Bensonia Cemetery

A view of Bensonia Cemetery in 1898 (NYPL)

A view of Bensonia Cemetery in 1898 (NYPL)

An 1870 newspaper article describes Memorial Day observances held in Bensonia Cemetery:

Yesterday morning the members of Post Oliver A. Tilden, No. 96 of Morrisania, assembled at 6 o’clock, and marched to Bensonia Cemetery. Following the procession, with a wagon filled with flowers was the colored body servant of Capt. Tilden, who was during all the campaigns of the war in the field. The Post was under the command of Wesley Farrington. On their arrival at the cemetery, the men, numbering about fifty, formed a hollow square about the grave of Capt. Tilden with a solitary woman mourner in the inclosure. Commander Farrington then made a short address to his comrades and those gathered there, when he deposited on the monument a handsome wreath of white flowers. Chaplain Geo. G. Chase then made a short, appropriate prayer, after which he and the rest of the members of the Post each laid their floral gift on the grave. They then proceeded to New-York to take part in the parade and floral decorations at Cypress Hill Cemetery.  (New-York Tribune, May 31, 1870)

Bensonia Cemetery was established in 1853 as a community burial ground for the Town of Morrisania, which was then a part of Westchester County. In 1874 Morrisania was annexed by New York City and today comprises a portion of the South Bronx. Bensonia Cemetery was located along St. Ann’s Avenue, extending from Rae Street to Carr Street. Developed by James L. Parshall, one of the original settlers of Morrisania, the cemetery was a picturesque spot, densely shaded by elms, poplars, and evergreens.

Oliver Tilden, who was born and raised in Morrisania and enlisted in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War, was buried at Bensonia after he was killed in combat near Chantilly, Virginia, in September 1862.  Tilden was the first soldier from this neighborhood to give his life for the Union during the Civil War.  His remains were transferred to Woodlawn Cemetery in 1878.

It is unknown how many other individuals were interred at Bensonia before it was closed to burials in 1868.   About a third of the cemetery was taken in 1870 when St. Ann’s Avenue extended through the site and a large number of disinterments were made at that time. More burials were disturbed in 1893, when German Place was laid out along the west side of the graveyard. By the turn of the century, only about two acres remained of the original Bensonia Cemetery, and the abandoned property, with just a few gravestones still standing, had become a dumping ground for neighborhood refuse. In 1908 Bensonia was taken by the city for public use and the graves were transferred to Woodlawn Cemetery. Public School 38 (now called the South Bronx Educational Complex) was built on the site in 1921.

Bensonia Cemetery in 1867.

Bensonia Cemetery in 1867.

Bensonia Cemetery in 1898.

Bensonia Cemetery in 1898.

A present-day view of the Bensonia Cemetery site.

A present-day view of the Bensonia Cemetery site.

Sources: “Decoration Day,” New-York Tribune, May 31, 1870, p. 1; “Suited for a Park Park Site: Bensonia Cemetery Now a Dirty Waste,” New-York Tribune, April 8, 1900, p. A4; “Do You Remember,” by Bill Twomey, Bronx Times, Nov. 25, 2009; Captain Oliver Triangle, NYC Parks & Recreation ; Annual Financial and Statistical Report of the Board of Education of the City of New York 1922 p. 147; Beer’s 1867 Plans of Westchester, West Farms, Morrisania, Westchester Co. and Part of New York County; Robinson’s 1885 Atlas of the City of New York Pl 34; NYCityMap

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Sisters of Charity Cemetery

The Sisters of Charity Cemetery at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

The Sisters of Charity Cemetery at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

The Sisters of Charity Cemetery, located on the grounds of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, is the final resting place for many women who were pioneers in New York City education, health care, and social services. In 1817, Elizabeth Ann Seton sent three Sisters of Charity from Maryland to New York City to staff an orphanage at Prince and Mott Streets. Beginning at that location, the Sisters established schools throughout the diocese, which was the foundation of the parochial school system of New York. In 1847, the Sisters of Charity of New York became an independent congregation and created the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent—the first institution to offer higher learning for women in New York. The Academy and Motherhouse, which were originally located near today’s Central Park, moved to their present-day site along the Hudson River in the North Riverdale area of the Bronx in 1859. The Academy was renamed the College of Mount Saint Vincent in 1911.

