Showing posts with label cemetery.
Showing posts with label cemetery.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Backed up on the road to Sandy Hook

On a warm summer Sunday, we weren't surprised to run into people just trying to make it to Sandy Hook. What surprised us was how long ago they'd started their trip and the massive delay they suffered -- maybe New Jersey's first huge traffic jam. Certainly, it was the biggest hassle anyone has experienced in trying to get to the shore.

We'd started the day avoiding all things beach. In fact, we were at a sod farm in eastern Mercer County, looking for 'grasspipers' - a general description of the shorebirds that hang out in grasslands. The fields weren't quite as productive as we'd hoped, leading us to wander a bit aimlessly until we found ourselves in the western Monmouth County community of Allentown.

Full of Colonial, Georgian and Federal-style buildings dating to the earliest days of the nation, Allentown was built around an old grist mill on Doctors Creek. A picturesque mill pond offers a nice focal point to downtown and, of course, is irresistible to intrepid birders. The part downtown isn't quite so interesting -- it's the part that extends back to the residential areas that's tempting.

Finding the right road wasn't hard -- it's called Lakeview Drive. Before we got to the lake, though, we noticed an old graveyard by the side of the road. The landscape is well tended, the grass is short, but its old stone border wall has seen better days, and its grave markers are well worn. In a lot of ways, it's not much different from any number of other small cemeteries dotting the more remote areas of New Jersey.

Not exactly a rest area, but sufficient for the need.
What got our attention was a shorter stone flanked by two American flags. According to the plaque affixed on top, we'd stumbled on the pit stop for somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 travelers who were just trying to get to the shore during some of the hottest days of June.

This seeming horde of Bennies weren't headed to sun, fun and maybe some debauchery on the Boardwalk. They were members of what was acknowledged to be the best trained fighting force in the world: the British Army of 1778.

Led by General Sir Henry Clinton, the troops had left Philadelphia and were on their way to the British stronghold of New York at Manhattan. Originally, the plan had been to evacuate troops via ship down the Delaware River and around New Jersey northward, but a shortage of transports forced a change of plans to an overland route. Crossing the Delaware, the troops moved in a northeasterly direction through Mount Holly and beyond.

The trip was arduous. Heavily encumbered by a 12-mile long wagon train of equipment and supplies, the Brits and had been struggling to make their way despite demolished bridges and harassment by local Patriots. Even nature seemed to be conspiring against them: thunderstorms, mosquitoes and oppressive humidity made the trek especially onerous.

After encamping at Allentown overnight, Clinton decided to direct his troops toward Sandy Hook. It was a logical move: the British had captured the peninsula over a year before and fortified it against attack, though Patriots occasionally attempted raids to disable Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Several British naval vessels were usually stationed offshore as further protection, and from there, safety in Manhattan was just a reasonably short sail away.

Clinton and many of his troops eventually made it to Manhattan, but not without a serious fight, and that's an understatement. General George Washington, seeing an opportunity to strike, advanced the Continental Army to confront the British at Monmouth Court House - present day Freehold. The battle that ensued on June 28, 1778 was the largest artillery battle of the American Revolution and one of the longest engagements of the entire war.

Consider that the next time you're stuck in shore traffic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Somerville's Arabella Griffith Barlow: fighting a different battle during the Civil War

Mention the impact of women in Civil War-era medicine, and most people will bring up the name Clara Barton, but others also bravely toiled to heal injured and ailing soldiers in the field. Our resident Civil War scholar Ivan relates the story of a remarkable New Jerseyan who dedicated the last years of her life to save Union soldiers.

The American Civil War evokes many iconic images, from the wise Abraham Lincoln to the heroic soldiers to the freed slaves left to negotiate a different place in American society. However, few people, even many Civil War scholars, spend much time contemplating the profound accomplishments and sacrifices of those who gave their time and effort to tending to the sick and wounded soldiers of the conflict. Indeed many more soldiers died of disease than due to battlefield wounds. For Union soldiers the ratio was about 2 to 1 and for the Confederates the ratio of those who died of disease vs. wounds was even higher. Why did this happen? Certainly the medical profession’s knowledge of germs was in its infancy. The Union Civil War Surgeon General William Hammond considered the conflict to have occurred “at the end of the medical Middle Ages.” If that was not bad enough, many soldiers entered the army fresh off the farm where they had little to no exposure to the deadly diseases of the day such as measles, smallpox and malaria.

Into this deadly atmosphere entered Somerville native Arabella Griffith Barlow. At the relatively-advanced age of 37, she had married Francis Channing Barlow just a day before he left for war in April of 1861. What added to the unusual nature of the nuptials was the fact that Arabella was ten years older than her new husband. She was considered quite an item in pre-war New York City, having come from a prominent Somerville family and was educated by a relative, Miss Eliza Wallace of Burlington City. Arabella was described by fellow New Jerseyan George Templeton Strong, a founder of the United States Sanitary Commission, as “certainly the most brilliant, cultivated, easy, graceful, effective talker of womankind.”

Despite her place in New Jersey society of the day, Arabella was looked upon as a very capable and determined woman. In fact, she once said, “Women rule everything and can get anything.” Such an attitude well served her husband, then a colonel, when he was wounded at the battle of Antietam in September of 1862. Having joined the Sanitary Commission earlier that year, Arabella immediately went to Francis’ side to nurse him back to health. Promoted to brigadier general two days after the battle, he figured prominently in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg where he was again wounded. Once again, Arabella cared for her husband in Baltimore and then in Somerville until he was able to resume active service in the field.

Where many might have returned 七乐彩彩票app下载 after their loved ones had recovered, Arabella continued to serve in the Sanitary Commission, bringing praise from medical professionals. An army doctor’s report included this account of her dedication: “Her exhausting work at Fredericksburg, where the largest powers of administration were displayed, left but a small measure of vitality with which to encounter the severe exposure of the poisoned swamps of the Pamunkey, and the malarious districts of City Point. Here, in the open field, she toiled…under the scorching sun, with no shelter from the pouring rains, and with no thought but for those who were suffering and dying all around her.”

Indeed, she worked so hard that she succumbed to exhaustion and fainted at her post. Only then did she realize that she had contracted the typhoid fever that eventually claimed her life on July 27, 1864. Francis was understandably distraught over the news of his wife’s death but managed to endure. He was promoted to Major General in the final days of the war and was present for the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

Arabella now lies at rest in Old Somerville Cemetery, honored by a plaque that only hints at the strength of this remarkable woman.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Reaching Delaware without the toll: the odd case of Kilcohook

Is it wrong for a loyal Jerseyperson to want to invade Delaware?

I'm not talking about the whole state, just the part you can walk to from New Jersey, toll free.

