SYNOPSIS: If you are a local history buff, this site is definitely worth a visit. I found out about Drewsclift in December of 2000 when Michael Risinit wrote an article in the Journal News about the Southeast Highway Department’s then-recent repairs of a bridge leading to the cemetery. I had saved the article and about 5 years later Drewsclift became one of the first (if not the first) outdoor adventures with my eldest son. Since then, both the number of adventures and number of kids have increased.
APPROXIMATE TIME: One hour. The walk from the car to the cemetery is only about 2/10th of a mile.
DIRECTIONS: To get there from the downtown Brewster intersection of Route 6 (Main Street) and 22, take Route 22 south for 1.9 miles. Make a left onto Deans Corner Road and go 1 mile. A few hundred feet before the 684 overpass there will be a brown and gold historic marker on your right with a paved pull-off area. There is enough room for about 6 cars.
THE HIKE: From the parking area, walk through the stone pillars and head down the dirt road. Route 684 will be on your left. There are a number of large trees that line the dirt road, but unfortunately many of them seem pretty unhealthy.
A short stroll down the road will bring you to the (relatively) new bridge. The wood smells of creosote as you cross it. The smell reminds me of the boardwalks on the beaches in southern New Jersey.
After the bridge, the road will narrow a little and start a slight incline as it approaches the entrance to the cemetery. The stream that follows alongside the road will turn away from the road. A final short uphill bend to the right brings you to another set of stone pillars. Just before you enter the cemetery gates, look to your right to find the old hitching posts in the underbrush.
The cemetery itself has a beautiful stone wall around the perimeter, laid out in a large square. The graves and walking path form a circle within the outer square. Some of the headstones are worn and illegible, while others look like they were replaced or refurbished recently. Some are tiny, and some are grandiose. A few of the headstones have been knocked over.
The plants and trees in the cemetery really added to the experience. Botany is not one of my strong points, so I can’t tell you what kind of plants and trees were there, but they added something ineffable to the experience.
During our first visit my son seemed very nervous. I asked him why. He explained that he was afraid of the hyenas. It took a few more probing questions for me to figure out his consternation. At the time of our visit his Disney movie of choice was Lion King. In the movie, the evil hyenas live in the ‘elephant graveyard’. He extrapolated that to mean hyenas live in all graveyards, and therefore we were at risk. I explained we were not, but because of his age I chose not to explain exactly what the graveyard did contain.
Because of the close proximity of Route 684 the sound of the passing cars is very loud, especially in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. Consider visiting Drewsclift when the traffic on the highway is light – maybe on a Sunday morning, not at 5:30pm on a weeknight like we did.
HISTORY: The dates on the headstones at Drewsclift range from the late 1700’s to as recent as 1961. The family names include Adams, Bailey, Clift, Drew, Mead and many others. The most notable historical figure to be buried in Drewsclift is Daniel Drew. Mr. Drew was a businessman in the 1800’s whose pursuits included cattle, stock brokerage (and stock manipulation), steamships and railways. He declared bankruptcy a few years before his death, but at one point owned almost 1000 acres in Putnam County. He was very involved with the Methodist Church, and founded the Drew Seminary.
The cemetery is owned by the Town of Southeast. I had read that visitors needed permission from the town to visit, so I just went to the town website at www.townofsoutheast-ny.com and sent them an email using the ‘Send Us Comments’ link at the bottom right of the homepage. The Town Supervisor and a Town Board Member both responded promptly.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Our last visit to Drewsclift was in October 2009. When initially researching the cemetery, I found some useful info at www.findagrave.com. Shortly before this book went to press, the Putnam County Historical Cemetery Committee published an interesting website at www.putnamgraveyards.com that has a great deal of info on old cemeteries in Putnam.
As of May 2012, Drewsclift Cemetery is being considered for inclusion on the town of Southeast’s list of official Historic Sites. The Historic Sites Commission has an excellent document on those interred at Drewsclift. The link is below. According to this record, there are six Revolutionary War Veterans buried in Drewsclift – Stephen Brundige, Stephen Rusco, Jeremiah Mead, Gilbert Drew, Richard Barns and Lemuel Clift.
LINK: Click here for A RECORD OF DREWSCLIFT CEMTERY, printed by Southeast Historic Sites Commission May 2012, from the catalogue of The New York Geneological & Biographical Record, October 1918.