Our first guest blogger is Jeanne Kiefer. Jeanne authored most of the content of the Hillsdale Cemetery Report and continues to dig up (no pun intended) rich histories buried in Hillsdale’s Historic Cemeteries. Jeanne lives in far West Hillsdale and takes a special interest in the Krum Church burial site at the intersection of Wolf Road and Harlemville Rd. It is surely one of the prettiest burial spots in Hillsdale but sadly has become a victim of neglect and the passage of time. Here is her detailed account of Krum Hollow’s early days, and its graveyard residents.
History of the Krum Church Cemetery, by Jeanne Kiefer
Jeanne and Zippy
At the corner of Harlemville Road and Wolf Hill Road in west Hillsdale, a small cemetery dozes in the sun behind a low stone wall. Many headstones are tilted or broken and most are so weather-beaten they can no longer tell their stories.
Luckily documentation allows us to fill in some of the blanks. We know the names of at least 103 men, women and children who lived and loved and were buried in what was then known as Krum Hollow, a farming community pioneered by a 17-year-old immigrant from Germany.
In 1745 Martin Krum purchased 800 acres at the rough frontier edge of the vast Van Rensselaer lands centered in Claverack. He and his wife Elizabeth had 10 children and their descendants remained in the area for three more generations, at the center of a thriving settlement of German and Dutch farm families. Krum Hollow seems to have been the earliest community in Hillsdale, although we know little about its first two decades.
In 1769, however, Martin made news. He forced a dramatic break with the long-established and predominant Dutch Reformed Church in Claverack and spirited away a cohort of fellow dissenters. This was so shattering to the Claverack community that they were left without a pastor for six years. Meanwhile, a vital congregation of Dutch Reformed worshipers and German Lutherans gathered in Krum Hollow and eventually built a small church. They must have been surprised when they learned that their July 3rd dedication event took place just one day before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia in 1776.
One historian describes Krum Hollow as “juxtaposed precariously, halfway between the Dutch and Yankee settlements.” It was a community of German and Dutch speakers struggling to stay out of the battle for possession of the no-man’s land between New York and Massachusetts. This area was claimed by both the great landlords along the Hudson (Livingston and Van Rensselaer) and the rowdy independent Yankees of Nobletown, now Hillsdale. And then the American Revolution came along!
But back to our little cemetery. Church records reveal that the community thrived for 25 years, with 536 baptisms between 1775 and 1800, averaging 31 babies annually over the last decade of the century. 1793 had the bumper crop – 49 baptisms! Then the numbers plummet. The gravestones pick up the story, with the most interments occurring between 1820-40. It looks like the young families were moving away, perhaps for the much better farmland becoming available as the frontier pushed into western New York, Pennsylvania and beyond. (Krum Hollow, among the hilliest places in Hillsdale, must have been hardscrabble farming for a growing family.)
Those left behind in the graveyard are a mixed lot. The earliest interment we know of (there were almost surely earlier ones, now lost) is from 1782 – Johann Gotfried Schumacher was a Revolutionary War soldier who died of exposure. The last is two-week-old nameless infant who passed away in 1851. These early settlers were tough and lived longer than one might think – 35% made it to 60 or beyond and Mary Rood lived to be 96. Then again, there were at least 10 deaths in 1838, including five infants and 12-year-old Reny Krum.
As you might expect, there are more Krums among the grave markers than any other name, 13 in all. But there are also 10 Beckers, seven Harders, five Bortles and five Rivenburghs – 43 surnames in all, including Van Tassell, Stopplebeen and Spickerman. Some first names are also memorable – Alba, Albertis, Barbary, Elnathan, Mahala, Merium, Petrus, Reny, Tunis.
We have documentation on at least 13 Revolutionary War veterans buried in the plot, three captains among them. They served in five different New York regiments, along with Robert Miller of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys. The oldest volunteer was Captain Jonathon Bixby, born in 1730 and serving in 9th Regiment, 2nd Claverack Battalion, Albany County Militia. The youngest was Elnathan Strong, who was only 11 when the war broke out but received a pension for his service on the Connecticut Line. As far as we know, only one cemetery in Hillsdale has a greater number of Revolutionary War veteran interments. The town plots in all contain about 65 veterans of the war.
Yes, you can learn a lot from stones.
Note: The Krum Church plot is mowed by the town of Hillsdale but is otherwise in poor shape. It would benefit from headstone cleaning and restoration and stone wall repair, as well as signage that honors its history. A few dozen stones are standing, but many more are under the sod or stacked in pieces against the wall. Hopefully, funds will be found to restore this small plot, as well as the other historic cemeteries of Hillsdale.
Research on the Krum Church Cemetery was conducted in 2016 by Jeanne Kiefer. The two most useful resources were the Findagrave website (with photos of many old stones) and the collection of “cemetery books” at the Columbia County Historical Association in Kinderhook. These books, many compiled almost 100 years ago, provide details on the now-unreadable headstone inscriptions in the county’s old cemeteries.