Fort Salonga’s Middleville Cemetery was rededicated with great fanfare Oct. 24, 2009 in an event befitting the extraordinary efforts that culminated in the occasion.
This Sunday, May 15, visitors to the will get a glimpse into the restoration process spearheaded by the McGill Alumni Association of New York.
At 1:45 pm, Anton Angelich, the former Northport resident and McGill alumnus who coordinated the undertaking, will make some introductory remarks and “The Middleville Cemetery Restoration Project,” a documentary produced by Briarwood Video of Huntington, will be publically screened for the first time.
While the Middleville Cemetery, also known as the Sammis Hill Cemetery, served as the final resting place for members of many prominent local families, the cemetery, gravestones and markers had fallen into horrible disrepair. McGill University has a longstanding tradition of community service, and the McGill Alumni Association of New York embraced the project after consulting with Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes.
According to Angelich, the project evolved into “a seven year long journey” that involved painstaking physical labor and unforeseen obstacles. The film documents the cemetery’s initial state, and work in progress while sharing the stories of those buried there.
“Many large dumpsters, and hundreds of bags of trash, brush and fallen trees were removed,” Angelich said, adding that fences were rebuilt and damaged grave-markers restored.
The labor-intensive venture bought together diverse groups and organizations as they worked to achieve a common goal. These included members of the Northport Historical Society, Town Councilwoman Susan Berland’s Community Volunteers, The Ft. Salonga Association, scout troops, and Northport High School students, all of whom were reaped the intangible rewards of pride and fulfillment that came with restoring the historic site.
Remarkable connections between those laid to rest in the Middleville Cemetery, McGill University and Canada that came to light during the course of the restoration, Angelich said.
It turned out that relatives of Ruth Anne Waddy, a Canadian with whom Angelich attended McGill University, were buried in Middleville Cemetery and that her family ties to Northport predate the American Revolution.
It was also discovered that Barbara Lamb Ingraham, a Canadian-born McGill graduate who settled in Northport and died in 2006, championed cemetery preservation. To honor her commitment to a cause so dear to their hearts, the McGill Alumni planted a flowering Canadian tree on the cemetery’s front lawn.
Angelich’s dedication to the project was such that he took a course in cemetery preservation.
“This project has brought forward and highlighted the need for preservation and restoration of the town’s many historic cemeteries,” Angelich said, adding that Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland is about to introduce a resolution to create a Cemetery Stewards Program to maintain and protect these precious sites.
The restoration project has forged enduring connections between McGill University and our area, as two local high school students who helped with the restoration will be attending the highly regarded Canadian institution of higher learning, Angelich indicated.
To learn more about the screening of the documentary, call (631)757-9859.