The small Sisters’ Cemetery lies along a hill just west of the Cardinal Hayes auditorium building on the Mount Saint Vincent campus. Well kept and peaceful, the site contains about 200 gravestones dating from the 1850s to the present. At the top of the hill and overlooking the cemetery is a path with a row of Stations of the Cross plaques mounted in wooden shrines. Most of the gravestones are simple, horizontal slabs; small vertical markers identify some of the Sisters who served as nurses during the Civil War. Larger monuments honor the presidents and mothers general of the order. A five-foot stone cross marks the grave of Mother Elizabeth Boyle, one of the original three Sisters sent from Maryland to New York in 1817 and the first Mother Superior of the New York community. Other early members of the New York Sisters of Charity community also rest in the cemetery, including Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon, who began the The New York Foundling in 1869 as a home for abandoned children. Today, The Foundling is one of New York City’s oldest and largest child welfare agencies, providing foster care, adoptions, and other services for families.

The Sisters of Charity Cemetery at the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent, ca. 1911.

The Sisters of Charity Cemetery at the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent, ca. 1911.

The Sisters’ Cemetery at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, 2015.

The Sisters’ Cemetery at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, 2015.

Gravesite of Mother Elizabeth Boyle, the first Mother Superior of the Sisters of Charity of New York.

Gravesite of Mother Elizabeth Boyle, the first Mother Superior of the Sisters of Charity of New York.

View more photos of the Sisters of Charity Cemetery.

Sources: Bromley’s 1921 Atlas of Borough of the Bronx, Sect. 13, Pl. 80; College of Mount Saint Vincent—Campus Map; College of Mount Saint Vincent—History; “History in Stone on Mount Hilltop,” Sr. Regina Bechtle, Visions 12(1), 2008, p. 14.

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Cornell Cemetery, Little Neck

Samuel Cornell’s tombstone, April 1927. (QBPL)

Tombstone of Samuel Cornell (d. 1841). Photo taken April 1927. (QBPL)

Here lies a youth in prime of life
By death was snatched away.
His soul is blest and gone to rest,
Though flesh is gone to clay.
He is gone forever his life’s sun is set.
But its golden beams linger to comfort us yet.
He has gone in the fulness of beauty and youth,
An emblem of virtue, a witness for truth.
 
Strangers, remember, you must die.

This poignant epitaph, concluding with a bleak reminder to the living, is from the gravestone of Samuel Cornell, who died in 1841 at the age of 20.  His was one of four markers that were found by the Queens Topographical Bureau in 1923 in a plot located at today’s Little Neck Parkway and Nassau Blvd.  Along with Samuel Cornell’s monument, the 67’ x 74’ graveyard had tombstones for John Cornell (d. 1847), Atletter Ann Herrick (d. 1849) and Emeline Penny (d. 1850).  The site was a known burying ground of the Cornell family, who were among the earliest English settlers in Little Neck. The small cemetery, with the four markers still present, was discovered again in 1952 when a shopping center was built at the site.  The remains from the graveyard were likely moved to the cemetery at Zion Episcopal Church in Douglaston, where other members of the Cornell family are buried.

The Cornell Cemetery near Little Neck Road (todays Little Neck Parkway), as surveyed in 1923 by Queens Topographical Bureau.

The Cornell Cemetery near Little Neck Road (today’s Little Neck Parkway), as surveyed in 1923 by Queens Topographical Bureau.

Approximate location of the Cornell Cemetery on the estate of John Cornell, 1913.

Approximate location of the Cornell Cemetery on the estate of John Cornell, 1913.

View of the Cornell Cemetery in 1952. (NY Herald Tribune)

View of the Cornell Cemetery in 1952. (NY Herald Tribune)

Present day view of the former Cornell Cemetery site, now part  of a shopping center property.

Present day view of the former Cornell Cemetery site, now the location of a shopping center.

Sources:  Hyde’s 1913 Atlas of the Borough of Queens 3:Pl 20; Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens, 64-65; “Queens Builder Finds 100-Year-Old Tombstones on Lot—He’ll Spare Them,” New York Herald Tribune, Dec 29, 1952, 3; NYCityMap.

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The Marble Cemeteries

The New York Marble Cemetery and New York City Marble Cemetery are the city’s two oldest non-sectarian cemeteries. Perpetually confused with one another since they were created in the early 1830s, these private cemeteries were formed by businessmen seeking to provide alternatives to churchyard and public graveyard interments after burials were prohibited in lower Manhattan by city ordinances in the 1820s. Featuring underground vaults that are the size of small rooms and made of Tuckahoe marble, the two Marble cemeteries were built in the area of Second Avenue between Second and Third streets in the East Village, a neighborhood that developers hoped would soon become a fashionable residential locale. The cemeteries were initially popular and members of a number of distinguished families were entombed there; however, by the 1870s rural cemeteries in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx were preferred and the Marble cemeteries primarily were used as storage vaults for bodies awaiting burial at these places. Sporadic entombments continued in the Marble cemeteries until the 1930s; both were designated NYC Landmarks in 1969 and now are open to the public on special occasions.

