One of Onondaga County’s oldest cemeteries, General Ellis Cemetery, has been restored and preserved by Onondaga Community College with the help of generous donors. A ceremony commemorating the cemetery’s restoration was held in June. The cemetery is located on a hillside above Onondaga Road, across the street from Mulroy Hall, as indicated by a blue historical marker on the shoulder of the road. The cemetery is named after General John Ellis, a Revolutionary War veteran who came to Onondaga Hill when it was a wilderness in the 1780s. The first burial in the cemetery was recorded in 1798.
As part of the restoration, all of the headstones were removed, repaired, and restored by Sweet-Woods Memorials of Phoenix, NY. “There were some areas of the headstones we actually had to reconstitute because the pieces were missing,” said Glenn Candee, owner of Sweet-Woods Memorials. “The headstones were made of marble. Because our rain is so acidic, it slowly deteriorated the headstones. It’s very impressive to be able to stand back and see it finished.” Other restoration to the site included repairing ground cover and correcting erosion, and removing and pruning trees. The black wrought iron fencing that surrounds the cemetery was restored to its original look, and a large bronze plaque commemorating General Ellis and the rich history at the site has been placed at the fence.
Onondaga Historical Association volunteer and former Post Standard special feature reporter Dick Case, who played an important role in the work done at the cemetery, spoke at the dedication ceremony. “To see this restored in this way by the College – I think it’s important. It’s a little park, a memorial park, and that’s what it should be.”
Rick McLain, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at OCC who regularly brings students to the cemetery. “Having a general from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 here on campus is a great opportunity for students to learn. It’s great that it’s been restored so students can appreciate the significance of it.”
Several groups collaborated on the restoration project including the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution and its local chapters: Betsy Baldwin Chapter, District O-Central New York Roundtable, Fayettevile-Owahgena Chapter, General Asa Danforth Chapter; Onondaga staff; Sons of the American Revolution Oriskany Battle and Syracuse Chapters; and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.