The General On Campus

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The General On Campus


By Deborah Bauder

OCC has a bit of a secret. Tucked in the trees on the edge of campus is a piece of local history that most people don’t even know is there. The General Ellis Cemetery, with a first recorded burial in 1798, has been largely forgotten by all but the most dedicated of local history buffs. And yet it houses a rather interesting piece of American history in its woody grove – the final resting place of one of Syracuse’s earliest pioneers.


Born in Hebron, Connecticut in 1764, General John Ellis was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and one of the early settlers of the Onondaga Hill area. Back when it was still a wooded wilderness, General Ellis built a home and maintained a farm here, raising nine children in the process. In addition to being a local pioneer and farmer, County records indicate that Ellis was also a sheep and cattle herder, a cloth manufacturer, and a saw mill operator.


Ellis enlisted in the Continental Army in July 1779, serving in several different Army regiments before being discharged in 1783, after which he served in the New York and Onondaga County Militias. During the War of 1812 Ellis served in the New York State Militia as Brigadier General of the 18th Division of Infantry, where he commanded the Onondaga Brigade.


The General Ellis Cemetery is marked by a blue historical marker on Route 173, on the north side of campus. Originally the Ellis Family Cemetery, it fell into disrepair over the years, eventually becoming an overgrown copse of broken headstones and weeds. In 2010 Onondaga Community College, in collaboration with the Onondaga Historical Association and several other historical groups, began the process of refurbishing the cemetery. Restoration efforts were completed in June of 2013 and visitors to the cemetery can now appreciate the site in its near original state. Despite the somewhat hidden location of the cemetery itself, it’s worth the short climb up the embankment to check out this historical gem right here on the OCC campus.