MAHOPAC, N.Y. - It was a special family reunion of sorts when former Mahopac resident Brad Smith recently visited his ancestors’ family plot at the now-abandoned Mahopac Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, located off McMahon Place, the site of the original 1826 Methodist Church.

“My great grandparents, Nelson and Johanna Pierson, immigrated around 1880 from Sweden and settled in Mahopac,” Smith said. “They were dirt poor but invested in a family plot but could not afford a headstone.”

Until recently, the Pierson family plot had been simply marked off by iron rods with no family name or headstones to commemorate the lives of his great grandparents and approximately five other family members buried there.

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Smith, now living in Connecticut, reached out to the Putnam County Historian’s Office to find out about cemetery records and tips on how to start arrangements for a family headstone. During this exchange, he noted that two of his great uncles who served in World War I are also buried there. Arthur Nelson Pierson served in Battery D and Charles Oscar, or Oscar Charles as everyone knew him, served in the 49th infantry in France. He also wanted to see to it that their graves are marked with flags in honor of their service.

A short time later, Smith arranged for free government-issued granite headstones for both unmarked graves of his great uncles through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Lorraine Hanner from Hillside Memorials then worked with Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt to secure approvals to set the headstones in the cemetery.

Recently, while attending his Mahopac High School 50th reunion weekend, Smith was joined by Allan Warnecke, former Putnam County historian, and Mike Troy of the Putnam County Cemetery Committee, to visit the new stones marking Arthur’s and Oscar’s graves. Warnecke was able to regale the group with a story of the last Pierson family member burial that took place in 1969 when the cemetery had been neglected and had become so overgrown that Albert Pierson’s casket had to be carried over a stone wall. Since then, the cemetery has been cleared and is maintained by the Town of Carmel with support from Putnam County. Smith hopes to raise funds to set a Pierson family stone to commemorate all his ancestors buried there. In the meantime, Warnecke, who places an American flag at each veteran’s grave in that cemetery every Memorial Day, will add the Pierson brothers to his list.

Smith’s new contribution of the Pierson family members buried at the Old Methodist Cemetery will help build on the last listing done in 2002 by Karl H. von Ahn for his Eagle Scout project while in Troop 1, Mahopac, housed in the research library of the Historian's Office.

Article courtesy of Putnam County Historian’s Office