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Amazing Graves:
Ghosts of Sand Lake

October 15 & 16, 2016

Sand Lake Union CemeteryReflections

Now that the dust has settled and the committee has had its wrap-up meeting, it might be time to say thanks and think about the lessons learned. Over 300 people attended the event and we were lucky to have perfect weather. The Saturday evening performance was clear and cold, and even the Hunters moon rose eerily behind the performers. This might have been called an “historical haunting,” the emphasis being on getting to know these Sand Lake ghosts of the past.

The actors did a fine job with the words and emotions provided for them by local authors. Val Kavanaugh’s script for Big Thunder (Smith Boughton) the anti-renter and Deputy Sheriff Willard Griggs, killed when trying to collect rent, showed us that this was a confusing situation causing mixed feelings on all sides. Deputy Sheriff Griggs was at one time an anti-renter, and there was a manifest unfairness in the patroon system.

Sandra L. Hutchison did a wonderful job writing the life of Jessie Traver Moore, a woman who in the late 1800s was a painter, author and missionary in India for 36 years. Eric Washburn wrote the script and did a masterful job portraying Horatio Averill. In addition, Eric wrote and performed the song Remembering Moscow, a moving tribute to the Civil War Horse buried at the foot of James Knox Averill’s grave.

There are too many people to thank here for all their hard work: actors, guides, cemetery staff, drivers, and volunteers. I will mention the committee members who began meeting in June 2015: Val Kavanaugh, Carol Karpien, Dee Erickson, Nancy Dunn, Bob Shuey, Eric Washburn and myself. I should also mention that the Amazing Graves exhibit will hang until November 15th, at the Center for the Arts.

At the evening performance, Val made reference to the play Our Town and the part about how cemeteries are important places in the community. Hopefully Amazing Graves reconnected many of us with the importance of the lives of our forebears, our cemeteries and the need to preserve both. – Bob Moore, Town Historian

tablestones of the Frothinghams
Maj. Thomas Frothingham

headstone of Dr. Smith Boughton     headstone of Willard Griggs
Dr. Smith Boughton / Willard Griggs

headstone of Jessie Traver Moore
Jessie Traver

Horatio Averill stone
Horatio Averill

headstone of Moscow the Civil War Horse (J. Tremont photo)     Sgt. Clark headstone
Moscow & Sgt. James Edward Clark, Jr.

headstone of Rush family (A. Mace photo)
Anton & Samuel Rush



One of my goals as historian is to help give the community a sense of place. Why did Sand Lake, West Sand Lake and Averill Park develop into what they are today? In reconnecting with our forebears we gain respect for what they have given us. With this understanding we can move proudly into our future.

Recently I've been working on a project, Amazing Graves: Ghosts of Sand Lake, that will give all of us a better sense of place. The project took place in the Sand Lake Union Cemetery and featured actors portraying Sand Lake residents from our town's past, including Dr. Smith Boughton (a.k.a. Big Thunder), James K. Averill, Sheriff William Griggs, Jesse Traver Moore, and others who made our community what it is today.

The project also features an exhibit that will be housed in the Sand Lake Center for the Arts through November 15, with old photos, artifacts and a "Calico Indian" outfit, the type that would have been worn by Big Thunder himself.

A number of organizations have been involved in the production of Amazing Graves, including: Sand Lake Town Library, Averill Park Schools, Sand Lake Historical Society and the Sand Lake Center for the Arts. – Bob Moore, Town Historian

Schedule of Events

gravestone of Moscow, Civil War horseThere were walking tours on Saturday as well as a " seated tour" and a nighttime "haunted tour." Sunday also featured both walking and seated tours.

Proceeds benefit the Sand Lake Town Library and Sand Lake Union Cemetery.



  • A.B. Daley Insurance
  • Art Herman Builders
  • Cross Roads American Grille
  • DeGraaf - Bryce Funeral Home, Inc.
  • Jiff-E-Mart
  • Kiwanis Club of Sand Lake, Inc.
  • Lakeview Inn on Crystal Lake, Inc.
  • Karen Opalka
  • Sand Lake Septic Service
  • Spectra Environmental Group
  • Towne Tavern
  • Tremont About Town Rental
  • Eric Washburn

Community Sponsors

  • Averill Park Central School District
  • Office of the Sand Lake Town Historian
  • Sand Lake Center for the Arts
  • Sand Lake Historical Society
  • Sand Lake Town Library
  • Sand Lake Union Cemetery
  • Town of Sand Lake
  • West Sand Lake Volunteer Fire Department

† indicates participating organization

Amazing Graves poster

Related: Sand Lake Union Cemetery and other historical markers | ?Averill? (origins of the name "Averill Park") | Moscow, the Civil War horse Photos on this page by Ken Bagnell, Andrew Mace and Jackie Tremont.

A full-length video, featuring all the performers, is available on our Facebook page. Links to individual videos are found on those pages (links above) for each of those individuals. Thanks to Jim Powers for making these videos available!

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The official logo of the Sand Lake Historical Society12/7/2018; revised September 5, 2019 -- asm © 2002-2022 Sand Lake Historical Society; all rights reserved.