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Digital Abraham takes on two history projects

Creates searchable website for North Elba Cemetery, restores Trinity Chapel

October 13, 2017
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - A fairly new historic group here is taking on history, bringing back to life the people buried at the North Elba Cemetery and an old church once left for dead.

Standing between the pews and pulpit in the Trinity Chapel, affectionately known as the Old White Church, two people passionate about history tell their story of Digital Abraham, a nonprofit archive and history organization founded two years ago. The initial goal of co-presidents Cindy Smith and David Genito was to create a searchable online database for the North Elba Cemetery.

"I was looking to create a website," Genito said. "I had just finished up at Clarkson (University) in communications and digital arts and science, and I was looking to create an app, a website, something with tech software, something in this area rather than go out to the city and get some experience there."

Article Photos

North Elba Cemetery
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

The content could have been anything, but Genito found a perfect match for content in Smith's volunteer work at the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society. She could catalog the people buried at the North Elba Cemetery, and he could build the website.

"The technology I was comfortable with and Cindy worked at the historical society doing research and cataloging," Genito said.

For Digital Abraham, Genito and Smith are volunteers. For their day jobs, Genito is self employed, working with computers and tech support while Smith is the assistant general manager of the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid.

"Right now I've been working on going through each section one by one and taking a picture of the tombstone," Smith said. "Also, if need be, cleaning them."

As for the name, Digital Abraham was derived by the place name given to the town of North Elba many years ago. It was known as the Plains of Abraham. Even the book featuring the collected writings of former town and village historian Mary MacKenzie was titled "The Plains of Abraham: A History of North Elba and Lake Placid."

In addition to the North Elba Cemetery, there are four other cemeteries in the town: John Brown's Farm Cemetery, St. Agnes Cemetery and Lake Placid Synagogue Cemetery in Lake Placid and the Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake. Northern New York Tombstone Transcription Project, found online, shows lists for the John Brown's Farm Cemetery, Lake Placid Synagogue Cemetery and Pine Ridge Cemetery, but there is no online list for the North Elba Cemetery or St. Agnes Cemetery.

"Once we have all the data collected, and it's cross-referenced and we know we're accurate with it, then that can be put into the app or the website," Genito said. "Then it can be used in other places, other cemeteries."

When people go to visit their loved ones at the North Elba Cemetery, they can't always find them.

"That's really what sparked this," Genito added. "How do you find somebody when there's nobody around to tell you where they are?"

There is no website yet, but when it is complete, it will be a helpful tool for families and researchers. But it will be much more than a list of names.

"One of the things we also want to do with this one is add on the historical information," Genito said. "So it would branch off into the history of the people who are there. Then people can add their own history."


Old White Church

The search for a permanent brick-and-mortar home for Digital Abraham ended earlier this year when the Trinity Chapel gifted the Old White Church to the nonprofit group. Trinity's dwindling congregation could not support the maintenance and upgrade costs for the aging building, which was constructed in 1875 and needs a new roof.

in August, Genito and Smith launched Digital Abraham's New Roof Fund at and is still in the process of raising $2,500. Once a new roof is installed, they can concentrate on restoring the inside of the church.

Over the years, it has been used as the Union Church, North Elba Grange 1141 the White Church and a storage building for the Lake Placid Hospital. With support from the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, the building was moved from the corner of Old Military Road and Church Street in 1988 to 4 Barkeater Way next to the North Elba Cemetery so the state Olympic Regional Development Authority could build the U.S. Olympic Training Center. That's when it became the Trinity Chapel, and now it is the home of Digital Abraham.

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