Yup, you read that correctly: we share a two mile land border with the Blue Hen State. Most maps don't do much to point it out, but a small sliver of land next to Finns Point National Cemetery in Salem County is technically part of Delaware.

To understand how New Jersey got cheated out of the acreage, we have to go back more than 260 years and beyond the peninsula that, by all rights, should be all Garden State.

First off, you'll note that the upper portion of Delaware forms an arc. It was originally drawn in a 12 mile radius from New Castle, as directed in a deed granted by the Duke of York to William Penn in 1682. The arc stopped at the low water mark on the New Jersey shoreline because the Duke had already granted the land beyond to John Berkeley, Lord of Stratton, in 1664. It's kind of an odd situation, as our other nautical borders are determined either by the center of the body of water, or the lowest elevation of the waterway.

So if the arc ends at the low water line where Berkeley's grant starts, then why does a two-mile long stretch of the New Jersey/Delaware boundary sit on dry land?

Sometime in the early 1900s, the Army Corps of Engineers started dredging the Delaware River to improve navigation up to the Port of Philadelphia. They had to put the dredge spoils somewhere, and apparently the remote, undeveloped coastline at Pennsville seemed a good option. The vast majority of human neighbors are already six feet under at Finns Point, and they weren't complaining.

The new land grew over the years, with about 580 acres of it rising above the low-water mark to become defacto Delaware territory. In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt designated the full 1400+ acres as the Kilcohook Wildlife Refuge, a pitstop for migratory waterfowl like pintail ducks and teal. Eventually, though, continued dumping drove away avian visitors, and the plot was transferred to the Army Corps as a "coordination area" in 1998. Fortunately for the birds, the existing land to the east was designated the "Goose Pond Addition" to Kilcohook in 1961, later becoming Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

New Jersey has taken Delaware to court over the boundary issue three times in the past century. In the 2007 dispute, Trenton legislators even light-heartedly considered sending the Battleship New Jersey to defend the territory. All three cases went to the Supreme Court, which ruled against us every time. (The two dissenting justices in the 2007 decision, Scalia and Alito, were born in Trenton, though their provenance seems to have had nothing to do with their opinions.). None of those decisions, however, specifically involved the dredge spoils area, whose jurisdiction remained a local issue.

As you can imagine, policing the area can be problematic. The Army Corps claims no responsibility, and technically, the Pennsville police had no jurisdiction. The spot was a magnet for mischief for partiers and a de-facto chop shop for car thieves. They knew the chances of being arrested and prosecuted were slim. When local law enforcement called the Delaware State Police to handle incidents on the acreage, it took troopers an hour to get there.

Finally, in 1989, the Delaware secretary of state agreed that this small slice of the First State could, indeed, be subject to New Jersey law. Pennsville police can now enter the territory to keep the peace and investigate wrongdoing. But I still wonder if they could get me for crossing the boundary and declaring the land to be the dominion of Nova Caesaria. Not that I would ever actually do it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Montana mystery of Warren County... part one

We like to say that Hidden New Jersey is often a scavenger hunt. Sometimes we know the quarry when we set out on our journey, as when we're seeking out a rare bird reported at a certain location. Other times, we find history along the way and end up discovering much more during the follow-up research days or even months later. Sometimes we unearth interesting coincidences, other times mysteries.

This story is a little of both.

It all started on a trip to the cemetery in Belvidere in late summer. Ivan and I were wandering around when I noticed interesting inscriptions on two stones, one a family marker and another for one of the family members, erected nearby.

Given the detailed description, the place and circumstances of Lieutenant Loder's death appeared clear. He'd taken part in the U.S. Army's repeated battles with the Sioux Indians, served gallantly and apparently perished in one of the skirmishes, his remains returned to his birthplace in New Jersey. It also appeared that his family called him Howard, perhaps to differentiate him from another Samuel, maybe his grandfather, buried nearby.

Then I found this grave marker, not far away, noting another individual's birthplace in Montana, NJ.

I was left with two stories to work out. First, how did Lieutenant Loder die, and second, where in heck is Montana in New Jersey? Was this just an odd coincidence, or do the two have anything to do with each other?

Finding cursory information on Loder proved to be reasonably easy. After graduating near the bottom of his class at the U.S. Military Academy in 1877, he was sent west and eventually assigned to Fort Logan in frontier Montana. At the time, clashes with Native Americans were regular occurrences in the area, with opportunities for injury and death. Several sources note the April 1879 conflict with a small group of Lakota Sioux at Careless Creek near Ryegate, Montana. According to government records, Loder, 18 men under his command and two Gros Ventre Indians confronted eight natives who were said to be connected to Sitting Bull. A 90 minute battle ensued, in which all of the Lakota were killed.

None of the accounts of ensuing conflicts in the area make mention of Loder, which seemed rather strange. If he'd performed so heroically at Careless Creek that the local white settlers presented him with a gift, wouldn't he have led other battles? Had he died some way other than through combat? The 1880 U.S. Army Register notes simply that he died at Fort Benton, Montana on June 30, 1879, with no further explanation. Could it have been illness that did him in? It's well known that in many wars, disease killed more soldiers than weapons did. Did frontier outposts suffer the same issues? Could there have been an outbreak of some sort that led to Loder's demise?

Unfortunately the circumstances of his death were tragic in another way. A July 6, 1879 New York Times article reported Loder's suicide as the lead in a story chronicling several people around the country七乐彩彩票登录 who had died by their own hands. He'd shot himself in the head while in his tent at Fort Benton; the Times noted that "It is asserted that he had been drinking freely of late." It could have been an accident or intentional, we don't know. The details remain a mystery, perhaps buried somewhere in a report deep in old Army records, if not only with Loder himself.

The grateful people of the Smith River Valley in Montana territory didn't have the opportunity to show their full appreciation to the lieutenant before his death, but they made sure his family knew what he'd meant to them. A year later, they presented a ceremonial sword to the Loders, along with a letter eulogizing the young lieutenant. The sword was inscribed, "Presented to Lieut. Samuel Loder, Seventh United States Infantry, by the citizens of Smith River Valley, for especial gallantry in his fight with the Sioux Indians on Careless Creek, Montana Territory April 17, 1879." Hopefully their regard brought some measure of comfort to the Loder family, who clearly wanted their son's achievement to be known for perpetuity.

As for the mystery of Montana, New Jersey? I'm still working on that one... story to come.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Japanese at Willow Grove Cemetery: revealing New Jersey's role in modernizing a nation

Last week's visit to New Brunswick's Willow Grove Cemetery brought to mind a legend I had heard about seven Japanese citizens who were buried there. According to random scuttlebutt around Rutgers, the unfortunate dead were exchange students who had fallen ill during an epidemic. Thing was, a marker in the Japanese section notes that one of the deceased was living in Brooklyn at the time of his death. Another was a child. I think it's pretty safe to assume that they weren't commuter students. Who, then, were these people, and what was their relationship to New Brunswick?

