St. Fidelis Parish was founded in 1856 to serve the Catholic community of Strattonport village, which later became part of College Point, Queens. Originally consisting of a small congregation of German and English-speaking families, the parish’s first church was a small wooden building on 124th Street, between 14th and 15th Avenues. Next to the church on its south side was a small churchyard where members of the congregation were buried. In 1894, the bodies from St. Fidelis churchyard were disinterred and removed to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Flushing to make room for the new brick church building that still stands at the site today. St. Fidelis has no records of their old church graveyard, but remnants of the cemetery have been found on several occasions.
When local historian Robert Friedrich compiled information about St. Fidelis cemetery in the 1960s, the church’s pastor, Msgr. William Osborne, recalled that coffin handles and bones where unearthed during construction along the church’s south façade in the 1930s. Later, a human skull was found during landscaping in the same vicinity. In 1965, a tombstone inscribed “JOHANN ADAM WILLMANN GEB. [born] 12 OCT 1860, GEST [died] 12 APRIL 1863” was unearthed in the backyard of a house a block south of St. Fidelis. When the homeowners moved into the house in the 1940s, they found priests’ pictures and church pews in the attic, evidence that the home had previously been associated with St. Fidelis’ vestry or clergy. The gravestone is thought to have been from either the old St. Fidelis graveyard or the Strattonport Village Cemetery that was located nearby.
Sources: Beers 1873 Atlas of Long Island, Pl. 66; 1894 Brooklyn Citizen Almanac, 440; “Find Tombstone in Backyard,” North Shore News, July 27, 1965; “Cemeteries: St. Fidelis,” Robert Friedrich Collection, Poppenhusen Institute Archives.