My daughter Jill is our family genealogist desiring to unearth our family tree. I like to take photos. This is a seemingly perfect match for a visit to Newburgh, NY in search of our oldest known relative in the United States, Hannah Sharps nee Steckel. The lineage is important only to us, but the journey might be interesting to you. It was interesting to us.
Our journey started with a three-hour drive to get to the “Big Rock Cemetery” only to find it padlocked. Jill had called ahead to ensure that we could visit. As we canvassed the area looking for the key (it was supposed to hanging inside the porch at the white house to the right of the gate). The porch door was locked. And no one was home. Next stop is to visit the temple and get the key from the rabbi. Luckily, the temple was only a couple of miles away. As we walked back to our car, we bumped into a homeowner and chatted with him a bit. He knows the owner of the white house to the right of the gate, but didn’t know where they were. OK, no option but to visit the temple.
After getting the key, we drove back to the Big Rock Cemetery, parked the car, unlocked the gate, entered, and relocked the gate. Success! Here is a photo of the cemetery. It is well kept. We had imagined it to be an old cemetery, unused for years, as our relative was buried there in 1880. But we found tombstones as recent as 2009. This was a bit disappointing to me photographically.
As you can see, the cemetery is small, and it was quite easy to find our relative. The marker was about as vanilla as it gets.
I took a bunch of photos of the area, and we called it a day. There was no new information to be gleaned from Hannah’s simple tombstone or any of the other family tombstones. Ah well, this happens a lot in the world of genealogy, so Jill says.
Now, as Paul Harvey would say, “here’s the rest of the story”.
We headed out of Newburgh on our way to New Haven, CT, for a visit to our favorite pizza place. The pizza is fantastic, and you can’t beat the prices.
Heading out of Newburgh onto the Newburgh bridge (just before the tolls to get onto Route 84), I spotted a police car a couple of cars behind me. He had his lights flashing. Since he was not making a move toward me, I kept going. Then all of a sudden, he was right there behind me… I pulled over. Jill and I were perplexed. I quickly did the mental check. We weren’t speeding. We didn’t go through any red lights. We didn’t go through a stop sign, for that matter. We were clean, or so we thought.
After a few moments of the officer sitting in his vehicle wagging his finger talking to someone, he came out and approached the passenger side. This too was odd. What had Jill done? We rolled down the window as I asked, “whassup?” OK, “what is it officer?” He asked to see both our IDs (“papers please”). He didn’t ask for the car registration. Very odd. After he very carefully read every word on each our license, he asked if we wanted to know why we were stopped. “duh, no, we like being the object of all passersby’s stares.”
So he goes on to say that we are being accused of stealing items from a mausoleum. Say what? I actually laughed which I guess is not the best thing to do under the circumstances. “You think this is a humorous situation, sir?” Actually I didn’t laugh and he didn’t say that. But he did go on to say that he cannot interview us due to us being out of his jurisdiction. (Jill whispers, “floor it, let’s get the heck out of here.”) He then says he has called the Newburgh police and they would be here in a moment to talk with us.
So we waited. A few moments later a police car pulls up, lights flashing. We now have two police cars making a spectacle of themselves (or rather of us). A moment later a third flashing car arrived. One of these fine gentlemen now approaches us and quizzes us. “Where did you come from today?” I buried all my snarkiness (that’s smart-ass in NY) and said that we came from Massachusetts. “Where did you go today?” Shhh, be good, though its so hard to do so. “We were at the the Big Rock Cemetery visiting our relatives.” “Did you take anything from there?” I then couldn’t help myself, “Yes sir, I took some pictures.” Either he gave me a pass or didn’t get it. So, I showed him the pictures I took on the LCD of my camera. “The complainant says you had a bag with you to collect the items.” “You mean this camera bag?” After showing him lenses and stuff he had enough, thanked us, and walked away.
Now, while we were being interrogated, THREE MORE flashing vehicles showed up. We were completely surrounded by SIX police vehicles flashing away. You’d think we were international art thieves and they were making the biggest arrest of their careers. Jill and I were quite amused. Then, another police officer, different from the first, different from the second, showed up. He asked us the same questions. We gave the same answers. We knew we had to make sure our story was consistent, otherwise we were doomed for the slammer.
A few moments later they came over and told us we were free to go. It turns out that the guy we had talked to at the cemetery had called in the complaint. And, based on the policeman’s exasperation we deduced this is not the first time this crazy guy has done this. Maybe he’ll get arrested and sent to the guillotine! I saw a few open spots at the Big Rock Cemetery for him.
In the end, it took six of Newburgh’s finest to take down the modern Bonnie and Clyde. This must have been the lion’s share of their department. Ah, well, off to pizza, I say.
Remember, it’s all about the light, in this case, the flashing ones.