Location of the Marble cemeteries in 1852.  The half-acre NY Marble Cemetery was incorporated in 1830; the slightly larger NYC Marble Cemetery was built one block away in 1832.

Location of the Marble cemeteries in 1852. The half-acre NY Marble Cemetery was incorporated in 1830; the slightly larger NYC Marble Cemetery was built one block away in 1832.

Aerial view of the Marble cemeteries in 2012.

Aerial view of the Marble cemeteries in 2012.

New York Marble Cemetery

View of the NY Marble Cemetery in 1893.

View of the New York Marble Cemetery in 1893. Most of the 2,060 interments in the cemetery took place between 1830 and 1870; the last was in 1937.

View of the NY Marble Cemetery, May 2008.

View of the New York Marble Cemetery, 2008.

The entrance to the NY Marble Cemetery, in a narrow alley at what was once known as 411⁄2 Second Avenue.

The entrance to the New York Marble Cemetery, in a narrow alley at what was once known as 411⁄2 Second Avenue.

Most of the 2,060 interments in the NY Marble Cemetery took place between 1830 and 1870; the last was in 1937.  All burials are in 156 below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble.  The names of the original owners are on plaques surrounding the walls.

All burials in the New York Marble Cemetery are in 156 below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble. The names of the original owners are on plaques on the surrounding walls.

View more photos of the New York Marble Cemetery.

New York City Marble Cemetery

View of the New York City Marble Cemetery.  Unlike its predecessor, it permitted family monuments and individual markers to identify the underground vaults.

View of the New York City Marble Cemetery in 1893. Unlike its predecessor, it permitted family monuments and individual markers to identify the underground vaults.

View of the New York City Marble Cemetery in May 2008.

View of the New York City Marble Cemetery entrance on Second Street, 2008.

Vault marker in New York City Marble Cemetery.  The site contains 258 vaults.

Vault marker in New York City Marble Cemetery. The site contains 258 vaults.

View of a vault door looking down from ground level (Courtesy New York City Marble Cemetery).

View of a vault door looking down from ground level (New York City Marble Cemetery).

View more photos of the New York City Marble Cemetery.

Sources: The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History (D.C. Sloan 1991), 40-42; King’s 1893 Handbook of New York City, 506, 511; Dripps’ 1852 Map of the City of New-York extending northward to Fiftieth St; NYCityMapNew York Marble CemeteryNew York City Marble Cemetery.

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St. Raymond’s Churchyard

The small yard in front of the Church of St. Raymond, with it’s handful of gravestones, is a vestige of a much larger burial ground that was the first Catholic cemetery in the Bronx.  Located at the corner of Castle Hill Avenue and East Tremont Avenue, the parish was founded in 1842 when an acre of land was obtained by Reverend John Hughes to create a Catholic church and cemetery in what was then the village of Westchester.  In 1847 the cemetery was enlarged by the purchase of another acre and this site was in constant use as the parish burial ground until a new, larger St. Raymond’s Cemetery was established about two miles southeast of the church, in 1875.  Most of the graves from the churchyard, which extended along the west side of the church as well as to the rear, likely were transferred to St. Raymond’s Cemetery as the parish complex grew throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Location of St. Raymond’s Catholic parish complex at East Tremont Ave and Castle Hill Ave in the Bronx.

Location of St. Raymond’s Catholic parish complex at East Tremont Ave and Castle Hill Ave in the Bronx.

St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1868.

St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1868.

A view of St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1905 (NYPL)

A view of St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1905 (NYPL)

St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1913.

St. Raymond’s Catholic Church and burial ground in 1913.

View of gravestones in St. Raymond’s churchyard, October 2010.

View of gravestones in St. Raymond’s churchyard, October 2010.

View more photos of St. Raymond’s Churchyard.

Sources:  History of Westchester County. . . (J. Scharf 1886), 814; “The Catholic Cemeteries of New York,” Historical Records and Studies 1, 377; St. Raymond’s Cemetery; NYCityMap; Beers’ 1868 Atlas of New York and Vicinity, Pl. 16; Bromley’s 1913 Atlas of the City of New York, Borough of the Bronx, Vol 3, Pl 26.

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Most Holy Trinity Cemetery

A landscape dotted with rusted metal markers and wooden crosses, Most Holy Trinity Cemetery in Brooklyn is one of the city’s most unique and visually arresting graveyards.  Nestled at the end of Central Avenue in Bushwick and bounded by Evergreen Cemetery and the tracks of the NYC Subway’s L train, the 23-acre cemetery was established in 1851 as a new cemetery for Most Holy Trinity Church, the first German Catholic church in Williamsburg.  The parish cemetery was originally located behind the church at Montrose Avenue in East Williamsburg; when a new church building and schools were planned for that site, a four-acre parcel of land was purchased from Evergreen Cemetery to serve as a church cemetery.  The remains from the Montrose Avenue site were transferred to the new Most Holy Trinity Cemetery and, as the need for burial space grew over the years to accommodate an estimated 25,000 graves, the church purchased additional parcels from Evergreen until the parish cemetery reached its present size.

