Noteworthy Burials

Elijah Briggs:

Medal of Honor recipient, Briggs served during the Civil War as a Corporal in Company B, 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, a unit that would suffer extremely heavy casualties in the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, for his bravery at Petersburg, Virginia, on April 3, 1865. One of 19 soldiers cited for valor during that battle, his citation reads “Capture of battle flag.” Brigg’s medal was awarded to him on May 10, 1865. He was born on October 26, 1843, in Salisbury, Connecticut, and he died on March 10, 1922. He was survived by his widow, nee Elizabeth Montfort, who died in 1931.

Walter Case:

U.S. Congressman. Elected to represent New York’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Case was born in 1776 in Pleasant Valley. He was educated by private tutors and then attended Newburgh Academy before graduating from Union College in 1799. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1802, when he commenced practice in Newburgh. He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the 16th U.S. Congress, holding office from March 4, 1819, to March 3, 1821. He moved to New York City in 1844 and continued the practicing law until 1848, before retiring to the Fishkill area, where he died on October 7, 1859.

James E. Dean:

Civic Leader. James Edward Dean was born in the Village of Fishkill on May 10, 1830, and departed for Rochester at 18 to learn the trade of marble worker. He returned at the death of his father two years later, and was doing well enough by 1855 to purchase the monument business, where he had found work as a young stone carver. Dean made monuments, headstones, vaults, enclosures, and everything else related to the trade. But the true monument to his lasting legacy was his civic engagement. He was the charter treasurer of the Fishkill Rural Cemetery and served on our board until 1895. He also served as president of the Fishkill Savings Institute for 21 years and purchased (and then sold) the Fishkill Journal before establishing the Fishkill Weekly Times. He also served as Fishkill Town Clerk, Justice of the Peace, and a trustee of the Union Free School, and he was local postmaster for 12 years.

Admiral William Harkness:

Surgeon, Astronomer. Born in Scotland in 1837, William Harkness was two when his family first settled in Fishkill. He attended primary school in Fishkill Landing and Newburgh and graduated from the University of Rochester. He ultimately studied medicine in New York City and served as a surgeon during the Civil War. From 1865 to 1866 he served aboard the ironclad U.S.S. Monadnock, and on its cruise from Philadelphia to San Francisco he investigated the variations of the compass under the influence of heavy metal. His report was published in 1871 by the Smithsonian Institution. He was assigned to the United States Naval Observatory. In 1879, he discovered the theory of the focal curve of the achromatic telescope. Fifteen years later, the Secretary of the Navy appointed Harkness the nation’s first “Astronomical Director,” to have “charge of and to be responsible for the direction, scope, character and preparation for publication of all work purely astronomical, which is performed at the Naval Observatory.” Harkness was one of the founders of the Philosophical Society of Washington and in 1893, he served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He died at Jersey City, New Jersey, on February 28, 1903, and was buried here alongside his mother and father, who died in 1846 and 1878, respectively.

Elijah Jones:

Forgotten Hero. The National Bank of Fishkill (which failed in 1877) and the Fishkill Savings Institute (now the Wells Fargo Bank) purchased the grave and erected the monument atop the grave of Elijah Jones as a “tribute of respect.” Jones, a Polish immigrant, lost his life while subduing a robber who had attacked the banks’ messenger at Cold Spring on July 29, 1870. He is buried alone.

Charles Keck:

Sculptor. Charles Keck, who lived from 1871 to 1951, studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York and was an assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens from 1893 to 1898. He also attended the American Academy in Rome. In 1921 he was elected into the National Academy of Design. He is best known for his monuments and architectural sculpture, including his monuments to George Washington (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Lewis and Clark (Charlottesville, Virginia), and Booker T. Washington (Tuskegee, Alabama), as well as commemorative metal tablets produced from the salvage of the U.S.S. Maine. Other well-known works include the life-sized bronze of Father Duffy, which was erected in Times Square in 1937, and his earlier figure of “America,” located in the Allegheny County Soldiers’ Memorial in Pittsburgh. His statues of the statesmen Charles B. Aycock and Governor Huey P. Long stand in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.

Cole Palen:

Aviation Promotor. Cole Palen, founder and curator of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, died in 1993 shortly before his 68th birthday. An early aircraft preservationist, pilot and collector, he is also remembered as “a great character and showman.” Palen grew up in Poughkeepsie and joined the United States Infantry in 1944, just in time for the Battle of the Bulge. On returning to the United States, he entered the Roosevelt Aviation School at Roosevelt Field on Long Island to train as a mechanic and was later employed at Texaco Research Laboratories in Glenham. Palen collected aircraft spanning from the birth of aviation to the start of World War II. He restored and flew them regularly, and he built accurate replicas powered by authentic engines. Thousands of Aerodrome attendees have since thrilled to the sight of these planes, thanks to Palen’s visionary stewardship.

Margaret Sanger and J. Noah Slee:

Birth Control Pioneer. Millionaire Businessman. The leading crusader in the United States for birth control (a term she coined), Margaret Sanger was arrested eight times in a tumultuous career that brought her condemnations as a “lascivious monster” and praise from H.G. Wells as “the greatest woman in the world.” She opened the first birth-control clinic in America, the first clinic staffed by doctors and led the national movement that became the Planned Parenthood Federation. Born in Corning, New York, in 1879, she died of heart failure in Tucson, Arizona, and is buried next to her sister and second husband, J. Noah Slee. Slee was the millionaire founder and president of the Three-In-One Oil Company, and he served as treasurer of the American Birth Control League in 1921, the same year that Sanger divorced her first husband. The Slees owned local homes, in Beacon and, later, in Fishkill.

Isaac Teller:

U.S. Congressman. Elected to represent New York’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Isaac Teller was born February 7, 1799, in Matteawan (now Beacon). He was the nephew of Congressman Abraham Henry Schenck and a descendant of Madam Brett. Teller completed preparatory studies and held several local offices before being elected as a Whig to the 33rd Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Gilbert Dean; he served less than four months, from November 7, 1854, to March 3, 1855. He died April 30, 1868.

Dillon Wallace:

Attorney, Explorer, Writer. Dillon Wallace, who was born in Orange County in 1863, was an American lawyer, outdoorsman, and author of non-fiction, fiction, and magazine articles. His first book, The Lure of the Labrador Wild (1905), was the first of several best-sellers. He would ultimately complete three expeditions to Labrador. He was a well-recognized advocate for outdoor recreation and founded the first Boy Scout troop in Dutchess County before serving on the National Scout Council. In 1934, he accepted a position within the Works Progress Administration to lead the Federal Writers’ Project Guidebook Series for Dutchess County. He died in 1939 at the age of 76.

Charles F. Wolf:

Medical Doctor, Community Leader. Dr. Charles Wolf was the Chief of Staff at Highland Hospital in Beacon, and served as the mayor of Beacon and even the president of the Beacon Board of Education. He left a generous legacy in the form of scholarships for students from Beacon High School and Dutchess County who attend medical school. His wish to the Class of 1957 illustrates his love of community: “Your Board of Education and your teachers are proud of you. As this class graduates with honor and valor and leaves to attain further laurels along life’s pathway, I know that each and every one of you will ever be a source of pride to your parents, to your teachers, to your Board of Education and to your community.”