Magdalena La Grange’s 1890 poem “The Tried and True” will once again be heard throughout the Soldiers Lot in the town’s Prospect Hill Cemetery.
The trustees of the cemetery are putting on a special presentation to honor war veterans buried at Prospect Hill on Saturday. Soldiers from nearly all of America’s military engagements, from the American Revolution up to present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are interred at Prospect Hill. Many of them, particularly those who fought in the Civil War, are in the southeast corner of the cemetery in a section called the Soldiers Lot.
La Grange, a poet from Guilderland, recited her poem herself in an 1890 ceremony at Prospect Hill. And in 2003, town of Guilderland historian Alice Begley read “The Tried and True” before a large audience at another cemetery celebration. On Saturday, around 3 p.m., Guilderland native Michelle Parlej will do the reading, which in part says: “We come today remembering the loved, the tried, the true. To deck the place, where lie in pace, the boys who wore the blue.”
Veterans’ Memorial Service
WHERE: Prospect Hill Cemetery, 2167 Western Ave., Guilderland; shuttle bus will take people from Guilderland Elementary School at 2225 Western Ave. to the cemetery
WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 456-3032 or 456-1608
“The syntax is a little bit different, and some of the words she uses are different from what we would use today,” said Parlej, a docent at the Schoolcraft Culture Center in Guilderland. “I don’t want to sing it, and I can’t worry about the rhyming, so it is going to be a challenge for me. But I give house tours, I’m used to public speaking and I’m going to practice, so I should be OK.”
“We’re kind of redoing what we did in 2003, and what Magdalena La Grange did when she read her own poem in 1890, said Begley. “There was a small Victorian cottage in the cemetery then and she got up and read in front of quite a few people. We also had a very good turnout in 2003, so we’re hoping we get some people there on Saturday.”
Prospect Hill Cemetery is at 2167 Western Ave. (on the northern side of Route 20) in the eastern section of the town. The land was acquired by the Reformed Dutch Church around 1850, and the cemetery was chartered by the state in 1854. In 1862, citizens of the town decided to set aside a “Soldiers Lot,” where eventually 161 veterans of the Civil War would be interred. There is a large Gothic monument there marking that section of the cemetery, which is now a private enterprise being managed by the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association.
Saturday’s ceremony will include a bagpipe performance by Bob Ditton as well as the singing of the national anthem by Guilderland High student Rachel Young. Various officials will also be on hand, and Vietnam veteran Lawrence P. Wiest will also offer a few remarks. The VFW of Altamont will be the firing party, and Leonard Bopp and Jake McGrath of Guilderland High School will play taps. Parking for the event will be at the Guilderland Elementary School at 2225 Western Ave., and people will be transported to the cemetery by a shuttle bus.
“We just wanted to do something, and let the veterans, their families and their friends know that we’re thinking of them,” said Howard Jacobson, a trustee of the cemetery and its secretary-treasurer. “We have a lot of veterans buried at Prospect Hill, so we feel like it’s important to do something like this now and then.”
Larry Murphy is the superintendent at Prospect Hill Cemetery and has been busy getting the place ready for Saturday’s event.
“This is a beautiful place, and even though we’re right on Route 20 you can’t hear very much and you can’t see the traffic,” said Murphy. “The Pine Bush on the one side and the rolling hills make it a great place to work. I really enjoy it.”
According to Begley, the cemetery was a popular spot for recreation during the second half of the 19th century.
“Around 1900, Prospect Hill was a real gathering place for the dead and the living,” she said. “It was customary for families to pack a lunch and head there for an outing.”
These days, the land seems a much more serene and quiet place where people can pay their respects to the dead. The cemetery, the biggest in the town of Guilderland, currently consists of 18 acres, and there is plenty of room to expand.
“We have nine sections right now, and we’re currently working on opening No. 10,” said Jacobson. “We try to look ahead, so we have room for about 1,000 more graves.”