Finding Rebekah

During the years I spent developing material for the NYS social studies curriculum with its emphasis on local document material, I often utilized the death records at the New Paltz Town Hall. Time after time, references to death and burial at the Ulster County Poorhouse came to my attention. Although I knew where most local burial grounds were located, this one was dropped from the maps and from most memories. After countless phone calls to local senior residents and past legislators, it appeared that I had unearthed a long forgotten piece of County history.

In the fall of 2000, address in hand, I set out to explore the site of this old cemetery. Believe it or not, I was standing on the grounds of the land surrounding the Ulster County Pool and Fairgrounds. My two colleagues, Carol Johnson and Brian Macadoo, and I spent hours searching the land until a grounds man gave us a clue to where he had once noticed an extremely tall, old tombstone.

Rebekah's stone was hidden in the woods on a bluff, overlooking the Wallkill River. I would later discover stories about this young woman who died at the age of 30. She was said to have been the overseer's daughter, but after months of research, I found Rebekah's name in the 1849 admission books of the Ulster County Poorhouse. She was not an overseer's daughter, nor was she poor, as indicated by the obvious expense of her head and footstone. The only explanation of Rebekah's admission to the poorhouse is the word - "insanity". How she ended up at the poorhouse, why she died so young and why hers is the only tombstone found in a cemetery of over 2,500 people is still a mystery.

– Susan Stessin-Cohn
Educator & Poorhouse Historian


Wher' neath the cold damp earth I lay
And sleep in quiet day by day
And have no more on earth to say

When I am sleeping in the tomb
And o'er my head fair flowers bloom
Or midnight's showers in her gloom

Yes others too will weep for me
As here I sleep beneath this tree
That waves its branches over me

My mother dear - I know she'll weep
And father too while here I sleep
My brothers and my sisters dear
Will weep for me while I lay here


The above poem, along with the following is inscribed on Rebekah's grave:

In Memory of
Rebekah Maclanc(G)
daughter of
Cornelius C.
Phebeb Brower
Who Died
May 3, 1862
aged 30 yrs., 3 months, 7 days

Gravestone Sideview

-grave photos Ellen Sigunick