While the home is amazing and the Stickney House Foundation is making serious and steady improvements to the site, the family burial site is, unfortunately, another story. Just a five minute drive from the Stickney House is the Holcombville Cemetery. You might as well consider it a ‘pioneer cemetery’ as the location holds the burials of the Terwilliger family, just the third family to settle here. Their house also still stands and is rumored to be a safehouse location on the underground railroad.
Upon finding the Stickney family plot, the thing you notice most is the gap. Sylvia’s grave, once toppled and now lying face up over her grave is slowly eroding away and there is a large spance before finding the gravestones of a number of her children. George’s grave is nowhere to be seen. While records and oral history in this more remote land may be lacking, we are lead to believe that George and Sylvia laid to rest a number of children before they, themselves died. Presumably, most of the members of this family would be interred at the same cemetery. The mere gap between Sylvia’s grave (?-1879) and those still standing graves of Silona (1857-1868), Caroline (1849-1851), Adeline (1841-1842), along with the fallen, but still existing stone for Rosira (1843-1843) indicate a likely location of burials without headstones. The obvious question is, “What happened to those stones?” Damaged into obscurity? Stolen? Did they ever even exist? One would imagine that the stone for George Stickney would’ve been cast. However, after out living so many children and his first wife, perhaps George was done thinking of funeral plans by the time he died in 1897. This means a number of stones for children and George’s second wife, Lavina, are not present.
While I do feel it’s important to recover and re-mark the missing stones, let’s turn all of our focus to the quickly decaying stone belonging to Sylvia, the medium herself. As mentioned earlier, the gave is lying flat, face-up on the ground. It was broken free from its base countless decades ago, laying it on the ground seems like a safe way to preserve the stone as it no longer has to fight gravity, nor could it get damaged in a future fall. However, pulling the grass away from the edge of the stone reveals how much the earth and plant life is eating away at this weakened monument. Understandable effects of nature and weather aside, there is also the plainly visible recent chip marks caused by lawnmower blades (note the bright white scuffs in the image below). This has to be one of the most in danger graves imaginable as it’s literally being chipped away on a weekly basis by landscapers who are employed to keep the cemetery beautiful. While the Stickney House Foundation isn’t yet ready to open as a museum, it is my hope that sooner rather than later Sylvia’s stone can be replaced by a replica and the original can be safely preserved on site, in the Stickney House.