By Ryan Semerad
The Vale Cemetery, located minutes from campus, is the final resting place for over 30,000 people. “The Vale” opened on Oct. 21, 1857 and now measures over one hundred acres thanks to donations by Eliphalet Nott and the influential Ellis family.
The Vale Cemetery is home to war veterans, entrepreneurs, inventors and civil activists, including Union’s own Eliphalet Nott, Charles Steinmetz, Carter Davidson, and Moses Viney. Because of these people and many more, Vale Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Despite its historical and cultural significance, Vale has been the victim of vandalism and widespread littering, which has caused some uncertainties about the cemetery’s safety. Since last Sept., the cemetery has made great efforts to restore its former grandeur. The work done has immensely improved the cemetery—the destruction has been visibly reversed. Through grants received from the New York State government and the ongoing volunteer efforts of General Electric engineers, Vale has managed to make a turnaround.
When walking through Vale today, the damages of these acts are invisible; however, their impact is still felt. “People are afraid of roving bands of barbarians that are simply not present,” President of Vale’s Board of Trustees Dr. Bernard McEvoy said. Still, McEvoy and the staff at Vale are attempting to change the misconception. The cemetery is under twenty-four hour surveillance and is regularly patrolled by the Schenectady Police department and the local Neighborhood Watch.
The cemetery offers monthly tours on Sundays, in which McEvoy or a member of his staff provides historical facts about the people buried at Vale. The cemetery also offers monthly events such as historical lectures and re-enactments. In the past six months, events have included nature walks, storytelling from local historians, and a lecture on the “Rural Cemetery Movement.” Most recently, Sue McLane, a volunteer tour guide at Vale, re-enacted Victorian mourning customs and explained the role of “mourning garb” in family cemetery visits.
Essentially, the cemetery is misunderstood. “Vale is a microcosm of Schenectady,” McEvoy said. It is moving in the right direction; it just needs more time.
The cemetery always needs volunteers; contact Dr. Bernard McEvoy and the staff at Vale at [email protected] for more information.