Sandy Hill Church Cemetery
Town of Dansville
Location: south of Perkinsville on Acomb Road near Recktenwald Road
Submitted by Bob Glover 2012, updated by Roland Geiger & Bob Glover

photographed by H. Ross Glover 2012

Genesee Country Express Mar 1, 1951
“Massive Crosses Hallow Site Where Area Settlers Prayed” by Laura B. Armstrong

GROSS, George , spouse of Margarethe Wilhelm , born 28 Apr 1783 , died 10 Dec 1842 b. Remmesweiler, St. Wendel County, Germany
HABEN, Nicholaus , born abt 1822 , died 9 Mar 1843 s/o Nikolaus and Elisabeth
SAUERBIER, Johann "John" , born 1774 , died 23 Feb 1848 b. Grossenduft, Kurhessen
STAUB, Johann "John" , born 26 Dec 1784 , died 20 Jan 1849 b. Alsweiler, St. Wendel county, Saarland, Germany
NEIS (Nice), Nicholaus , spouse of Elisabeth Kraemer , born 6 Jan 1791 , died 22 Jun 1840 b. Sotzweiler, St. Wendel county, Saarland, Germany, s/o Christophorus and Barbara Maldener Neis; per family, his remains are likely at Sandy Hill Cemetery; Elizabeth (1799-1868) buried at Greenmount Cemetery, Dansville, Livingston County, NY
MAGER (Hager), Peter , died Jun 1846
VOGT, Elizabeth Spahn , spouse of John Sr. , born abt 1821 , died 30 Aug 1856 per family buried here

History of the Sandy Hill Church Cemetery compiled from a March 2, 1951 article in the Genesee Country Express by Mrs. Earl C. Armstrong.

High on Sandy Hill, overlooking Perkinsville, Wayland, Dansville, and Rogersville, German immigrants completed in 1836 a simple log church, surrounded by a graveyard, and marked by a large wooden cross. It has been called the pioneer church of Steuben County and for a while was the only place of worship for Protestants and Catholics alike for miles around.

The earliest recorded burials date to about 1840, however there may have been burials there from the cholera epidemic of about 1834. By 1850, the Sacred Heart Church had been built in Perkinsville and the old one at Sandy Hill was torn down around 1851. Some of the bodies were removed from this early cemetery to the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Perkinsville when it was built in 1854. Others, mostly unknown with no surviving relatives, were left in this lonely, desolate spot marked by nothing more than the feeble, small wooden cross.

About 1900, the original cross was replaced with another, some nine foot high. In 1949, Ferdinand Morsch carried out apromise made to his mother as a small boy and erected a magnificent 12 foot high cross made of native stone and concrete near the road where it still stands as a tribute to the first place of worship for the early pioneers of this area. No individual tombstones or cemetery marker exist at this site. Just the massive cross.

According to records,the land where the cross sits belongs to the German Catholic Church, and the deed reads that the land can never be transferred.

The “Old” Sandy Hill Stone Cross
By R. Craig Stevens

A year or so ago I wrote a novel. In doing so I drew upon some childhood memories for inspiration and visual clarity: events, speech patterns, street alignments, certain key structures, and artifacts.

Readers of the novel picked up on several allusions they recognized, but none mentioned an isolated stone cross where the remains of a character’s ancestor lay nearby. My mind’s depiction of the cross mirrored a stone structure my dad had taken me to when I was no taller than the grasses surrounding it. My dad treated the site with reverence and told me stories about it. One of his recollections was that the remains of Elizabeth Span Vogt, his great-great grandmother had been buried there and never removed to nearby cemeteries when others were.

The cross is in the Kiefer Hollow/Sandy Hill area of the Town of Dansville in Steuben County. This is a little beyond where the Steuben County line meets the Town of North Dansville in Livingston County.

It has been decades since I last visited it as an adult, so I wondered if it still existed. I queried a few friends who were raised within a few miles from the site and who might have similar memories. Amidst stories of it becoming a party site and the cross falling into decay, a considerable outlay of information and numerous photographs came my way.

At the outset of the research I was relying on family records and oral lore. Initially we believed the cross dated to the 1830’s and it alone was the site for religious services. We thought that a log church was built either next to it or around it.

We soon learned that the location did hold a church, gravesites and a wooden cross as early as mid to late 1830's, but that the stone cross was not built until 1949. According to a March 1,1951 Dansville Breeze article written by Mrs. Laura B. Armstrong, Ferdinand Morsch and friends constructed the current 12’ stone edifice as a promise to his mother. (Elsewhere Morsch’s first name is recorded as Frederick.) This was long after the church had been dismantled, and the first wooden cross and grave markers had long decayed. In the interim a second wooden cross had come and gone.

The first burials probably resulted from a cholera epidemic that raged through the settlement in 1834. At least 18 residents died. Several children are listed among those who are believed to have been interred there. This was nearly two generations after the village of Dansville had its first permanent resident (1796) and 17 years after Sandy Hill’s first known settler, John Brail.

In 1838 seventeen Wendelian German Catholic families acquired the area of the gravesites under the name of the German Catholic Church. (Wendelians were followers of an Irish-born ascetic, St. Wendel, who had settled in their German homeland in the 6th century.) The log church they erected was named The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Most Holy Rosary. It was dedicated in 1844 and became part of the Buffalo Diocese. At its peak it served as many as 1,000 parishioners. It survived until 1850 when parts of it were used to build a new church in Saw Hill, also known as Red Tavern, now known as Perkinsville, New York.

The deed said ownership could not be transferred. But the parish disbanded with its members scattering to parishes in the Village of Dansville, Wayland, Perkinsville, Cohocton and elsewhere. Consequently, there is uncertainty as to who currently owns the property.

The cross shows the remnants of a date, 1949, in a recessed square a bit above its base. On the back toward the top are colored stones. They once formed the letters INRI, a common addition to crosses. (INRI represents the Latin for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.)

Inexplicably, the face of the cross has been changed since its original construction. The oldest pictures show simple flat fieldstone mortared into place. More recent photos show an unusual stucco finish. Nicholas F. Carparelli, the Executive Director of the NYS Concrete Masonry Association was asked if the unusual finish has any architectural significance. He promptly responded: “It’s very difficult to conclusively identify the finish from the photo. However, after enlarging the image, it appears to be a heavy application of stucco.” Citing a website (, he went on to say: ‘the ‘trowel sweep’ finish appears the closest [example] when inverted. The stucco appears to have been applied to the cross with downward trowel strokes, starting at the bottom and working towards the top. Each layer of stucco overlaps the previous, much as cedar shingles or siding would on a conventional wall, which would help to shed rainwater and contribute to the longevity of the finished product.”

As part of this research I contacted fellow Dansville native Bob Glover to see if the gravesite history group PHGS (Painted Hills Genealogy Society) with which he works knew about the location. They did not, but they acted quickly to provide me with information, and they are now seeking and researching the names of those buried there. See

Craig Stevens was raised in Dansville, NY. He is a publisher/writer who resides in Niskayuna, New York. The novel he references is entitled “Legacies of Cherry Ridge.” Among those helping to compile information and photos about the cross are Gail Geiselmann Browning, Chris Geiselmann, Joanne Hoffman Rogers, Bob Stone and Karen Norton. Those associated with the Painted Hills Genealogy Society who assisted include Robert Glover, H. Ross Glover, Paul Giometti, Mark Gerber, Linda Acomb and Jane Schryver.

Copyright 2012 by Craig Stevens/RCS Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

This article reproduced here with Craig Stevens' permission.

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