Lysander man in fight with town over old cemetery

A battle has erupted in the Town of Lysander over a 180 year old cemetery on Plainville Road.

Fred Burtch lives in what was once a one room schoolhouse that was converted into a house. Next to his home is a once abandoned cemetery with grave stones dating back 180 years. Burtch says he's taken it upon himself to maintain the site, "We're just basically cutting the grass, trimming the weeds and putting flowers out there."

The so-called "Old Presbyterian Cemetery" has become a battleground between Burtch and the Town of Lysander. Town officials suspect Burtch desecrated the graves by pushing old gravestones into a wooded area. Supervisor Barry Bullis says the town wants to take control, "It was in the best interest to preserve and protect the cemetery to fence it to prohibit any type of encroachment."

Burtch says he found the markers in question buried under his driveway and a neighbor's sidewalk. "I believe there hasn't been any vandalism that occurred here. The exact opposite." he explains, "The stones that were recovered by my neighbors sidewalk and my driveway we brought back to the cemetery after a long time."

Steve McMahon, a self proclaimed historian researched the cemetery and found locals used the gravestones for foundations and sidewalks after a number of remains were exhumed and moved. "We have conclusive proof the stones in question were moved over 100 years ago and the bodies were exhumed and reburied in Lysander cemetery two miles away."

Lysander's town board recently approved spending about $5,000 to build a fence around the cemetery. Town Councilman Jack Krisanda feels the town must protect the grave of Nathan Betts, a revolutionary war soldier. "We just celebrated Memorial Day. We're supposed to memorialize our veterans. I am one of them. I guarantee that that grave will not be desecrated anymore. No more."

Fred Burtch says the proposed fence would cut across the septic system behind his house. He estimates it would cost up to $20,000 to build a new system.

Burtch and his supporters are circulating petitions to force a voter referendum on whether the town should build a fence around the cemetery which until recently seemed long forgotten.

Note: Historian Ken Wooster chronicled the Old Presbyterian Cemetery:


A local man is squaring off against his town's government in a bitter dispute over a 180-year-old cemetery.

Fred Burtch TMs home on Plainville Road borders the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, named for a church which was located nearby but no longer exists. Burtch says he has been maintaining the cemetery for years. Town of Lysander officials, however, say there TMs evidence that some of the gravestones were desecrated and moved.

The town board recently approved spending up to $5,000 to build a fence around the cemetery. Burtch, however, feels such a fence is unnecessary and would destroy his septic system, forcing him to spend up to $20,000 to replace it.

Burtch accuses the town of a vendetta against him, and denies that he in any way would desecrate the cemetery. He is circulating a petition in an effort to force a referendum on the construction of the fence.

The town feels, however, that is has an obligation to protect the cemetery.