While getting to the bottom of the story, I discovered Rutgers' little-known contribution to the modernization of Japan in the mid 19th century. I also came upon an interesting American "first" attributed to the university.

The Japanese section at Willow Grove Cemetery today.
One question is easy to answer: only one of the buried people, Kusakabe Taro, attended Rutgers College七乐彩彩票平台, though a few of the others had attended Rutgers Grammar School (now known as Rutgers Preparatory School, no longer affiliated with the University). The students were among the first to travel to the United States to gain a Western Civilization-style education. How all of them got here is a little more complicated, as are the reasons why so many lay in rest at Willow Grove.

Kusakabe Taro, Rutgers graduate,
first Phi Beta Kappa from Japan.
Courtesy Rutgers University
The admission of Japanese students to Rutgers has its roots in the opening of relations between the island nation and the United States in the mid 1800s. Commodore Matthew Perry's historic visit to the island country七乐彩彩票登录 marked the beginning of the end of Japan's isolation from the western world. More than 200 years earlier, however, the Netherlands and Portuguese had established relations with Japan, and while the Portuguese were eventually told to leave, a small Dutch contingent was allowed to stay on a separate island as a trading outpost. That Dutch influence eventually played a large part in Rutgers and New Brunswick establishing enduring relationships within Japan.

Originally founded by leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church in America, Rutgers held tenuous links to the religious institution well into the 19th century. Church missionary James Ballagh and Rutgers alumnus Robert Pruyn traveled to Japan to establish contact and encourage young samurai to come to New Brunswick as part of an exchange program. They believed, quite astutely, that the best way to strengthen relations between the two nations was to expose their future leaders to both cultures. Their plan eventually led to two brothers, Yokoi Sahaida and Yokoi Daihei, attending the Grammar School to learn English and learn about American culture. The pair apparently returned to Japan after several years of study in the U.S. but both died at young ages from diseases they had contracted while living here. Coming from a place where Western contact had been limited, they'd had no immunity to illnesses that Americans had built resistance to.

Japanese students attend Kusakabe's funeral.
Courtesy Rutgers University Libraries.
Several other Japanese followed the Yokoi brothers to Rutgers in the years following the Civil War, with four graduating between 1866 and 1876. An informative published by the Rutgers Libraries notes that it's not clear exactly how many Japanese studied there at a given time, but it's quite evident that at least some of them blended well into campus life. For example, Matsukata Kojiro is seen in a photo of the 1885 football team.

A native of Fukui, Japan, Kusakabe Taro came to Rutgers on the recommendation of alumnus William Griffis, who'd traveled East to teach science and build on interests sparked by his friendships with Japanese students in New Brunswick. Kusakabe soon distinguished himself as an outstanding student in both mathematics and sciences, eventually becoming the first Japanese to gain acceptance to Phi Beta Kappa. Sadly, just a few weeks before his scheduled 1870 graduation, he died from tuberculosis. His degree was awarded posthumously, and the Japanese Consulate arranged for his burial at Willow Grove.

Between 1870 and 1886, the cemetery section received seven other Japanese who lived in New Jersey or New York. It's unclear how many attended Rutgers College七乐彩彩票平台 or the Grammar School, but one in particular is known to be a small child whose parents were Japanese.

Today, the gravesites are well tended, but they were once victim to the same vandalism suffered by many of the others around the cemetery, obelisks broken and knocked over. The citizens of Fukui, now sister city to New Brunswick, contributed funds to restore the monuments and purchase a headstone for the buried child.

While the preservation of the Japanese section is important and worthwhile, the lasting friendship between Rutgers, New Brunswick and the people of Japan is even more notable. Educational  continue to foster understanding and offer priceless opportunities for students. The world is a lot smaller than it was when the Yokoi brothers first arrived On the Banks, but the lessons learned from cultural immersion are no less valuable.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I know... I know... we find ourselves in cemeteries a lot, probably more than anyone who isn't a funeral director, horror groupie or purveyor of dark arts. Truth is, you can find a lot of history in graveyards. Close examination of monuments and grave markers can give you remarkable insight into a community's past and its evolution to what it is today.

New Brunswick's Willow Grove Cemetery is a case in point. Nestled in a lot behind the city library, its wrought iron fencing is barely visible from busy George Street, where I often spied it while riding the Rutgers campus bus. It wasn't until recently that I got around to investigating it, and it took a bit of doing to get there. Morris Street, its actual address, is one way flowing toward George Street, so I had to navigate a couple of blocks of side streets before I found the right way to get access. Fortunately, there was plenty of curbside parking, often a tough find in downtown New Brunswick.

Two things struck me as soon as I got a good look at the graveyard. First, it was obviously once a very desirable place to rest for eternity. Several tall monuments marked railed-off family plots, and I recognized some of the names as notable citizens of New Brunswick and/or Rutgers leaders.

Second, the cemetery is in grave need of restoration. While the grass is reasonably short in much of the acreage, other areas are overgrown with weeds and just plain untended. An indicates what appear to be a pile of gravestones dumped in the southeastern portion of the property. Easily half of the stones still in burial areas are off their bases, either knocked over or moved. And the back side of a large obelisk inscribed with the cemetery's 19th century trustees is tagged with graffiti.

There's no signage to tell you the name or history of the cemetery; in reality it's actually the conglomeration of three burial grounds. The oldest portion, closest to George Street, was consecrated in 1837 when the Presbyterian Cemetery was moved from Burnett Street (largely replaced by Route 18, this street pretty much ran along the Raritan). Willow Grove officially began in 1851 in the portion of the cemetery closest to Livingston Avenue. The land between the two was opened as the Central (or Cheesman) Cemetery in 1868.

One of the reasons I wanted to check out the cemetery was because I'd heard that some Japanese exchange students were buried there in the 1800s, having perished in New Brunswick while they were attending Rutgers. If memory served, the legend was that there'd been some sort of epidemic that lead to their deaths (My research is pointing to a few different stories, which I'll share in a future post.), and I suspected that this cemetery was their final resting place.

Often, the farther back you go in old cemeteries, the worse the damage is, but fortunately the Japanese section is an exception. Six obelisks stand in memory of the deceased, with Japanese inscriptions on the shafts and English translation of their names and dates on the base. Another base sits alongside, having likely met the same fate as so many of the other monuments around the graveyard that have been tilted over. A more modern, round-topped stone memorializes a child, while another newer granite slab lists the names of the seven adults and their dates of death. It appeared that some sort of remembrance had happened recently, as dried flowers were laid at some of the stones, and several foil-lined coffee cans stood in one corner, smudged with carbon from candles or incense that might have been burned in them. In any case, the shrubbery and bonsai-like trees around the plot lead me to believe that it's being well-cared for.

