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Revolutionary Restoration: Young historian repairs local war hero’s gravestone

May 31, 2010
By AMANDA WHISTLE, The Leader-Herald

FONDA - A local Revolutionary War hero's gravestone was restored this year thanks to a Fonda-Fultonville Central School District senior who will graduate next month second in his class.

At 18, Ryan Weitz is the unusually young village historian for Fultonville. He spearheaded the project to restore the gravestone of Brigadier General Frederick Visscher on his own time because the Fonda historian position is vacant.

The stone was lying face-down and broken when Weitz and Fonda-Fultonville Social Studies teacher Holly Thompson found it about a year ago in the Old Caughnawaga Cemetery.

Article Photos

(The Leader-Herald/ Amanda Whistle)

Ryan Weitz is shown Tuesday with the gravestone of Brig. Gen. Frederick Visscher in the Old Caughnawaga Cemetery in Fonda. Weitz, a Fonda-Fultonville High School senior and the Fultonville village historian, restored the gravestone, which was found broken and lying face-down in the cemetery.

"When you come across the gravestone of a man like Visscher, who was such a significant man in Revolutionary War history, and you find it lying face down, he's not getting the recognition he deserves," Weitz said. "By setting his stone in place with the new marker, we're making sure future generations know that he was a significant figure. He didn't necessarily give his life, but he gave a large portion of it to our country."

Visscher led men in the bloody battle of Oriskany, and he survived a brutal scalping at the hands of British-aligned Indians. Weitz recounts the officer's exploits in a column in today's edition of The Leader-Herald.

Weitz is no stranger to restoring historic cemeteries. For the last two years, he's been working to restore the Old Fultonville Cemetery. He has held the unpaid historian position for about two years and plans to continue his work when he is home from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he will study civil engineering starting this fall.

A new concrete base with a mortise now holds Visscher's stone securely. It was set using high lime mortar, which is designed to cause minimal stress to the old carved stone.

Weitz ordered a bronze plaque for Visscher from the Veteran's Administration, set it on concrete, and placed it in front of the headstone. He also placed U.S. flags at all of the veterans' headstones in the cemetery.

Weitz said he knows of nine Revolutionary War veterans who were laid to rest at the Old Caughnawaga Cemetery, and has located five of their graves, including Visscher's.

The remains of Visscher and his wife were buried in a family cemetery in Tribes Hill, but their stones were moved, by a descendent, to the Fonda cemetery in 1985.

Weitz said it wouldn't have been practical to move the remains, since Visscher died in 1809.

Amanda Whistle covers Montgomery County news. She can be reached at montco@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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