SHAKER CEMETERY – Located off Moyer Road on the border of Groveland & Mt. Morris at Sonyea
Photos and text by George Cassidy Payne
The unmarked tombstones leave an impression. The elemental need to tell others that they were here. The same reason the cave people in Lascaux wrote on the walls with their hands. The eternal battle between simplicity and pride; the primal urge to leave a mark on the earth and the spiritual quest to disappear entirely. The Shakers were that for sure. A people bound by their love of family and land, yet ready to leave both at any moment — without a trace. A tombstone was not only impious but boring. Yet, they had to leave something.
In these photos, the mortal contest within the Shaker soul is captured in a few leaning slabs of decaying limestone on a grassy knoll. In the surrounding area are the Groveland Correctional Facility, Sonyea golf course, and an abandoned estate for the handicapped. To say that the air has a certain quality to it, is an understatement. Spooky and serene. Is it strange that I sat down in the graveyard, all alone, eating an apple I picked from one of the trees and stared up at the crystal blue skies of an early October day in the Southern Tier? It didn’t feel creepy to me. It felt peaceful. It felt lonely in the most humble and friendly way. Something moving beside the breeze.