Burroughs Family Cemetery

View of the Burroughs Family Cemetery, ca. 1922 (NYHS)
A view of the Burroughs Family Cemetery, ca. 1922 (New-York Historical Society)

NYC officials proved to have short memories in the 1950s and 1960s when they repeatedly sold and then had to buy back a piece of land in Corona, Queens, after title searches revealed the property was an old cemetery. The plot in question, located near 94th Street and Alstyne and Corona avenues, was earmarked as a private cemetery under a last will and testament admitted to probate on January 3, 1821. It was once part of the estate belonging to the Burroughs family who settled in the area in the 17th century. By the late 1800s, the family had sold off most of their old farm land and retained only the ancestral burial ground. The Queens Topographical Bureau surveyed the cemetery in 1919, identifying 16 graves with headstones dating from 1793 to 1871 for members of the Burroughs, Vandervoort, and Waters families.

Location of the Burroughs burial ground in 1919 (Queens Topographical Bureau)
Location of the Burroughs burial ground in 1919 (Queens Topographical Bureau)

As the descendants of those interred there moved out of the area, the cemetery was abandoned, neglected, and became a dumping ground for neighborhood refuse. In 1954, the city seized the property in a delinquent tax action—erroneously it turned out, since private burial grounds, like all cemeteries, are tax exempt. The site was then mistakenly sold at public auction at least twice, in 1956 and 1960. In each case, the city refunded the buyers when they discovered they could not develop the property unless the cemetery was removed, a long and expensive process that would require tracing descendants to obtain permission to move the bodies. It is not known if the remains were ever removed from the Burroughs cemetery site, which is now covered with residential buildings and asphalt.

Another view of the Burroughs Cemetery, ca. 1922. The former Durkee factory (now Elmhurst Education Campus) is in the background (NYHS)
Another view of the Burroughs Cemetery, ca. 1922. The former Durkee factory (now Elmhurst Educational Campus) is in the background (New-York Historical Society)
Approximate location of the former Burroughs Cemetery site.
Approximate location of the former Burroughs Cemetery site today (NYCityMap)

Sources: History of Queens County, New York (Munsell 1882), 344; Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens, 12-13; “City Stuck with Two Cemeteries,” Sunday News March 4, 1956; “Oops! City Discovers it Sold a Cemetery!” Long Island Daily Press, Jan 24, 1957; “City Digs Up Info on Lost Cemetery,” Long Island Star Journal, April 22, 1957, 3; “He Buys a Cemetery, Gets His 2Gs Back,” Long Island Star Journal, March 23, 1962, 3; NYCityMap.

2 thoughts on “Burroughs Family Cemetery”

  1. I am descended from the Newtown Burroughs Family and have watched helplessly over the past 25 years as requests to stop it being sold and built upon to no avail. The southern portion, 94-18 Alstine was first, then the northern portion 94-21 Alstine was next – in the past 5 years or so.

    John Burroughs, Newtown Clerk, was instrumental in penning the Newtown Remonstance which led to the New York Charter of Liberties. It is believed that he was related to the Burroughs family which produced a number of religious figures in the 17th Century>
    Bob Singleton, Exec Dir, Greater Astoria Historical Society

  2. Hi Bob,
    I stumbled across the information on the Burroughs Family Cemetery and saw your post. As I understand it, Joseph Burroughs (1748-1820) was the patriarch. One of his daughters, Anna, married a Vandervoort and that brought that family name to the cemetery. I don’t know the relationship with the other surnames.

    I am of the belief that Joseph’s 2nd great grandfather was John Burroughs (possibly married to Elizabeth Jessup and that he was the son of Rev Jeremiah Burroughs) and that they (John and Elizabeth) had 2 sons (Joseph and Jeremiah) and 2 daughters (Joanna and Mary) in the mid-1600’s. Son, Joseph, is possibly the grandfather of the Joseph buried the cemetery. I believe I am a descendant of the other son, Jeremiah.

    My ancestors had so many “John/Jonathan’s” and “Jeremiah’s” that I find it difficult to keep track but I constantly find locations, such as Newtown, Amwell and Fayette before my line moved to Michigan between 1853 and 1860.

    With much of my information being speculative, have you looked further into the ancestry of the “buried” Joseph?
    David Burroughs

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