Not far from the Japanese section, I found a curiously new marker with a fresh American flag stuck in front. Adorned with a shield, the inscription notes the death in line of duty of William Van Arsdale of the New Brunswick Police Department in 1856. Research indicates that Officer Van Arsdale was patrolling the coal yards near the Delaware and Raritan Canal when he fell, broke through the icy surface of the canal and drowned. The next morning, a worker found the officer's hat, frozen into the ice next to the hole his body had created. He left behind a wife and six children.

The easternmost portion of the cemetery is easily the least kept portion, to the point where it's disturbing. In some portions, it appears to be in a successional phase, where shrubs will soon overtake the weeds and grass if left undisturbed. A few obelisks poke out of the tall brush to mark the graves of prominent citizens, while a sloped area appears to be full of discarded gravestones. Climbing in to check it out didn't seem wise, but it also appeared that there'd been a concerted effort to move the stones into a pile. This couldn't have been done surreptitiously by malevolent forces.

The mystery was solved, to some extent, when I checked in with a New Brunswick librarian, who confirmed that the stones had, indeed, been moved intentionally when the graves' contents were transferred to Van Liew Cemetery in North Brunswick. Further research shows that 520 sets of remains were relocated in 1920 to make room for new construction. Perhaps the expense and hassle of moving the gravestones with the remains was too great for consideration; I'll have to make a visit to Van Liew to see where they ended up and how they're marked. In any case, many of the headstones still rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery section of Willow Grove, jumbled and marking nothing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Another unexpected resting place: the Crawfords at exit 116

We run into a lot of obscure graveyards... many of them being attached to a particular institution (like the recent Sussex County Alms House cemetery) or perhaps an old family plot in a former farm turned something else (like the Willcox family plot in Watchung Reservation).

But it's decidedly unusual to find a cemetery next to a memorial that has nothing to do with anyone buried there. That's the case with the Crawford family cemetery located next to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel. A relatively small plot of land, the graveyard is elevated and encircled by a metal fence.

According to a sign on the fence, the cemetery was part of a 1219 acre lot that was originally granted to Captain John Bowne in 1687 by England's King James II. The land came into the Crawford family after Bowne's great granddaughter married William Crawford in 1756. And as many families once did, they buried their dead in a designated plot on their property, selecting a site on a gently rolling hillside. It was later described as being "one half mile east of Crawford Corners... about a half mile from the road to Everett and surrounded by woods, making it difficult to find."

The tract stayed in the Crawford family until the early 1950s, when descendants sold it to the state for the construction of the Garden State Parkway and Garden State Arts Center. As a condition of the sale, the cemetery land remained in Crawford hands, sectioned off with a rusty chain link fence from an unused part of what was then Highway Authority property. Its last burial occurred in 1923, and the graveyard appeared to remain unknown to the hundreds of thousands of people who attended concerts and events at the venue every year.

Things began to change in 1986, when New Jersey luminaries sought a site for the state's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Holmdel hillside was deemed to be the perfect location, winning over locations in Trenton and Jersey City's Liberty State Park. While the cemetery was protected via the agreement with the Crawfords, it became clear that it would need a slight makeover to befit the stature of its new neighbor. As the site was cleared for construction, the cemetery was sectioned off with a new fence and brick wall while overgrown brush was removed in favor of well-manicured grass.

The cemetery now stands three or four feet higher than the walkway that leads to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a sign on the fence tells the story of how the property came to the Bowne and Crawford families. Those who visit with the intent of honoring soldiers also have the chance to get an unexpected history lesson about one of the longest-lasting bloodlines in the state. If that's not hidden New Jersey, I don't know what is.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It couldn't have been any more poetic. As we drove through Frankford to our recent speaking engagement at the Sussex County Library, we found hidden history we didn't expect. Across County Road 655 and a few hundred feet up was a wooden gate with a large sign that denoted the Sussex County Welfare 七乐彩彩票平台 Cemetery. A field just beyond was hilly and covered mostly in tall grass, though one section appeared to be a bit better kept.

Having already stumbled on the largely unmarked Warren County poorhouse cemetery, we were glad to see that at the very least, Sussex had seen fit to make the presence of its potters field clear to passers-by. Also unlike its counterpart in Pequest, this graveyard was in proximity to the almshouse where the buried once lived. The large old white building has been converted to government offices, but those familiar with poorhouse architecture can easily determine its previous use.

Finding grave markers in the Sussex cemetery was as difficult as it was in Pequest, but for another reason. Rather than laying stones with name and date of death atop the surface above each grave, the Sussex authorities used simple numbered stone stakes. Perhaps it was less expensive that way -- markers could be ordered in bulk and engraving costs were much lower than they would have been had the names been inscribed. Or maybe it just didn't occur to management that someone might someday want to pay respects to a loved one. Traditionally, people end up in almshouses because they have no other options, no loved ones or friends to turn to, or perhaps they've alienated everyone who can help them. Many Sussex Alms House residents were probably as forgotten in life as they are now, in death.

We did find that one of the graves was decorated with two U.S. flags and a marker denoting the deceased as a World War veteran. Obviously, someone knew who was buried there and regarded him enough to have the designation placed. Other visitors, unfortunately, would have to do some investigative work. The county must have a list that matches grave number to the buried person's name, but the veteran's marker -- and those around it -- was too weathered to yield even that small bit of information.

The unnamed veteran, however, made out a bit better than many who died at the alms house before him. Turns out that the history behind the internment of the deceased is a little more involved than we anticipated. According to The Sussex County Alms House by Phyllis and John Stanaback, another cemetery "attached to the Institution" received unclaimed bodies of the indigent dead in unmarked graves from 1833 until 1900. The cemetery we'd found was opened in 1900 with the burial of Charles Bird under the stone marked 1. At least 140 graves are documented, though some have estimated that there may have been as many as 300 people buried there by the time the cemetery closed in 1955.

Judging by the state of the markers we were able to discern in the field, it's easy to accept that there are more hiding in the grass beyond the three or four visible rows. Perhaps a careful scything of the tall growth will yield signs of more graves. What's most unfortunate is that somewhere in the area is a field where the earlier deceased lie, unmarked and unremembered. Finding them sounds like a good project for an enterprising student of history.

Many thanks to Sussex County Senior Librarian Michelle Aluotto for her assistance in uncovering the history of the cemetery!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jockey Hollow cemetery: Morristown's hidden tribute to remarkable patriot troops

We haven't had a lot of snow this January, but the recent cold snap brought just a small sense of the kind of misery the Continental troops had to deal with during their encampments in Morristown during the winters of 1777 and 1779-80. Ivan and I headed to Jockey Hollow on the off chance we'd run into some of the pileated woodpeckers that are sometimes visible in the woods, and while there was just a dusting of the white stuff on the ground, the Revolutionary War soldiers weren't far from our minds.

