Category Archives: family burial grounds

Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery

Situated in the middle of a blockful of buildings at 96th Street and Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven, Queens, the Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery is a relic of the area’s early history. The 85 x 266 foot tract is named for two families of Dutch descent who, around 1785, set aside equal portions of their adjoining farms for a local burying ground.  About 200 area residents, including members of the Lott, Eldert, Suydam, Snedeker, and Wyckoff families, were buried there until it ceased to be used in the late 1800s.

Location of the Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery (NYCityMap)

Abandoned as descendants of the old families died out or moved away, the Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery became neglected and dilapidated during the early 20th century.  In 1901, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was built on 96th Street, abutting the west side of the cemetery, and single-family homes and other buildings gradually surrounded the remainder of the graveyard.  A 421-foot path from Jamaica Avenue, a perpetual right-of-way to the burying ground, transformed into an alley lined with garages.  In 1962, St. Matthew’s Church purchased the cemetery for $500 at city auction after it had been seized for non-payment of taxes. Members of the parish, along with volunteers from the Queens Historical Society and Woodhaven Historical Society, have worked to restore the site, periodically clearing it of growth and debris and righting toppled tombstones.  Around 100 gravestones are still present in the cemetery today, ranging from early fieldstone and brownstone markers to later marble and granite monuments.  About 30 trees, all over 100 years old, also remain, adding to the bucolic atmosphere of the old graveyard.

The Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery in 1912 (Hyde 1912)
Tombstones in the Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery. (Mary French)

See more photos of the Wyckoff-Snediker Cemetery.

Sources:  Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens (Powell & Meigs 1932), 48-53; The Story of Woodhaven and Ozone Park (Seyfried 1985), 9; “Children Play Among Gravestones,” Long Island Daily Press, Sept. 18, 1935; “Two Old Cemeteries Auctioned Off by City,” Long Island Star Journal, Feb. 9, 1962; “A Cemetery in Woodhaven,” Leader-Observer, Oct. 31, 1974; “The Dead of New York,” The Economist, Jan. 18, 2008; Hyde’s 1912 Atlas of the Borough of Queens 1:Pl. 4; NYCityMap.

Hopper Family Burial Ground

The Hopper Family Burial Ground in 1884 (Mott 1908)

In 1879, a New York Times reporter described a small burial ground that stood at the corner of 9th Avenue and 50th Street in Manhattan:

On the line of the New-York Elevated Railroad is a station commonly known as the “Grave-yard Station.”  It is at the junction of Ninth-avenue and Fiftieth-street, and receives its name from a little grave-yard, about 50 feet square, that occupies the south-west corner of the intersecting streets.  It is some six feet above the level of the street, and is not much noticed by those on the side-walk, who see nothing but the heavy stone wall surrounding it; but from the platform of the station its handful of gray, crumbling tombstones can be plainly seen, and its forlorn and neglected condition noted.  It is bounded on two sides by the streets, on a third by the high blank wall of a store, and on the fourth by a wooden tenement-house, from which a door opens upon it, and to which it makes a convenient front yard.  Near this door some of the mounds have been leveled, and a patch of ground a few feet square has been dug up and raked over, so as to form a bit of a garden.  Dirty children tumble and play over the other graves, and among the tottering stones, and above all, lines of newly-washed garments are blown about in the wind.  No tender recollections appear to cling to the spot, and its appearance is pathetic.  As the passenger on the railroad, while waiting for his train, attempts to decipher the almost obliterated inscriptions on the monuments beneath him, and questions the employees of the road, who prove to know as little as himself, he wonders that a place so neglected should be retained for its present uses instead of having been built upon long since, as has every other available plot of ground in the vicinity.  He notices that on all of the stones upon which the inscriptions are legible the name is “Hopper” . . .

This burial ground was originally part of the Hopper farm, a large estate that extended from 6th Avenue to the Hudson River between 49th and 54th Streets.   Mattias Hopper, the son of Dutch settlers who came to New Amsterdam in 1652, acquired the land in 1714 in the district that was then known as Bloomingdale.  Mattias’ son, John Hopper, took possession of the farm around 1750.  When John Hopper died in 1778, his will ordered that the farm be divided into six equal portions among his heirs, who entered into an agreement that the family graveyard would be reserved as a burial ground forever.  The graveyard continued to be used until 1840, and members of the Hopper, Varian, Cozine, and Horn families were buried there.

