City Hill Cemetery in Yates facing financial crisis


The resting place of some of Western New York’s earliest settlers is facing financial insolvency unless funds can be raised to pay for maintenance costs.

City Hill Cemetery is Yates County’s oldest burying ground, founded in 1788 by the followers of Jemima Wilkinson, “the Publick Universal Friend,” with the first burial recorded the following year at the death of Elizabeth Holmes, wife of Jedediah Holmes in 1789.

Though Wilkinson’s settlement is long gone, City Hill has continued to accept the mortal remains of many of Yates County’s citizens for 230 years. And the current officers of the cemetery association want to enlist the help of all the descendants of those families to make sure it continues in that mission for hundreds of years more.

After the association held their annual meeting, President William Hansen penned a letter to the families saying, ”… we are aware of the increase in mowing costs, tree maintenance, headstone and fence repair. In order for the cemetery to remain solvent, we need your help.” He added, “As a private, non-profit organization, we strive to keep expenses manageable, yet our expenditures far exceed any interest income we (the trust) receive for maintenance.”

In the records of City Hill, there are ledgers recording the sale and location of all the plots, as well as letters that have accompanied donations for the upkeep. Some from the 1920s for hundreds of dollars would equal thousands today. One sweet letter from an elderly widow was for just $3, the mite she could afford to give. Those expressions of devotion are what Hansen hopes for in this new appeal for tax-deductible donations. “Any contribution you could make would be greatly appreciated.”

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