Tucked away in the colonial town of Auburn, New York—or “Prison City” as it’s sometimes referred to for being the birthplace of both the Auburn prison system and the electric chair—is Fort Hill Cemetery. Established in 1852, this burial ground has a unique history stretching beyond that initial dedication, as the site is believed to have been used as a fortified hill fort by a local Native-American tribe in the mid-16th century.
Faint traces of the outline of the fort can still be seen today in the topography of the cemetery as you make your way through the Gothic archway of the Bradley Chapel, built in 1893, which serves as a gateway to the grounds. Once in the cemetery, prepare to get lost in the rich history of the Auburn community, starting with a visit to the 56-foot obelisk built to commemorate Chief Logan of the Iroquois Indians, who once famously asked, “Who is there to mourn for Logan?” after his family was murdered by European settlers.
Next, make your way to Harriet Tubman’s grave and pay respects to the abolitionist who risked her life numerous times as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and as a spy during the Civil War. From there, you can also visit the grave of former U.S. Secretary of State William Henry Seward, or famed inventor Theodore Case, or maybe Auburn’s founder and Revolutionary War veteran, John Hardenburg.
Or, simply stroll through the scenic grounds with no destination in mind and admire the area, which is so beautiful it was initially proposed to be a park. No matter what paths you take within the cemetery, you are certain to find yourself engulfed in the history and beauty of Fort Hill.
Know Before You Go
Maps at the Cemetery Office have a walking tour of the grounds with the locations of the notable gravestones.