A small hill tucked between a section of the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail and apartment buildings of the Alley Pond Owners Corp. in Bayside, Queens, may contain the remains of a 19th century African American burial ground. Little is known about the burial site, but an 1870 notice briefly describes it:
Dutch Jake, Jacob Johnson, elderly colored resident of the Alley, was buried in the colored burying ground near Rocky Hill, which he had reserved for the use of his brethren when disposing of a piece of property he owned in that vicinity. (Flushing Journal, Nov. 12, 1870, p. 2).
An 1873 map of Bayside, including the area that is referred to in the notice, identifies a “Mrs. Johnson” located in the vicinity, but the burial ground is not shown. Property records for the Alley Pond Owners Corp. apartments, which were built just after World War II, specifically exclude the “quarter acre burial ground plot” from the apartment complex and describe the burial ground as located 14.39 feet south of the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail, with a depth of 149 feet and a frontage of 72 feet. Currently owned by the city, the site is unmarked, contains no headstones, and is covered with debris and vegetation.
Update August 2019: Thomas McGlinchey has gathered the following information which provides further historical details regarding this site.
Jacob Johnson is first noted as a resident of the Town of Flushing in 1830, described as a free colored man. The 1860 Census shows Jacob, age 70, residing with wife, Jane, age 53, and four children, Jacob (18), David (14), William (14) and Samuel (10). The cemetery is reserved within a deed transferred by Jacob Johnson and wife to James Valentine, Jr. in 1855 (recorded 9/13/1855 in Liber 135 of Conveyances at page 124). The surrounding community is unaware of the site’s history as a burial ground, and it has long been used as a “hang-out” for local youth. Bayside Historical Society, Community Board 11, and the local NYC Parks administrator are supporting Mr. McGlinchey’s efforts to have the burial ground annexed to Alley Pond Park so that it may be protected and recognized.