Location of Most Holy Trinity Cemetery.

Location of Most Holy Trinity Cemetery.

Holy Trinity Cemetery in 1880.

Holy Trinity Cemetery in 1880.

When Most Holy Trinity Cemetery was created, the church resolved that no distinctions were permitted to be made between the rich and the poor, and the rule was established that no stone monuments could be erected. Until very recent times, when flat gravestones have been permitted, only simple wooden and metal markers indicated the resting places of the dead.  This “democratic equality of the grave” set the graveyard apart from others in the area and the markers created a remarkable visual spectacle.  An 1890 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described it:

The monuments that surmount [the graves] present a curious picture and one that has not a parallel in any other cemetery in the neighborhood of these two cities . . . the monuments are now all of wood, or, especially the later ones, of galvanized iron, dressed in imitation of gray granite.  Nearly all of them have crosses rising above them, but the peculiar feature of nearly every one of them is that it is decorated with highly gilded figures of the crucifix, the winged head of a cherub and lamb.  Some stones contain all of these three figures, some only one.  They sparkle everywhere among the thickly strewn white and gray monuments and give the peculiar aspect to the cemetery that distinguishes it decidedly from all others.

Today, few of the numerous wooden crosses that once filled the cemetery are still present and the weatherworn crucifixes have lost their gilding.  Large grassy areas, probably once filled with wooden crosses, now have only a few markers scattered here and there.  The rusted metal markers, many strangely crumpled and peeling with paint, add to the peculiar atmosphere of this most interesting site.

A profusion of wooden crosses mark the gravesites in Holy Trinity Cemetery, 1929.

A profusion of crosses mark the gravesites in Holy Trinity Cemetery, 1929 (NYPL).

Metal grave markers in Holy Trinity Cemetery, December 2011.

Metal grave markers in Holy Trinity Cemetery, December 2011.

Wooden grave marker in Holy Trinity Cemetery, December 2011.

Wooden grave marker in Holy Trinity Cemetery, December 2011.

View more photos of Most Holy Trinity Cemetery.

Sources: OpenStreetMap; Hopkins’ 1880 Detailed Estate and Old Farm Line Atlas of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 2, Pl. R; The History of Most Holy Trinity Cemetery; “Crosses Gone from Hundreds of Graves in the Trinity Cemetery,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 24 1890, p.6; “Holy Trinity Cemetery. A Unique Burial Ground Which Is a Multiplied Golgotha,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 26 1899, p.18; “A Village Churchyard,” Thomas F. Meehan, Historical Records and Studies 7, 1914, p.183-194.

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Brinckerhoff Cemetery

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows, Queens, is a colonial-era burial ground used by Dutch families who settled in the area.  The Queens Topographical Bureau surveyed the cemetery in 1919,  identifying 77 graves with headstones dating from 1730 to 1872 for members of the Brinckerhoff, Adriance, Hoogland, Snedecker and other families.  When the descendants of these families moved out of the area, the old graveyard was abandoned, neglected, and eventually taken over by the city.  In the mid-20th century, the city sold the land at public auction to a developer, but plans to build on the site have been blocked for decades by Brinckerhoff descendants and the Queens Historical Society.  Today, no headstones are visible at the 45-by-120-foot cemetery, which is nestled between one-family homes on 182nd Street, north of 73rd Avenue.   The site is covered with brush but is kept free of garbage by neighborhood caretakers.  In May 2012, the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association issued an urgent appeal for landmarking the cemetery to protect it from development.  Update:  The city declared the Brinckerhoff Cemetery a landmark on August 14, 2012.

Location of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery.

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery as surveyed in 1919.

A 1927 view of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery (QBPL)

Tombstones of Stephen Rider (d. 1736) and Charyty Anthony (d. 1763), Brinckerhoff Cemetery, 1927 (QBPL)

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery, July 2010.

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery, July 2010.

Sources: Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens 36-37, 41; “Ghouls Despoil Cemetery,” North Shore Daily Journal, May 18, 1934;“Two Old Cemeteries Auctioned Off by City,” Long Island Star Journal, Feb. 9, 1962; “Suing to Reclaim a Family Plot, Gone but Not Forgotten,” New York Times, March 5, 2000; “Fighting to Keep Builder Off Colonial Graves,” NY Daily News, June 29, 2008; NYCityMap

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