If you grew up in Northern or Central New Jersey, there's a good chance you visited Morristown National Historical Park on a class trip. The place has a lot to capture a youngster's imagination, even aside from the obvious importance to our country七乐彩彩票登录's earliest days. I can recall stopping at the Wick family house to hear the legend of how the young girl Tempe hid her horse inside her family's tiny house to prevent soldiers from confiscating it. And, of course, there are a handful of huts at the edge of a clearing and atop a hill, facsimiles of the rows of rough housing soldiers built to shelter themselves from one of the harshest winters on record.

The thing we didn't notice (or weren't made aware of) on those youthful trips was the cemetery which holds the remains of over a hundred Continental soldiers who perished during those bitter months. It's easy to overlook the burial grounds, even though they're bordered by Cemetery Road. Graves aren't marked with those familiar white U.S. military stones. In fact, they're not marked at all. The only indication that people are buried there is a weathered brass plaque on a large stone, placed there by the people of Morristown on Memorial Day, 1932. That would have been about 10 months before the property became America's first National Historical Park.

While soldiers didn't have to worry about dying in battle at Morristown, they faced an equally perilous threat from disease and deprivation. The exact causes of death for the roughly 100 in the cemetery aren't clear, but it's a pretty good bet that many fell victim to the lack of supplies -- food and clothing alike -- that plagued the encampments, especially the second one. General Washington had also ordered all troops to be inoculated for smallpox during the first encampment, which no doubt led to some deaths as well.

The first national military cemeteries were created after the Civil War, so those who died at Morristown were not afforded the same honors we're familiar with today. In many cases, soldiers were buried where they fell, or, as at Jockey Hollow, were placed in mass graves. Considering the hardships they endured and the uncertainties under which they served, it seems their final resting place deserves a more prominent marker and additional attention from those who visit the park. The people of Morristown seem to have understood this when they placed the marker over 80 years ago. Their words say it all:

More than one hundred Continental soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for American Liberty are buried in this cemetery. Their comrades were housed in huts along the Jockey Hollow Road. 

 The people of Morristown reverently erect this monument as a tribute to them and to the valor of the Continental Army whose occupancy of Jockey Hollow has hallowed this ground.

The next time you're at Jockey Hollow, stop by and pay your respects. And if you're there on a particularly cold or especially snowy day, consider how long you'd be able to endure the conditions they did, barely clothed and fighting hunger. For so many reasons, they truly deserve our thanks and admiration.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Evergreen Cemetery: a brief visit to honor those who served

We sometimes have to be a bit strategic when we plan a Hidden New Jersey history field trip involving multiple locations. Sites seem to all be staffed for the same limited hours, so we need to determine if an before- or after-hours visit would be just as productive. And, of course, we have to be a bit flexible to account for the serendipitous stop at a must-see we find along the way.

I ran into this challenge a few weeks ago during Union County's Four Centuries weekend, when I had about four hours to make meaningful visits to as many sites as possible. Hillside's Evergreen Cemetery went on the 'later' list, so when I was in the neighborhood the other day, I stopped in to check it out.

Listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, Evergreen opened in 1853 as the state's first non-profit, non-sectarian cemetery. It's become the final resting places for six Members of Congress (and a non-voting delegate from pre-statehood Alaska), famous writers, a substantial Roma (Gypsy) population, and local luminaries including Newark's first black 七乐彩彩票平台 principal and the first Jewish mayor of Elizabeth. I had some idea there were some must-visits, but I didn't know where they were, or, for that matter, how expansive the cemetery was.

The cemetery's grand gates welcome visitors from the center of a block on North Broad Street, but I snuck in a still-nicely-marked corner entrance. Almost immediately I saw one of the grand contemporary memorials that have made Evergreen a favored stop for current-day graveyard art enthusiasts. Out of place among the older sandstone and gray granite markers, many of them consist of black stone slabs well over five feet tall  joined by a common lintel, and usually engraved in gold lettering. The most interesting thing about them, in my opinion, is that some have been placed in the cemetery's older section, which was designed in the Victorian style: park-like, with graves placed in harmony with the landscape. This motif was common in the mid 1800s, when graveyards were popular places to picnic and enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon with friends.  

Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy made her mark on some of what makes Evergreen such a pastoral spot. It's said that many of the cemetery's trees are over 300 years old, and as I made my way through, I saw that several limbs were down, some trees even toppled, taking with them more than a few monuments. Workers were busily collecting leaves and branches, but three weeks after the storm, they still have a lot of work to do.

Not far into my ramblings, I came to a section with several familiar-looking white grave markers placed in uniform rows. If I had any question on what I'd stumbled onto, it was answered by the pair of 100 pound cannons flanking the plot. I'd found the cemetery's Civil War section, set aside in 1862 for free burials of dozens of casualties and veterans of the War Between the States. Some of the stones were visible and easily read, while others were obscured by fallen tree limbs. A nearby flagpole was bent over a few feet above its base, perhaps by the branch that sat nearby, already sawed into sections to be carted away. I spent a good few minutes resetting many of the American flags that had fallen to the ground after presumably having been placed on the graves for Veterans Day.

Just by chance, I noticed two gravestones marked "US Col. Inf" or "USCI," meaning "United States Colored Infantry," the segregated troops that fought in the Civil War. Had I stumbled upon a large contingent of African American casualties' final resting places? I couldn't really tell -- while many of the markers didn't indicate service in the segregated service, other stones were totally inaccessible.

A little research at 七乐彩彩票app下载 uncovered a possibility. More than 75 black Civil War veterans are buried at Evergreen, some with stones that note their service in the segregated ranks. Some historians believe that others actually served in Union County regiments that had been assumed to be all white. Regardless, those buried here seem to have been honored well, considering the presence of the cannons, which I learned were procured by Elizabeth Mayor Dr. William Mack on Memorial Day, 1900.

Other Civil War veterans are interred at Evergreen within their own family plots or mausoleums, including Brevet Brigadier General James Vote Bomford and Medal of Honor recipient Captain William Brant, Jr. Their graves, however, would have to wait another day for discovery. There's way too much about Evergreen to limit it to a short visit, so I'll be back, next time with Ivan in tow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wandering around Warren County recently, we somehow ended up on Pequest Road, behind the Pequest Fish Hatchery. There are a few houses and whatnot, but largely it's a quiet, wooded area. That's why we were surprised to find a well-mowed grassy area at the corner of Pequest Road and Oxford Road. It appeared unoccupied, but for an obelisk in the center. Maybe it was a memorial of some kind?

