By Jamie Norton
Behind Dennis Darius’ house in Middle Granville lies a large plot of dirt covered with the vivid colors of the fallen autumn foliage. Trees and the remains of an old stone fence run along part of the perimeter, while stumps and slabs, large and small, of marble and slate, are sprinkled throughout…
“This place is a historian’s candy store,” Darius said.
Those slabs, many of which are broken, dirty and faded, represent the remains of a branch of the Northup family, one of the earliest settlers of the Granville area. And Darius and his family, which has owned the property since the end of the Great Depression, is doing their best to bring that history back to life by restoring this old cemetery.
“We always knew it has been there,” Darius said. “My brother, Richard, and I, as kids, we played up there. But it was always ignored; nobody paid much attention to it. It just laid dormant for years and grew up into just a mass of brush.”
Now, the Darius brothers are working during their free time to get the cemetery cleared out, cleaned up, and rebuilt out of respect for the Northup family, who built the house in which Dennis and his wife, Catherine, have lived since the 1960’s.
“Near as we can figure, the Northups and my family have owned this for the longest period of time of anyone,” said Darius, age 64. “I didn’t make a connection to it until I got older and realized this has been in my family since 1938.”
Clark Northup built the original house on the property in the 1780’s, and he and his wife, Mary, took residence there in 1789. The property stayed in the Northup family until the latter half of the 1800’s and had a few other owners until Floyd and Lucy Stoddard – Dennis’ grandparents – bought it in 1938. Dennis and Catherine bought the property from the Stoddards in 1965 and have lived there ever since. Although updates and additions have been made over the decades, the house still features some of the original architecture, including an original support beam that spans the kitchen ceiling.
“That’s part of what tweaked (the interest) in my brother and I, (in) the back of our heads, as far as this has a lot of history,” Darius said.
In the mid-1980’s, Warren Cardwell, a Northup family historian who lives in a West Hebron home also erected by the Northups, contacted Darius about the old cemetery. Back then, Darius had only a passing interest in the history of his property.
“Mr. Cardwell is a fountain of knowledge,” Darius said. “That’s where I basically learned – and I’m still learning – of the Northup history of the farm. That’s when my brother and I started to take more of an active interest in the cemetery.”
Over the years, Darius has been contacted by Northup family members from as far away as California interested in viewing the plot. That list includes Theresa Carparco, a direct descendant of Clark Northup who has aided immensely in Darius’ research.
“As time goes on, we intend to do more research, but our main goal is to try and have the cemetery refurbished and resurrected,” Darius said. “From there on, the research and the written history comes to us. And that’s good.”
Darius and his brother have cleared out all the once-overgrown brush and many of the small trees that had sprouted up within the plot. During the process, they have identified as many as 17 burial sites, including that of Clark Northup himself. Fifteen others, Darius said, were removed from the cemetery in the 1800’s by a Northup family member and replaced in Hartford’s public cemetery. While many of the remaining stones have eroded to the point where no identifiable inscriptions remain, several are still legible.
Most of the stones have fallen and lie flat on the ground, but Darius wants to restore them to a somewhat vertical state.
“Our plan is to restore the cemetery as best we can,” Darius said. But, he added, “We have a problem locating the exact location of graves. We’d like to get someone who is either familiar with old cemeteries, or someone with a Ground Penetrating Radar, which detects bodies and gravesites. We need something to really identify where these sites are.”
He calls it “history’s mysteries.”
The project, and the research that has complemented it, is very time-consuming, and at times Dennis wishes he’d started it sooner.
“When you’re younger, you’re trying to make a living, you’re trying to move ahead, and priorities come into play,” he said. “As you get older, you look at your own mortality (and) your own family. … Now, I have time (and) I make time.
“My brother and I feel it’s something very important to the area and to history.”
Darius said several family members have expressed an interest in making it a family cemetery once its facelift is complete, and he certainly would like to, at the very least, keep the property within his family. He has two sons in their 40’s to whom he’d like to pass the deed, as well as many of the historical documents he’s acquired that relate to both his kin and that of the Northups.
“Time will tell,” he said. “I can’t speak for future generations; it would be nice. I would like to be able to pass the history of the property down. It’s something to look at down the road. … But right now we’re just working on the Northups and working with the Northup family.”
Darius kneeled down to brush the fallen leaves off of one of the grungy, broken down tablets scattered throughout this once-heavily vegetated section of his property. He wiped the dirt off the letter “C” in Clark Northup’s name and ran his fingers along the tediously sculptured lettering. He paused momentarily and looked up with pride.
He was just like a kid in a candy store.