Galen Bennet's 1877 Guided Tour of Laurel Grove Cemetery


The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, N.Y., August 18, 1877:


At Laurel Grove 
Galen Bennet's father-in-law, John Conkling
A Visitor's Tour Through Our Beautiful Cemetery.

To the Editor of the Gazette:
...Taking a stroll the other day to Laurel Grove Cemetery I met in there the genial proprietor of Laurel Grove Marble Works who kindly accompanied me through the grounds, showing me the points of interest.  He has grown up with our cemetery, which was begun eighteen years ago.  There were but two monuments on the grounds at that time, one on the lot of Ferguson and the other on the lot of John Conkling. The latter's has been remodeled, and he has erected every enclosure (but three) on the grounds.  My attention was called to a new galvanized bar drooping chain and tassel with marble parts, which must be durable.  One has just been erected around the lot of our friend Ellis Haring, and also one around the lot of James Martin, which stands near the entrance, and makes a fine appearance.  

The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis N.Y., 1888

I find that at least two-thirds of the marble work and granite have come from Bennet's establishment, and that the works of art requiring mechanical skill are from his place. 
I found the grave of an old friend, H. St John, upon the brow of the hill, with a neat stone, and carved upon its face a wreath of the oak and laurel tied together with a ribbon, upon which was inscribed the word "Horace."  As I pronounced the name it seemed as though I might hear him answer.

The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, N.Y., 1886

Upon the lot of Abram Shimer I found a cottage monument over the grave of Jacob Shimer, showing beauty of design and workmanship.  One of the prettiest lots in our cemetery and always in order is the Lupton lot, in which we find a small monument, and with fluted die finished with a drape urn, and showing conclusively that we have here, in our midst workmen capable of executing anything in that line.

Another fine piece of art is over the grave of Mrs Riddle, designed by Galen Bennet, and executed at his place.  Also a curiosity in the shape of a tree monument upon the lot of the Dorr family.


The Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, N.Y., 1888

I went into the manufactory and looked at a handsome design for a Quincy granite monument about 17 feet in height, to be erected upon the lot of the Wickham family.  The design is very pretty and the monument will be an ornament to our cemetery.  Mr. Bennet reports that his sales are largely ahead of last year, showing increased interest by the people in this lovely resting place of the dead.  Surely none of our people can do better than to patronize home institutions.
Yours, Visitor

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Orange County Art Work, W.H. Parish Publishing Co., 1893

Time and the rivers have taken their toll on the fashionable 19th century landscape where Bennet's marble and granite work is most readily found. In 1907, the U.S. House of Representations received a lengthy Statement, as originally addressed to the Hon. Thomas W. Bradley, from a committee under the auspices of the Broad of Trade of the village, undersigned by: W.H. Nearpass, James Bennet, Merritt C. Speidel, O.P. Howell and Wm F Parshall as addendum to the Corps of Engineers report, An Examination and Survey of Neversink and Delaware rivers.

The Evening Gazette, 1904
The dramatic newspaper account of the ice gorge, A Night of Terror in Port Jervis, written by Mark V. Richards, published on March 9, 1904, details how the Delaware River forced huge quantities of ice up the Neversink destroying the Neversink bridge and damaging the cemetery.

A signed marble tombstone by Galen Bennet 
for Peter Ezekiel Gumaer, 1869

In the 158 years since the cemetery was founded many of the earlier and less durable marble tombstones have fallen prey to beating rain and winter's cycle of freeze/thaw damage. Lichen and mosses thrive in the river mists often obscuring the older marker inscriptions. The monuments of more durable granite remain in relatively good condition except where damaged by falling trees or vandals. The cemetery fencing has been repaired and repainted but of the once elegant iron railing and post enclosures only the posts remain.

"G. Bennet" signature, lower right corner,
Peter E Gumaer tombstone

 Atlas of Orange County, plate 46, A. H. Mueller, 1903, Hudson River Valley Heritage Collection

The list of commissions completed by Galen Bennet's company during his lifetime is too long for this brief exploration of his work.  One cannot walk the quiet pathways in any Tri-state NJ NY & PA cemetery without seeing examples of those efforts though, as marked in the tombstone's lower right hand corner, "G.Bennet".

Galen Bennet, 1838 - 1911

Laurel Grove Cemetery - Entrance Vintage Post Card
Postcard from an 1890s photograph.

Special thanks to Thomas M. Tryniski's for the newspaper clipping snapshots.