We got out to take a look, and the obelisk itself seemed to be on a somewhat precarious perch of stones beneath it. The name "Henry Nagle" was prominently inscribed, with the years 1851-1899, and a small American flag was perched alongside. What made him so important that he had this big field to himself? And was this a grave marker, or just a tribute?

Ivan headed to the other side of the road for some light birding, but something about the field drew my curiosity. A quick scan revealed some depressions in the otherwise flat turf, as if something was preventing the grass from growing. Bit by bit I noticed the depressions were evenly spaced... as if they were planned. The intervals didn't look deep enough to be graves, but maybe....

I had to look further. One by one, I stopped at each depression to find a white stone beneath. Some were largely overtaken by the turf and dried grass clippings around them, but others were mostly readable. Each had a name and a date of death, mostly in the 1930s. This was a cemetery, for sure, but why were the markers embedded at ground level, and why did they seem obscured even though the place was obviously cared for to some degree? And why were all of the death dates in the depths of the Great Depression? Had there been some sort of contagion? Was there insufficient food and mass starvation? There was nothing to guide me to a plausible theory, not even a sign naming the graveyard. It was a case for the internet.

The mystery was solved pretty quickly. According to , Spanish American war veteran Henry Nagle donated the cemetery land so the county's less fortunate would have a decent resting place. The graves I'd found were those of former residents of the Warren County Alms House, a facility that had housed the local indigent.

Thing was, there was no building nearby that was large enough to have been the county poor house, even for an area like Warren that had probably not been that populated back in the day. About a half hour later, in our continued wandering, we actually stumbled upon it without realizing. Following Pequest Road and then making a few turns, we saw signs pointing to Warren Haven and decided to follow them, reaching the county senior 七乐彩彩票app下载. Nearby was an impressively restored early 1800s stone building which is now the headquarters of the county health department. What I didn't find out until later was that for most of its life, it served as the county almshouse. All of those folks whose graves I'd found had once lived in that large stone house.

Sometimes it's odd when we accidentally discover related places when we're just wandering around. I wonder sometimes whether there's something guiding us, or whether it's just dumb luck. This is one of those times.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Smithville and the wreck of the Powhatan

No matter where we're going, if we come upon an old graveyard, there's a good chance we're stopping. Ivan's always on the lookout for Civil War veterans, and I'm just interested in a good story or interesting memorials.

That's why it's so odd that we only recently stopped at the Emmaus United Methodist Church in Smithville. We pass by every time we take Route 9 to Brig, and some of the stones are so close to the road we can read them if the traffic light at the corner is red. On our last trip, we noticed what I think was a new sign, noting the burial site of 54 German immigrants who'd died in the wreck of the Powhatan in April 1854.

We stopped to check out the graves but found no other indication of names or exact interment sites for the 54. If the large brown sign hadn't been erected, the average visitor would have no idea that the ground was the final resting place for nearly five dozen people whom fate denied a future in the United States. Smithville is fairly close to the ocean, but not so much that you'd think a ship was wrecked there, so why were the victims buried in this cemetery?

To get our answers, we travel more than 150 years back to a time when the Atlantic coast near Long Beach Island was considered the shipwreck capital of the world. Barnegat and Absecon Lighthouses were yet to be built, and dangerous shoals in the area regularly took seafaring victims, especially during storms. The packet ship Powhatan was sailing to New York from LeHavre, France with a few hundred passengers on board when a Nor'easter blew in. The ship went aground at Beach Haven and split in half, and all souls died.

Recovering the bodies of the deceased was arduous work, made more difficult by the terrain. While some were immediately found and buried near the wreck site, others floated farther west into inlets, bays and creeks. Two Smithville men recovered the 54 Germans and brought them back for burial in the community's graveyard. Though the deceased ultimately were placed into a mass grave, the locals provided as much dignity as they could. While the men constructed coffins for each of the dead, the community's women made burial garments for each. Other Powhatan victims were buried in Absecon as well as in Manahawkin, where they're now memorialized.

While it's a sad tale made even sadder by the thought of the lost potential these immigrants had in the United States, their lives were not lost in vain. The Powhatan wreck is said to have been the impetus for the construction of the Absecon Lighthouse, which still stands in Atlantic City as one of the tallest beacons in the nation. Between that light and Barnegat, the treacherous New Jersey coast became much more navigable for mariners.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A potentially Titanic life cut short

A lot is being said today about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the unfortunate deaths of over 1500 people in the icy waters of the Atlantic. I'll be thinking about one of a handful of New Jersey notables to perish on the ship, Trenton native Washington A. Roebling, II. The 31 year old son of Charles, the president of John A. Roebling's Sons 七乐彩彩票app下载, Washington was returning to the United States after touring Europe with business associates. He hadn't been discussing bridges or wire rope, though; he was all about automobiles.

Washington Roebling II memorial at the family plot
in Riverview Cemetery in Trenton. 
Young Washington had worked at the family business for a few years before taking an interest in the nascent car manufacturing industry. In the days before the Ford, Chrysler and General Motors became the Big Three, there were dozens of small automobile companies around the country七乐彩彩票登录, including a high end brand owned by William Walter, a family friend. Seeing an opportunity when Walter ran into financial trouble, Washington was among several partners who purchased the company, moved it from New York to an old brewery plant in Trenton and renamed it the Mercer Automobile 七乐彩彩票app下载.

Like his father and uncles, Washington was a talented engineer, a skill that came to great use in designing and building high-performance cars. He didn't just make them, though; he drove them, too, to some success. Competing behind the wheel of his custom-designed Roebling Planche racer, he took second place honors at the Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1910.

Washington chose to take the maiden voyage of the Titanic after touring Italy and France with his friend Stephen Weart Blackwell and chauffeur Frank Stanley. Rather than bringing a Mercer to Europe, Washington took a Fiat, which seems kind of like bringing pork roll to Trenton. A Night to Remember, the seminal chronicle of the experiences of upper class Titanic passengers, says little about Washington, other than relating his calm and helpful demeanor in helping women into lifeboats. Those whom he helped said he assured them they'd be all right and possibly even back on the ship by daybreak. If he'd heard about the severity of the damage to the ship, he was well aware that staying on board would lead to certain death, but he followed the gentlemen's code of the day and remained.

One can only wonder what Washington might have achieved with the Mercer Automobile 七乐彩彩票app下载 had he lived to old age. The few Mercers still around are treasured as specimens of some of the finest auto engineering of the day. Perhaps Trenton would have become a mecca for high-performance racing, or the Mercer would be prized along with the Porsche and Lamborghini.

Incidentally, the Fiat didn't go down with the ship. Stanley had fallen ill in Europe and left a week later, taking the car with him.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A day in the park with Lad, a dog

In a park on a quiet, wooded hillside on Pompton Lake, there's a small sign that says, simply, "Lad." Not far away, there's an engraved stone embedded in the ground, which goes a little farther: "LAD. Thoroughbred in body and soul. 1902-1918."

