Experience Smith

Experience Smith is buried in a parking lot behind the Saks 5th Avenue Outlet at Woodbury Common in Central Valley, New York. Experience and several others are whiling away eternity at Ye Olde Coffey Grounds, an historic old cemetery preserved and maintained by the management of Woodbury Common.

D spotted this litte yard a couple of months ago, and a few weeks later she and I were on a bus to Woodbury Common, she going back with me not for the shopping but to lead me to this interesting little burial ground.

Cemeteries turned into parking lots are not uncommon. There are instances of this even in my immediate surroundings: The parking lot of the grocery store I frequent most often was built atop two large, old cemeteries, and none of the burials were exhumed or relocated. The Coffey Grounds at Woodbury Common are somewhat unusual not just because the yard is intact but because it is actively maintained by the owners of the commercial interests which encroach upon it. Parking spots and traffic directly abut the grounds, the hum of activity creating an uncharacteristic background sound for a cemetery visit. At the Coffey Grounds toppled stones are set straight, the grounds are taken care of, and several of the stones we saw that had fallen apart from vandalism or the elements had been re-assembled, some of them bolted back together.

The Coffey Grounds reminded me of the St. George Churchyard and Cemetery in Astoria, and the perils it seemed to face when the church decided to build an apartment building on the grounds. Some thought that the construction of the building would obliterate this small cemetery, but the church followed through on its promise to leave the yard intact. The only drawback to this seems to have been that the grounds were all but impossible to get to during some phases of the construction, but D and I have been there recently and found that public access is fully restored now that the apartment building is finished.

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One thought on “Experience Smith

  1. Hi, there. I am a descendant of Levi Alger who was born in 1781 and died September 11, 1820. His wife was Grace Coffey. She and Levi had two children – Charles Coffey Alger, born July 4, 1809 and Emily F. Alger, born about ten years later. Charles had two wives – Sarah Palmer (they were married December 27, 1831 at a Methodist Church in Manhattan and divorced early in 1868) and Marie Louise Molt. Emily married Cyrus Pratt and she is also buried in the cemetery. She died when she was about 25 years old and left a husband and a young daughter, Sarah E. Pratt. Cyrus eventually married Emily’s first cousin, Harriet Coffey, and they had at least one son. (Emily and Cyrus are buried at this little cemetery here in the Central Valley shopping center known as Woodbury Commons.) Charles Coffey Alger and Marie Louise Molt are buried at the Yantic Cemetery in the area of Norwich, Connecticut. Sarah Palmer Alger is buried in the Hudson City Cemetery at Hudson, New York with the two children that she had with Charles Coffey Alger. The two children were Charles Alger (1836 – 1897) and Grace Alger (never married) (1833 or 1834 to 1899). Charles Coffey Alger had one daughter by his second wife – Lucile Alger. She was born at Norwich, Ct. in October of 1870 or 1871 and died unmarried at her estate at 100 Beach Road in Great Neck on Christmas Eve of 1936 and her body was cremated.

    Mrs. Grace Coffey Alger remarried. Her second husband was the widower Col. James Young(s) of Blooming Grove, Orange County, New York. He had a daughter and a son, James Madison Young(s).

    Charles Coffey Alger bought the home of the architect A. J. Downing in Newburgh in late 1852 after Downing died. He and his first wife Sarah Palmer Alger and his daughter and son by her are listed in Newburgh on the U. S. Census of 1860. The marriage started to have severe problems about 1861. The richer C. C. Alger got, the less satisfied he was with his marriage. His second wife was 30 to 40 years younger than he was.

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