Little Merrit's Tomb – Oxford, New York - Atlas Obscura

Little Merrit's Tomb

Oxford, New York

A small window was installed in this gravestone to honor a young boy's dying wish. 


Little Merrit’s Tomb is a unique tomb with a small window marking the final resting place of Merrit Beardsley upon his death at the age of eight in 1865. It is believed that Merrit died from a feverish illness. Before he passed, he told his mother and father that he did not want to be buried in the dark. His father, William, was a stonecutter and operated a quarry.

After Merrit passed, he was laid to rest above ground with a window in his tomb, so the sunlight could always reach him. Merrit’s tomb is located in Beardsley Cemetery in Oxford, New York. He is at rest next to his parents, Sarah and William. 

Over the years, vandals have broken into Merritt’s tomb. In the 1970s, they scattered his bones throughout the cemetery and stole his skull. After a thorough investigation, the local police found Merritt’s skull in the bedroom of one of the vandals. They returned Merritt’s remains to the tomb but put them as far back as they could to prevent further removal of Merritt’s remains. A local glass company from Norwich, New York, built a new window for the tomb and donated it to the cemetery. As always though vandals broke into the tomb several times after that.

A local eight-year-old boy named Stefan Foster and his grandmother went “exploring” and came across Merritt’s tomb. Stefan was fascinated by the story and upset with the vandalism. When he grew older Stefan decided to do something about the condition of the tomb. He started a fundraiser and began putting Merritt’s tomb and the cemetery back into its original state. He wrote a book called Little Merritt’s Tomb and used all the money from the sales to help restore the tomb. He now runs a Facebook page by the same name. Stefan has replaced the broken window with a plexiglass window to stop vandals from breaking it. Also, the remains of Merritt have been put into the ground to prevent vandals from stealing them again.

Know Before You Go

The cemetery is open from dawn to dusk to everyone who wishes to pay their respects. It is maintained by Stefan Foster with permission from the Town of Oxford. One way to get there is to go up State Highway 220 from the village of Oxford towards Bowman Lake. Take a left onto Hoben Rd. The cemetery is roughly one and half miles down the road on your left.

A publication, Little Merrit's Tomb: A Field Guide, by Stefan Foster, provides information for visitors to navigate the cemetery along with research on the families buried in the cemetery. The field guide includes photos of the restoration and rare artifacts pertaining to Merrit's tomb. 

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