Past Brown Bag Lunchtime Talks (Jamestown Post-Journal)

Amanda Brainard, town of Leon cemetery records keeper, delivering a presentation during the Fenton History Center’s Brown Bag Lecture series Wednesday. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Fenton Hosts Cemetery Preservationist Lecture – Jamestown Post-Journal (April 13, 2017): There is a possible new solution to preserving rural cemeteries.

On Wednesday, Amanda Brainard, town of Leon cemetery records keeper, discussed what can be done to preserve rural cemeteries during the Fenton History Center’s Brown Bag Lecture series. Brainard, who has been working with the town of Leon since 2014, said one aspect to help preserve rural cemeteries is to stop thinking of them as ”creepy” places.

”As a community, we need to look beyond the ghosts,” she said.

As far as laws, she said there are basically no federal laws and very few New York state laws to assist with the preservation of rural cemeteries. She said possible solutions for people or organizations would be to start a volunteer maintenance program; contact the state Office of Historic Preservation to see if it can be registered as a historic place; contact veteran groups to see if they are willing to help preserve the cemetery if military personnel have been buried there; and contact local municipalities to see if they are willing to pass laws and fund money to help preserve the cemetery.

Brainard said there is a new group called the Northeaster Coalition For Cemetery Studies that has been created to help preserve rural cemeteries in Western New York.

She said the mission of the nonprofit group is to assist in writing, correcting and editing laws addressing abandoned cemeteries; study rural cemeteries for records; analyze and preserve documents for historical preservation; and manage the preservation and restoration of cemeteries.

Brainard said the Northeastern Coalition For Cemetery Studies goals include addressing the lack of laws to protect cemeteries; assisting municipalities with preserving cemeteries; starting volunteer maintenance programs; and establishing noninvasive cemetery research programs that will use ground penetrating radar, GIS, topographic surveys and cadaver dogs to help preserve the cemetery.

The first pilot preservation project for the Northeastern Coalition of Cemetery Studies is the Leon Hollow Cemetery on Riga Road in Leon, Brainard said. She said the hope is to get grant funding to purchase equipment to analyze the cemetery for preservation. For more information on the grassroots group, visit

Mary Jane Phillips Koenig speaking about her great-uncle’s letters he sent to his mother during World War I. Koenig’s great-uncle was Private Russell Archie Harvey who served in the Army’s 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division. The letters are part of a Fenton History Center’s World War I exhibit Over There: World War I and Jamestown. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Voice of War Echoes at the Fenton – Jamestown Post-Journal (May 11, 2017): The words of a World War I veteran echoed at the Fenton History Center Wednesday.

During the Brown Bag Lecture series, Mary Jane Phillips Koenig presented her presentation, “Why It Matters: His Voice Echoes Still Across America,” about letters her great-uncle, Private Russell Archie Harvey, wrote to his mother while serving in the U.S. Army’s 357 Infantry Regiment, 90th Division during World War I.

Koenig, a retired school teacher, said she has spent a “lifetime” researching her great-uncle’s 20 letters that were saved by Harvey’s sister, May.

Koenig said Harvey was born in in Corry, Pa., in 1888. She said Harvey’s family sold the family farm and moved to Jamestown around 1900. She added that Harvey spent around 14 years in Jamestown before the war. In an edition of the Jamestown Evening Journal from 1913, Harvey participated in a play as a member of the Knights of Pythias. The play included several other notable Jamestown residents of the time, which included Mayor Samuel Carlson and future Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Koenig said Harvey was drafted into the Army in 1918 while he was living in Iowa. After Iowa, he went to Texas for basic training and then to New York City to make his way to the fighting in Europe. Harvey’s letters discuss several topics, including the steamship trip on the Delta to France. Harvey said he didn’t get seasick on the journey, but other troops on the ocean voyage weren’t so lucky.

Other topics discussed in letters included a 120-mile march by foot in France between posts; seeing an old castle that must have been built when “knights still wore armor;” about Harvey being a company scout; and about digging battlefield trenches.

In a letter dated Nov. 16, 1918, five days after the armistice that ended World War I, Harvey wrote a letter expressing that he is sincerely thankful to his mother and wants to live near her once he returns back to the United States.

Another letter expressed how, at one point, Harvey didn’t think he would see Christmas, which is why he didn’t request a gift package coupon for his family. Harvey wrote that he thought he would be “pushing up daisies” by Christmas.

In another letter not written by Harvey, a Robert Marx wrote Harvey to thank him for pulling him off the battle field while he was injured. Koenig said that during her research she discovered that Marx later went on to create the Disabled American Veterans organization.

Before returning home to Jamestown, even after serving on the front lines in France, Harvey’s regiment served as guards in Germany after the war.

Koenig said that Harvey died in 1924. He is buried in Soldier’s Circle at Lake View Cemetery.

Copies of Harvey’s letters are on display at the Fenton History Center, located at 67 Washington St., as part of the exhibit, Over There: Life in Jamestown During WWI. The exhibit tells the story of what it was like in Jamestown during The Great War.