved John Lynn, but the year was 1863, his wife Elizabeth Hess and father-in-law, Joseph Hess. Everything else matched according to the cemetery records. In the meantime, Ken Sweet was contacted to repair the gravestone and he picked it up and took it to his monument business in Phoenix. When he fit the broken piece into the stone, he found that indeed it was a 3, and not an 8. We took it to the Clay Historic Park for safe keeping.
About a year later on July 8, 2009, a call came from Ken telling me that a James Burke ordered a John Lynn Tombstone for an unmarked grave in Pine plains Cemetery. This one was a Revolutionary War soldier in the Continental army. He fought at Trenton, White Plains and Saratoga according to Mr. Burke. Could he have been the father of the John Lynn in question? The dates of births and deaths are compatible.
It must be remembered that the Lynn’s originally came from Massachusetts before 1820. They were noted for having large families, so by the mid 1800’s nearly every farm/homestead along Maple Road from the railroad crossing to Grange Road and beyond were populated with Lynn families. This area was called Lynnville. It is believed that Maple Road was at one time called Lynnville Road and the school was called Lynnville School. Even the railroad crossing was called Lynn’s Crossing. It makes sense that with this large number of descendants that there would have been a family cemetery on the property.
Another mystery of who moved the original Lynn gravestone could be explained as follows. Since Mr. Burke and the Pine Plains personnel of 2009 agreed that they believed that the family removed John’s remains from his first grave in the family cemetery (if there was one), https://patrickrfblakley.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/IMG_20210505_195... brought them to Pine Plains to inter in the new family plot, the stone was just left there. Anyone could have taken it and no one would have cared.
As for the first John Lynn gravestone, it had been completely refurbished by Ken Sweet and returned to the Clay Historic Park. After much research on installing a tombstone to its final resting place, many problems were discovered. Where to put it was number one. Behind the log cabin was the logical place as 200 years ago, it would have been the logical place to bury a deceased family member. There were legal restrictions today. To mount an old stone would be very difficult. The first Halloween, it would probably disappear. The final decision was to lock it up in the log cabin and just tell its story to visitors.
Dorothy Heller, Historian