Octagon Schoolhouse Cemetery aka Otisco Southern Cemetery

I was processing a photographic collection a couple of weeks ago – photos taken by Charles A. Billings, who was a member of the Syracuse Camera Club.  Some photos were taken in Onondaga County, and some outside Onondaga County (the Camera Club traveled around the state).  When I came to the end of the collection, I found two photos of a tombstone and war marker belonging to Leavitt A. Billings, buried in Octagon Cemetery.  To myself, I thought, he’s not in Onondaga County, so I moved on.  But then it bugged me.  In the back of my brain, I knew I had seen Octagon Cemetery before, so I went to my extensive cemetery list at rootsweb, and saw Southern / Octagon Cemetery located in Otisco, and the website didn’t have anything on the cemetery, except it’s location on Octagon Rd.  I went to Google Maps to see if I could find the exact location of the cemetery, and I didn’t.   So I took note that Octagon Rd. was off of Route 80.

Last Friday night I had to take a photo at Onondaga Community College for OHA’s upcoming newsmagazine (which is going to be another great magazine) and at the intersection of something and Route 80, I turned my car south onto Route 80.  I drove through the beautiful hills of the southern part of Onondaga County (where I grew up, and those hills are in my very being) and eventually came to Otisco, and kept going until I saw Octagon Rd.  Immediately I saw a cemetery on the southwest corner of Route 80 and Octagon Rd.  This had to be it.  But why was it so far back away from the road? And was it Octagon Cemetery?  There is no sign.

Looking west.  Photo from the Archives of Onondaga Historical Association

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View looking south towards cemetery from Octagon Road.

There was an Octagon Schoolhouse located on the same lot 4 north of the cemetery:
Deed from the Archives of Onondaga Historical Association

Octagon Schoolhouse, Photo from the Archives of Onondaga Historical Association

I took photos of the tombstones located on the east end close to the road, where there is a World War II veteran buried:
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And then headed back towards the original cemetery. I started taking photos of all of the tombstones on the east side and completed four rows. I found Revolutionary War soldier Christopher Mott. Then I found Leavitt A. Billings and Anna his wife, and his Revolutionary War marker, the reason why I was there:
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I skipped ahead some more and found Revolutionary War soldier Ebenezer French:
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And Revolutionary War soldier Ira Pomeroy:
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It was humid so I stopped photographing tombstones after finding not just one, but now four Revolutionary War soldiers and one WWII soldier. And what really irked me, besides the fact the cemetery is unmarked, is there are no American flags next to these soldiers.

Saturday I had to work in the Research Center for Sarah (who is on vacation) and one of our patrons came in (Lee) and mentioned she had to do some research on Otisco. I started asking questions about Otisco, their historian, etc. and after she answered my questions, I told her that I had investigated the Octagon Cemetery and there is no sign and no American flags next to the soldiers, etc. Interestingly enough, SHE had just been to the SAME cemetery and noted the same things, while she was looking for one of the Pomeroys. And her director, Nancy, had been to the cemetery previous to this. So, since there are Pomeroys buried in this cemetery, Lee suggested I write to Nancy about how to go about getting a roadside marker put up for this cemetery. Which I will do, but first I need to finish photographing the cemetery.

I dug into some files at OHA and found there are seven Revolutionary War soldiers, two War of 1812 soldiers, three Civil War soldiers, one WWII soldier, and Militia Colonel Stephen Pomeroy. Where are the rest of the markers?  And why no American flags?

Beauchamp in his “Revolutionary War Soldiers Resident or Dying in Onondaga County, NY,”  calls this cemetery Octagon Schoolhouse Cemetery.  On the deed above the association is called Otisco Southern Cemetery Association.

I have started adding my photos to the rootsweb website here, but I still have a way to go.  Next time it isn’t raining, I’ll be driving there again to take more photos and updating the website.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa Bort
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 13:30:13

    I live presently in the Octagon schoohouse on the corner and would love to find some history on it or a photo from when it was a school. I was fasinated to find out a little history of the cemetary here.


    • Ellen Puerzer
      Apr 08, 2012 @ 09:21:41


      I am an author and octagon house historian. (I wrote a book on all known octagon houses/schools both extant and gone with histories and nearly 150 photos.) .) . Would you happen to have a current photo of your house you would be willing to share with my website?

      We would credit you gladly.

      And if you are interested in my book you can find it here


      Ellen Puerzer


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