Cudmore: Tales of ghosts in Montgomery County

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The reputed haunting of Widow Susan Road in the town of Amsterdam by Widow Susan DeGraff still gets attention from ghost hunters.

The road runs from Chapman Drive (formerly Route 5) up a hill to Route 67.

Renee Mallet, in her book “Ghosts of New York’s Capital District,” wrote, “Most of the witnesses report seeing a lady in an old-fashioned white dress, walking along Widow Susan Road, sometimes crying but always searching for something.”

Local lore has it that driving down the road and chanting “Widow Susan” three times conjures the spirit.

Susan Thomas, born in Perth in 1821, married Harmanus DeGraff in 1838. They lived at the bottom of the road on the east side.

Harmanus died around 1848, leaving Susan with the farm and several children.

Susan and a daughter later moved to Michigan where the widow died in 1892.

She was buried at Green Hill Cemetery on Church Street in Amsterdam.

For some time the story was that Susan haunted her old neighborhood looking for her husband’s grave, thought to have been in a family cemetery.

However, Jerry Snyder of the Historic Amsterdam League found that Alonzo DeGraff, the widow’s son, purchased a plot at Green Hill in 1883 and had his father and other family members exhumed from where they were originally buried and moved to Green Hill.

When Susan DeGraff died in 1892 she was buried next to her husband at Green Hill.

A historical marker to her was erected last year on Widow Susan Road.

At a recent virtual presentation on local history organized by Montgomery County Historian Kelly Farquhar, Snyder said Green Hill “suffered devastation” in the Oc. 7 windstorm.

For example, a large tree fell on a 24-foot obelisk marking the burial plot of the Blood family, shattering the monument into three pieces.

Green Hill’s Cemetery Association is seeking funds to repair the damage to the burial ground.

Historic Amsterdam League was not able to do tours of Green Hill this Halloween season because of coronavirus concerns.

Snyder hopes to have a publication available soon chronicling previous tours.

The Montgomery County Department of History and Archives is located in the county’s Old Courthouse in Fonda next to the railroad tracks.

Court proceedings were moved to a new courthouse in 1892.

County historian Farquhar said there have been reports of ghost-like activities in the Old Courthouse where her office is located. Paranormal investigators came to the building some years back and heard voices in the lobby when nobody was there.

On the third floor investigators asked if any spirit was there. No answer was heard but a tape the investigators made had the response “Linda” on the recording.

At different times people have seen a woman in a long blue dress walking on the building’s second floor.

Recently Farquhar said she saw a “little wisp” of something out of the corner of her eye as she was working.

A few days later while typing on her computer she heard a noise. It sounded like something hit a cardboard box that was on a chair. The chair holding the box began rocking slightly.

Farquhar also asked to put the following inquiry to the public about Fonda’s Old Courthouse.

The second-floor courtroom became vacant starting in 1892 when the court was moved to the current courthouse. Partitions and offices were not constructed on the second floor until the 1950s.

Farquhar has been told that functions were held in the former courtroom, such as wedding receptions. If anyone has a picture documenting such a gathering at the Old Courthouse, she would enjoy seeing it.

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