The Phelps-Hill Cemetery is an old burial ground located in Montville Township. Containing over a dozen graves of members of the Smith, Phelps, Hill, Currier, and White families, it was deeded over by Moses Hill in July of 1850:
“…excepting and reserving the small hill on the premises heretoafter used as a burying ground to (be) used by the inhabitants in the neighborhood for a burying ground heretoafter the quantity thus reserved not to exceed one fourth of an acre.”
The cemetery would be destroyed by vandals in later years. Surrounded by private property and hidden away on a wooded hill, this pioneer burial plot continues to deteriorate. Long a concern of mine, I made it a point to visit the site on two occasions in July of 2017. Indeed, it was even worse than it had been some years ago when I had last seen it. A simple `welfare check’ turned into a cleanup as I decided it was finally time to reestablish the site as a cemetery.
Leaves and brush were raked away, branches and dead wood piled up, and the area partially cleared of small trees and bushes. Stone pieces were identified, laid together, and several bases located. On my second day there, I noticed a rectangular stone which was clearly not just a rock. A closer investigation revealed a slot for a headstone which indicated that it was a tombstone base.
Poking around the area with a soil probe led to the tombstone being located which belonged to this base.
Buried under several inches of topsoil was a headstone in almost pristine condition.
Daniel R. Smith
Died Jan. 4, 1851
AE. 55y 1m 14d
This tombstone had never before been recorded. For cemetery researchers this is the type of thing you live for: putting a long lost individual `back on the map’. Many times tombstones are the only proof of an individual’s existence. That stone represents the grave of a person just like you or I. But the story doesn’t end there…
Local researcher and Liverpool Township resident Terry Hart has been hunting down veteran graves for years. He has published several books on the subject and I have been fortunate to exchange information with him many times over the years. His book on the War of 1812 veterans buried in Medina County includes a list of known veterans whose graves could not be located. I happened upon this list again just recently and noticed a familiar name on it: Daniel R. Smith. Turns out the stone I found was for a War of 1812 veteran. Born in Vermont, Daniel served in the Vermont Militia. His wife Sally was still living in 1860 in Lafayette Township with their son’s family but eventually left the area and, when she died in 1873, was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. I was happy to inform Terry of the find and it is yet another example of how networking among researchers continues to break through brick walls in our research.
A lack of time and other life events did not allow me to return again to the cemetery in 2017 but I hope to return someday in the future and finish work on restoration and cleanup. Perhaps the stone for Daniel Smith can be reset someday and stand once again on the hill. Either way, his burial place has been documented and will never again be lost to history.