This new series will be focusing on people you may not have heard of, but they are at eternal rest in the cemeteries of Cortland County. We’ll be exploring their contributions and stories in Slumbering Souls.
Many of the people who came to live in Cortland County beginning in the 1790s came from nearby Connecticut, including Deacon Charles Chamberlain who arrived in Homer in 1801. Deacon Chamberlain purchased fifty acres of land “embracing the site of the village,” and here he built a home. He would marry Roxsey Lyon in Brimfield, Massachusetts in 1803, and the couple would welcome their first child, Alfred Lyon Chamberlain on November 5, 1805.
Born in Homer, Alfred would be raised in neighboring Summerhill as his parents moved there in about 1807. As the oldest child, Alfred Chamberlain was expected to work on the farm to help provide food for the family. His father was a well-educated man for the time and must have also valued education for his children because Alfred was able to take full advantage of the educational opportunities which came his way. His father did not stand in the way of Alfred getting an education, and he completed his studies at the Cortland Academy. Chamberlain married Semantha Boies in 1834. Boies was the daughter of one of the original trustees of the Cortland Academy, Rufus Boies. Her father was also a member of the Anti-Slavery Society in Cortland County.
When they married, Alfred and Semantha started out on a farm near Little York. They eventually moved to the “west road to Homer” where he farmed for 40 years. He was known for his clean fields and well-kept stock, including Merino sheep and Durham cattle. He was early to adopt raising Merino sheep in the United States. Merino sheep are noted for their fine and versatile wool. He later sold his flock to Henry Stephens Randall in Cortland. Randall would write several books on sheep husbandry, at least one of which was illustrated by a young Francis Bicknell Carpenter.
Alfred and Semantha had four daughters, but heartbreakingly, three of the four died under the age of forty. Only their youngest daughter would live to a nice old age of eighty. Alfred Chamberlain was known as an honest and upright citizen. He was one of the original founders of the Cortland County Agricultural Society and was president of the organization for several years. Chamberlain was a trustee of the Glenwood Cemetery where he generously gave his time to make the cemetery beautiful. Alfred served as the president of the Cortlandville Academy as well. He was a member of the Congregational Church of Homer. Semantha Boies Chamberlain died in 1886, and Alfred spent his last days in the care of their daughter Grace Chamberlain Walrad at her home in Cortland. Alfred passed away on September 3, 1890, and was buried with his wife Semantha at the cemetery he loved so much.
At Cortland County Historical Society, we have some wonderful primary resource materials and artifacts which pertain to the Chamberlain family. If you are interested in learning more, we welcome you to visit our research center where you can reunite the pieces of the past together to learn more about the people who built Cortland County.
~Tabitha Scoville, CCHS Director