COLUMN: Forest Hill Cemetery – the resting place of many famous and influential people


I would say the most famous cemetery in Oneida County is Forest Hill Cemetery near Oneida Street in Utica. I have relatives buried there which is why I visited Forest Hill last week.

Unlike some cemeteries, Forest Hill keeps its roads plowed during the winter.

The reason I say Forest Hill is the most famous cemetery in Oneida County is because of the people who are buried there.

In fact, the most famous of the famous is not buried. James Schoolcraft Sherman is in a mausoleum, one of several at Forest Hill

Sherman was Vice President of the United States during the William H. Taft administration.

Known as “Sunny Jim” because of his upbeat personality, Sherman was elected mayor of Utica at the age of 29 and went on to serve 10 terms as a U.S. congressman.

Sherman was born in 1855 and died in 1912. Some 25,000 people attended his funeral.

A bust of Sherman is in one of the rooms on the house side of the Capitol building.

I stumbled across his bust years ago while walking around the building. This was when visitors could walk around the Capitol.

Sherman’s Mausoleum sits at the highest point of the cemetery, which overlooks the city, behind the ski lift.

Famous people can be found in other cemeteries in Utica, Rome, Boonville, and throughout Oneida County, but not like those interred at Forest Hill Cemetery. I have compiled a short list.

Roscoe Conkling (1829-1888) was a lawyer, mayor of Utica, congressman and United States senator. When US Grant was president, Conkling was the power on Capitol Hill and the undisputed leader of New York State.

Three times Conkling turned down nominations to the United States Supreme Court because he did not want to give up all his power.

Ward Hunt (1810-1905) did not refuse President Grant’s appointment to the Supreme Court. He joined the other judges of the highest court in the land in 1872.

Previously, he served as mayor of Utica, state assemblyman, and member of the New York State Court of Appeals.

Theodore Faxton made his money, and lots of it, in the transportation industry.

Faxton operated ocean liners on the Erie Canal, was a founder of the Utica & Black River Railroads, owned a stagecoach company, and owned steamers on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Faxton was the mayor of Utica and sheriff of Oneida County. And if you’ve ever wondered how Faxton Hospital got its name, now you know. He provided money to build the hospital.

Horatio Seymour (1818-1886) was elected Governor of New York in 1852 and served two terms. And he ran for President of the United States as a Democrat against Republican US Grant.

Although Seymour was beaten easily in the Electoral College vote, he was a close one in the popular vote, Grant received 3,015,071 votes to Seymour’s 2,709,213.

A New York State Historic Marker just off Oneida Street proclaims that Seymour is buried in Forest Hill.

Not far from Sherman’s Mausoleum is the Proctor family plot, which includes Thomas Proctor and his wife Maria Munson Williams, and Fredrick Proctor and his wife Rachel Munson Williams.

Two brothers married two sisters. The overseers left their money to the community, which is why there is a park system and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

Not that I can’t wait to be in Forest Hill or any graveyard permanently, but graveyards are often in beautiful places with great views and always filled with history.


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