In the early years, Hamilton consisted mostly of farms. As a result, graveyards were typically devoted to one family. Located on the edge of the property where farming was difficult. The graveyard was often on a hill or overlooking a valley. The land was either sandy or offered good drainage.
According to some folklore, strange lights can warn of approaching death.
There is a story that tells of a mother and son who were visiting relatives in the countryside. One evening, the mother and son were upstairs and glanced out the window to see two lights moving towards the farm house.
The lights were moving along a country lane and kept getting closer and closer.
Just as the lights appeared to be right outside the house, the light started to move away and then disappeared at a foot of a hill where the family cemetery was located.
The mother immediately went downstairs and the whole family searched house for a possible cause for the strange lights. Everything was moved, but no light or mirror could reproduce the effect.
A few days later, mother and son suddenly became ill.
And just as suddenly, they worsened and died.
Mother and son were buried in the family cemetery, just where the lights had disappeared.
In earlier times, people often believed that death could be foretold by signs or warnings. I don’t have any local tales, but here is one from New York State that I recently read in a book that was published in 1975.
Lake Champlain is a very stormy body of water, particularly late in the shipping season. There once was a sailing ship called the Troy and it was carrying a cargo of iron ore from Port Henry to Westport.
It was late November 1825, the winds suddenly picked up and the water became very rough. The ore shifted and the ship went under, taking all hands.
Typical for those earlier days, the crew was largely extended family and when the weather turned bad, family friends gathered on the pier hoping for the ship’s safe return.
At home, the mother and sisters sat around the fireplace; waiting with dry clothes and warm food for the boys.
Suddenly, women heard the men arriving home. There were sounds of front door opening and the stomping of the feet.
Everyone rushed to the door but no one was there.
The mother and daughters realized that this was a sign that the boys were not coming home.
A few days later, personal items from the crew began to appear on shore, but no bodies were ever found.
In the cemetery of Westport there is a stone maker that lists the missing crew members:
“Sacred to the Memory of Capt Jacob Halstead AE 25 years and his brother George Halstead AE 13 years Sons of John & Phebe Halstead who were lost together with three others the rest of the crew of the Schooner Troy in a gale of wind off Westport Nov 23, 1825”
The original story was published in the 1906 book entitled: History of Westport, Essex County by Caroline Royce.
As a side note; in 1999 a sonar scan of Lake Champlain located the Schooner Troy in about 300 feet of water. The ship is nearly intact and appears to be well-preserved. It is one of the few surviving examples of a sailing canal ship.