October 25, 2014

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Hillside Cemetery

The Presbyterian Church of Madison is the custodian of the Revolutionary-era Bottle Hill / Hillside Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many of Madison’s early leaders. It is located on Main Street opposite Madison Junior School. Recognizing the enormous historical importance of this site, the church commissioned Jablonski Berkowitz Conservation, New York architectural conservation experts, to inventory the cemetery in spring and summer 2004 as part of a multi-phase historic restoration project.

 

The public is invited to consult the 2004 cemetery inventory, which includes digital photos, locations, and detailed descriptions of nearly 2,000 markers in alphabetical order. This document is available for genealogical and historical research in the Madison Historical Society wing of the Madison Public Library on Keep Street. As this inventory points out, 250 years have taken a toll on some of the cemetery’s oldest gravestones. Starting in spring 2005, the church began begin the task of preserving broken or eroded markers of historic significance.  This restoration effort will require the combined efforts of professional conservators and local volunteers.

 

The Main Street site actually contains two neighboring cemeteries in one. The older section on the top of the hill, called Bottle Hill Cemetery, (Old Burying Yard) surrounded the original Presbyterian Meeting House constructed circa.1748. The graves of many of Madison’s founding fathers and Revolutionary War soldiers can be found here, including the 1777 table-top marker of Presbyterian Pastor Azariah Horton and the graves of the Gibbons family, the original owners of Drew University’s Mead Hall. Many of the older brownstone markers found here have elaborate inscriptions and ornamental carvings that are historically significant. The middle level of the hill includes markers from the 19th century including Union Veterans.  The bottom portion, Hillside Cemetery which first opened in the 1878, was acquired by the Presbyterian Church in 1970.  It has the grave of William O. Stoddard, one of Abraham Lincoln’s three private secretaries, among other interesting makers.