Not far from that marker, there are stones with other names, plus a small kennel. What happened here, and why the focus on dogs?

Terhune Park in Wayne is, in fact, the estate of Albert Payson Terhune and his wife Anice. Readers of early 20th century literature may be familiar with the "Lad, A Dog" book series, or perhaps the movie that was made from the original book in the early 1960s. Albert was a dog lover and breeder of rough collies and had tried without success to find a market for the stories he wrote about his dogs. That changed when the normally aloof Lad finally took a liking to a family friend who was also an editor for Redbook magazine. Fictionalized accounts of the dog's exploits were eventually published there, the Saturday Evening Post and in other periodicals, building a huge following. In those days, reading was one of the few forms of entertainment in the 七乐彩彩票app下载, so writers and publishers alike could profit handsomely from serialized stories featuring popular characters. 

Known as Sunnybank, the Terhune estate eventually became 七乐彩彩票app下载 to at least eight collies and a cat, and the Terhunes' love of animals even extended to frogs and goldfish they named and kept in a pond near the kennel. Lad, however, was the rock star of the family. Profits from his stories were donated to the Red Cross and the Blue Cross, earning him medals from both organizations. In the years following his death, thousands of loyal fans continued to visit his grave.

The house itself no longer stands, having been victim to abandonment following Mrs. Terhune's death in 1964. Much of the estate was sold to developers, but Wayne Township condemned a 10 acre portion for use as a passive recreation park.

Ivan and I found Sunnybank to be a calming, pastoral setting when we visited a few weeks ago, and it seemed that the other visitors there at the time did, too. There are no ball fields or playgrounds there, just a few park benches and a gazebo near the lake, making it a perfect setting for quiet contemplation. Sitting there, overlooking the water, one could easily imagine the Terhunes enjoying a nice afternoon outside with the dogs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hidden Heroes: a few words on Isaac Gordon

On the Fourth, after the reading of the Declaration of Independence in Morristown, Ivan and I took a ride through Madison to visit the grave of a little-known Civil War notable, Isaac Gordon.

The story goes something like this: Born into slavery in the South, Gordon escaped to Union lines in Washington County, North Carolina during the Coastal Campaign in 1862. Intelligence he supplied to the Union Army eventually led to several key victories against Confederate troops in North Carolina and Virginia.

During his time with the Union soldiers, Gordon befriended Colonel Edward E. Potter, who commanded a newly formed African American regiment. Following the war, Potter brought Gordon back to Madison, where the Colonel, by then a general, retired as a gentleman farmer. Gordon served as Potter’s coachman and servant and died in 1917.

Gordon is buried in a back corner of Hilltop Cemetery on Main Street in Madison, and unfortunately on a day when flags had been placed on the graves of others who’d served our country七乐彩彩票登录, there was none on his. His gravestone, however, gives some indication of his contribution. If you get the chance, stop by and pay your respects.

Not much other information is readily available about Gordon, but I'll be looking into his background a bit more over the next few weeks. He's just one of many African Americans who risked their lives and freedom to help the Union cause during the Civil War, and his story deserves telling.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Visiting the notables in Princeton

This past weekend was bookended with the birth and death of our 22nd and 24th president, Stephen Grover Cleveland. Conveniently, he's buried about an hour away from Caldwell, in what's known as "the Westminster Abbey of the United States," the Princeton Cemetery.

The smallest of several memorials clustered around
John Witherspoon's grave.
Since being established by the Nassau Presbyterian Church in 1757, the Princeton Cemetery has become the final resting place of many of the town's and university's notable personages, regardless of faith. In fact, a healthy number of Stars of David, Sanskrit symbols and other markings are visible among all of the crosses of many Christian denominations. Cleveland gained his Princeton credentials after his second presidential term, when he retired to the community and became a University trustee. He's buried not far from the University Presidents' Plot, which itself is the final resting place of such notables as Aaron Burr Sr. and John Witherspoon, who both led the 七乐彩彩票平台 in the 1700s.

The Cleveland plot
Visitors to Cleveland's burial plot are left with the impression that he's not soon to be forgotten. First, his grave still held a memorial wreath placed there by a military honor guard on his birthday, March 18. And given the shell leis draped over his headstone, it's clear that the Hawaiian monarchists make the cemetery one of their stops on their annual New Jersey pilgrimage. They've also thoughtfully left leis for his wife Frances and their child Ruth, who is said to have been the inspiration for the name of the Baby Ruth candy bar though she died in childhood, long before the product was marketed. Both are also buried in the family plot.

Paul Tulane seemingly thought
a lot of himself, as evidenced here.
A few steps away from the Clevelands is a memorial whose placement has caused a fair bit of conjecture. Paul Tulane was a native New Jerseyan, merchant and philanthropist who also had a special interest in the city of New Orleans. As the story goes, Tulane offered a significant donation to Princeton University in 1882, with the condition that the 七乐彩彩票平台 should be renamed in his honor. When the trustees balked, he instead gave over $300,000 to the Medical College七乐彩彩票平台 of Louisiana, which subsequently became Tulane University. Allegedly he developed a grudge against Princeton, and ordered that when he died, his memorial gravestone should stand with its back facing Nassau Hall. Indeed it does, but there appears to be no rhyme or reason to why graves in that part of the cemetery are oriented as they are, and there's no uniformity to their directions. I'll give him this, though: it's one of the largest and grandest stones in the lot, so if he was making a statement, he wasn't messing around.

And finally, for those who need a little humor in their graveyards, here's one from a more obscure Princeton resident. I wonder: did his family consider him to be a bit of a hypochondriac?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Harvesting in a stone orchard: the St. Peter's Episcopal Churchyard

Run a couple of history nuts past an old church and see what happens. If those nuts are Ivan and me, chances are that you’ll be spending some time walking around a graveyard. That’s exactly what happened on the way from the Perth Amboy waterfront to city hall.

The Kearny family, Perth Amboy branch.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is nestled in a residential neighborhood, and its current 1852 structure doesn’t quite do justice to its history as the oldest parish of its faith in the state. Starting in 1685, it’s welcomed Perth Amboy residents both notable and obscure, and not surprisingly, its history is reflected in the gravestones that populate the entire churchyard. One of its earliest stones dates back to the 1600s, and its most recent appeared to have been placed just a few days before our visit, as the soil in front of it was freshly disturbed. Set at the top of the bluff as it is, the property must have offered a beautiful view of Raritan Bay before the surrounding 七乐彩彩票app下载s were built. In fact, it's said that colonists used the tower of the original church as a lookout point to spot Tories across the Arthur Kill on Staten Island.

