Who were the Waterburys?

Waterbury headstone, Sanford Cemetery

The headstone in the Sanford Cemetery, Dunraven is impressive, a bronze plaque on a granite monument: Robert L. Waterbury, MD, 1823-1881 “He lived so others may live”; Christiana Dowie, 1823-1878 “His faithful wife”; and two children, a five-year-old son, and a 22-year-old daughter who, we have learned, died in 1883 of typhoid fever while a student at Vassar College. She is actually buried at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.

If you come to the 3rd Annual Living History Cemetery Tour June 21, you will learn much more about this family of cultured, educated men and women who hailed from Middletown pioneer stock. Fred Margulies (you’ll remember him from last year’s tour as John Blish who sold the Fleischmanns the land they would develop as a family compound) will portray Dr. Robert Waterbury. He was renowned as a teacher as much as a physician, teaching at several academies and colleges, and also serving as a surgeon to a NYS National Guard unit in the Civil War. He and wife Christina had 4 children, two of them, Lucy and Mary, becoming teachers themselves, as well as accomplished musicians who in the 1870s started a private school that was the precursor to Margaretville Central School.

Dr. Robert’s brothers were also teachers – seems like everyone in the family took a turn at teaching at the Old Stone School. Their parents, Rev. Daniel Waterbury and Mary Lewis Grant, raised the family on the homestead near the school established by Mary’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Asa Grant (he was the first postmaster in Middletown). Robert’s siblings included Daniel, a lawyer, State Assemblyman and gentleman farmer; and Edward, a teacher, insurance agent (improbably enough) and, in the 1880s, president of the Albany Normal School (predecessor of SUNY Albany).

There is a curious connection to Sandersville, KY near Lexington, where Robert, and his three 20-something daughters lived in 1880. Lucy either went there to teach music at a local college, or to care for the children of a wealthy northerner who had acquired a plantation there. Robert Waterbury is said to have died there, his body brought back to New York to be buried in an Arena cemetery later removed for the Pepacton Reservoir.

We’re still researching that one. Come to the tour to see what we discover!

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