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“I’m afraid of the dark Daddy” – Little Merrit’s Tomb

May 2018

In a small cemetery west of Oxford, New York, lies the mortal remains of Merrit Beardsley. What makes the grave of “Little Merritt” unique is that this small, above-ground tomb has a window at one end.

On a cold, snowy night in December 1865, “Little Merrit” Beardsley, an 8-year-old boy, was dying of fever. Little Merrit knew he was going to die and in his final hours, he said to his father, “…But Daddy, I don’t want to die. I’m afraid to be up there in the cemetery in a dark grave alone………..Daddy, can’t I have a window in my grave so I won’t be in the dark? I’m afraid of the dark Daddy.”

Little Merrit’s grief-stricken father William Beardsley came up with a unique way to honour his son’s final wishes. Using field stones collected from the property, William built a sepulcher with a large, stone slab on top. At one end, he fitted a square glass pane window so that the morning sun could shine inside the tomb.

William and his wife Sarah cared for the grave until they followed Merrit to their graves in 1883 and 1885 respectively. Both are buried beside Merritt.

Today, this once forgotten cemetery has become a tourist attraction. For many years, the cemetery had fallen into neglect and disrepair, but in the summer of 2013, 16-year-old Stefan Foster, a senior at Unadilla Valley Central School, commenced an 18 month project to clean up the cemetery and graves.

On his own initiative and using some of his own money, Foster repaired the stone wall, cleared debris and planted perennials. The Town of Oxford and One Stone at a Time, a gravestone restoration company, also contributed to the restoration of the cemetery.

Foster also wrote his first book, “Pining for the Past – Little Merrit’s Tomb and the Beardsley Cemetery.” Proceeds from the book will go to the upkeep of the cemetery. Other financial support is provided by Oxford’s Rotary and Lions clubs and by Kathleen Beardsley of Homer, New York.

Visitors can find Little Merritt’s grave behind the fieldstone wall of the cemetery, which is located on the south-side of County Route 3, on the Rounds Farm property. The cemetery was originally called Beardsley Cemetery, but it’s now called Miller Cemetery.

Sources: “Oxcarts along the Chenango” by Roy Gallinger, “Project sheds light on history,” by Teresa Winchester, The Daily Star.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/im-afraid-of-the-dark-daddy-little-merrits-tomb/

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