The church itself is an impressive Gothic Revival structure with stained glass windows that combine biblical and colonial themes, but we weren't focused on the building. We spent a fair amount of time wandering among the memorials, Ivan looking for Civil War veterans as I scanned for any interesting names. We found both, though it appeared that someone on the cemetery committee had confused the Revolutionary War and World Wars for the Civil War and put commemorative medallions in the wrong places.

Very close to the church wall, Ivan found a series of stones marked with names of various members of the Kearny family. Could these be relatives of Major General Philip Kearny, the self-described “one-armed Jersey son-of-a-gun” who led the First New Jersey Brigade through the War Between the States, the hero for whom the town of Kearny, New Jersey was named? It appeared that the family was notable in Perth Amboy, judging from the fact that a street and historic 七乐彩彩票app下载 were named for them, but could it be that he, himself, was born there as well?

Unfortunately, no, he was born in New York City but was related to the Perth Amboy family and a real credit to his adopted state. He moved to a mansion overlooking the Passaic River in New Jersey after having lost his left arm during the Mexican-American War. Between his military exploits and some rather adventurous personal travels, he’s quite an compelling character. He’d make a fascinating blog entry on his own, but for the time being, you might want to check out a .

, playwright, producer and artist, who was born in Perth Amboy in 1766 and died in 1839.

The most interesting finds, though, are ones that have a personal connection, one way or another, to the person doing the search. Not far from the Kearny clan, I found a few markers with the Rutgers and Neilson names, including a few folks who appeared to have “Rutgers” as their middle name. With that pairing, I gathered they might be related to the university, but then that family was largely Reformed Church, to my knowledge. I think that for the time being, it will just be a mystery…

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Visiting the Rich and Famous at Riverview Cemetery in Trenton

Since our , it's been on our short list to get to Riverview Cemetery in Trenton. Not only is it an old graveyard, but it's noted as the final resting place of several prominent New Jerseyans of the 19th and early 20th centuries, including governors, senators and Civil War veterans. We didn't have much of an idea what we'd find when we got there ... or how we'd get there, for that matter ... but we assumed it had to be somewhere near the Delaware River.

Just part of McClellan's grave marker.
His picture is posted at the front.
Current day State Route 29 now hugs the river on the Jersey side, so it was a fair assumption the cemetery would be within line of sight, and hopefully the road wouldn't have displaced important graves. After a bit of wangling with the Droid and the GPS, we found the right location and were on our way.

Once we got there, we found that the cemetery offices were closed, and there were no instructive maps to guide us, so we were pretty much on our own in finding the stones for any famous people. Our main interest was in finding the grave of Civil War General, New Jersey Governor and unsuccessful Presidential candidate . He was buried in Trenton despite dying at Llewellen Park in West Orange (he would have been a neighbor of the Edisons had he lived a few more years). His monument was ridiculously easy to locate. Pretty much maligned by a sizeable faction of Civil War buffs, his grave marker nonetheless stands head and shoulders (many heads and shoulders) above any other memorial in the place. It's a huge stone column with an eagle perched on top, and a base that declares his service to his country七乐彩彩票登录 and his state. Someone has also thoughtfully placed a framed photo of him in front of the column, and there's a note that the whole shebang was put up by his friends. Apparently he had his allies, after all.

Maj. Gen. Gershom Mott's
much more modest grave marker.
We knew that Fort Mott's own Major General Gershom Mott was buried at Riverview, too, but his stone wasn't anywhere near as ostentatious as McClellan's. First, we found the stone for another Gershom Mott who must have been his son; the General's own stone was closer to the edge of the cemetery, with a nice view of the Delaware.

Along the way, we found several other Civil War veterans, plus some famous names closely associated with Trenton's business community. The Roebling family, noted for their wire rope manufacturing and leadership in the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, was well represented, including patriarch and bridge designer John Roebling, and his grandson Washington who died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Sadly, I didn't know that one of my all-time favorite Trentonians, John Taylor, is buried at Riverview, too. Who is John Taylor, you ask? He is hailed by many loyal New Jerseyans as the creator of the state's tasty native breakfast meat, . (Without him, where would the pork roll, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich be?)  It would have been a truly moving experience to pay my respects.

I hate to say it, but one can only wander around a graveyard for too long before one starts seeing things.  In our case, it's goofy things. For example:

When I first saw this one, I thought the name was "Danger," but apparently that's their middle name, instead.

And, well, here's another one.  Take a look at this and let me know what you think the family name is.

Before we leave Riverview, let's take one more look at the McClellan monument.  It's the one on the left, and it's actually a lot bigger than it looks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not all that far from the end of the Turnpike, but seemingly in another world, is Finn's Point National Cemetery -- a 4.6 acre burial place that contains the remains of over 3000 veterans. It's the third part of our refuge/fort/cemetery visit, and we found it by driving through Fort Mott State Park, first on paved road, then rutted dirt road, until we reached the simple iron gates that mark the entrance to this hallowed ground.  Visible all around the stone wall surrounding it are tall phragmites that make brushing noises as they're stirred by breezes coming off Delaware Bay.

While the cemetery still sees the occasional interment of cremains, most buried there were Civil War era deaths. Also buried there are a handful of World War Two German prisoners of war who were held at Fort Dix.

The remote placement of the cemetery begins to make sense when you understand its proximity to Fort Delaware, an installation built just a few miles away, on Pea Patch Island, in the early 1800s to protect the mouth of the Delaware River. During the Civil War, the fort was used by the Union to confine Confederate prisoners captured during the battle of Gettysburg.  By July of 1863, over 12,000 captives were being held on the 75 acre island, and disease and malnutrition took their tragic and savage toll.

Sadly, the Civil War graves are not marked individually, leading one to believe that perhaps they were left in mass pits, a theory supported by the presence of a large depression in the ground. Instead, two large memorials mark the mass graves. The older, domed Union Monument was built in 1879 in memory of 135 Union guards who were stationed at Fort Delaware and died while on duty. The Confederate memorial makes a more stirring impression on the visitor. An 85-foot tall concrete and granite obelisk erected by the US government in 1910, its base holds bronze tablets that list all of the 2436 Confederate prisoners of war -- military and civilian -- who died at the fort during the war.

You can't help but be moved by the simplicity of the site, and the magnitude of the suffering and loss it represents. A large plaque along the driveway holds the words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, a fitting tribute to those interred within the earth just beyond. It led me to wonder how we let each other suffer so, and why there seems to be no end to the constant battles mankind wages against itself.

In an odd incident worthy of tabloid coverage, Finn's Point itself became a murder scene not so long ago. As part of a multi-state killing spree, a man named Andrew Cunanan fatally shot cemetery caretaker William Reese in 1997, stealing his truck.  Cunanan eventually made his way to Florida, where he murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace.  A few days later, he took his own life, closing a truly bizarre story.