SOMERS, N.Y. - Mary and Geoffrey Parker have always been interested in history and historic places, so after they moved to Somers 12 years ago they began to check out the local sites. When they searched for the Tomahawk Chapel, though, there was a problem finding it. The building site was so overgrown with vines and barberry that the little wooden structure was almost unrecognizable.
But, said Geoffrey Parker, “we took pity on the place.” Over time they cleared away the growth and investigated the building itself. Their explorations spread beyond the chapel and into the adjacent burial grounds. “This is not your little neighborhood cemetery,” he said.
“No one seemed to realize that a lot of important people were buried here,” Mary Parker said. “Names like Miller and Tompkins and Purdys and Perry. There are local streets named after these people.” Plus there are eight veterans buried in the cemetery, from the Revolutionary War through World War I.
Geoffrey Parker explained that the chapel was built by Justice of the Peace Thomas Miller in 1837. There were no public schools back then, so Miller built it as a Sunday School as well as a church. West Somers was a very prominent area due to sheep farming and factories along the Muscoot River.
The Parkers have spent many hours working with their weed-wackers on the grounds and they have done some basic restoration work on the building. They have scraped it and primed it and will be painting it soon. The only other person involved is 87-year-old Bill Koegel, who also pays for all the supplies and tools.
“Unfortunately,” said Geoffrey Parker, “we don’t have the skills to repair the interior.”
Thanks to the perseverance of Mary and Geoffrey Parker, the Tomahawk Chapel and Cemetery was officially listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places on June 23. The next step is to submit documentation to the National Register of Historic Places. “But first the chapel has to get a nice coat of paint.”