Pictured, a gravestone for Swan Anderson, Civil War veteran, which was purchased with county funds.
On October 20, 2020, County Historian Michelle Henry presented a program on indigent veteran burial records to the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society. The County Historian discussed records held in the County Archives in Mayville pertaining to the burial of veterans and their widows. In the 1930s, town supervisors could request reimbursement from the county for the burial expenses of any honorably discharged veteran who was indigent. The New York State law that allowed for these expenses required that no honorably discharged veteran be buried in a poor farm cemetery or in the paupers section of a cemetery. The law also allowed for headstones to be purchased for any veteran whose grave had been unmarked for over 25 years.
From 1930 to about 1935, approximately 350 veterans and their widows were buried and/or were provided with headstones in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The County Archives has the reimbursement requests that were sent to the County Board of Supervisors by each town supervisor for the burials in their town. The reimbursement requests could include the cost of a cemetery plot, the funeral and burial costs, and a head stone. The Historian’s office has been indexing the records and researching the veterans to gather additional information about their military service.
The records include one veteran of the War of 1812, and many from the Civil War and World War I. The index, when completed, will be posted on the Historian’s website for public access.
During the question and answer session after the presentation, it was clarified that the County Archives holds records dating to 1811 when the county was established. Many towns also should have records dating to their first years of existence, although vital records don’t exist in New York State until after 1880.
The Society’s next meeting will be held at the Cassadaga American Legion on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. Masks and social distancing are necessary.