In 1846, portions of the graveyard were cut off when 50th Street and 9th Avenue were laid out to the north and east of it and the remains of several individuals were relocated to another part of the cemetery.  Buildings rose on the other sides of the property, and the old cemetery was forgotten and neglected. The Hopper farm was famous for a number of 19th century legal battles concerning rights to the estate, including litigation that followed the removal of the burial ground in 1885.  Ellsworth L. Striker, a Hopper family descendant who claimed possession of the property, removed the graves and subsequently built an apartment house on the site.  Striker’s rights to the property were disputed, but the state Supreme Court eventually decided in his favor. Sources disagree as to whether the remains from the Hopper burial ground were reinterred at Trinity Cemetery in upper Manhattan or at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Surveys of the Hopper Family Burial Ground from 1820 (left) and 1857 (right) (Tuttle 1851 & Perris 1857)
Present-day view of the Hopper Family Burial Ground site.
Present-day view of the Hopper Family Burial Ground site (NYCityMap)

Sources: “Some Old Grave-yards,” New York Times, May 18, 1879; “The Hopper Burial Place,” New York Herald-Tribune, April 28, 1885, p. 1; Mott, Hopper, Striker (The Historical Co. 1898); The New York of Yesterday: A Descriptive Narrative of Old Bloomingdale (Mott 1908) ; Blackman v. Striker (The New York Supplement Vol 21 1893, 563-565); 1820 Map of Land Belong to the Estate of John Hopper (Abstracts of Farm Titles…Tuttle 1881); Perris’ 1857 Atlases of New York City, Pl. 101; NYCityMap.

Johnson Burial Ground

The Johnson Burial Ground site. The site slopes upward from behind the apartment buildings toward the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail.
The Johnson Burial Ground site. The site slopes upward from behind the apartment buildings toward the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail (Mary French)

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.

1873 map of Bayside, showing “Mrs. Johnson” located between Rocky Hill Road (present day Springfield Blvd) and Alley Pond (Beers 1873)
Current location of the Johnson Burial Ground (NYCityMap)
Johnson Burial Ground (Mary French)

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.

Sources: Beers’ Atlas of Long Island Pl 58; NYCityMap; Deed, Alley Pond Owners Corp., 10/5/1985, p. 4; Thomas McGlinchey, personal communication, Jul 21, 2019.

Indian Cemetery, Little Neck (Waters Family Burial Ground)

A view of the Indian Cemetery at Little Neck, 1926 (NYC Municipal Archives)
A view of the Indian Cemetery at Little Neck, 1926 (NYC Municipal Archives)

In 1931, the City of New York removed remains from a historic Indian cemetery in Little Neck, Queens, to allow for widening of Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and the Queens-Nassau county border.  The cemetery was the property of members of the Waters family of Little Neck, who were of Matinecock, Shinnecock, and Montauk ancestry.  James Waters (Chief Wild Pigeon), a leader in the Long Island Native American community, fought the removal.  Waters reportedly lived to the rear of the cemetery and had written about the site when it was surveyed by the Queens Topographical Bureau in 1919.

The 1919 survey of the cemetery identified 13 graves at the site. Only six headstones bore inscriptions, with dates on the headstones ranging from 1859 to 1904; all but one of these were for members of the Waters families.  One of the headstones recorded during the survey was for Charles Waters, who died in Oct. 1896 and whose death was reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 17 1896 p5
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct 17 1896 p5

Opposition by Chief Wild Pigeon and others delayed removal of the graves for several years, but in October 1931 the disinterrment proceeded and the remains of about 30 individuals were subsequently reinterred in a plot in the cemetery of the nearby Zion Episcopal Church of Douglaston.  A boulder split in two, with a tree growing in between, marks the reburial site and is inscribed “Here rest the last of the Matinecoc.”  The site of the old Indian cemetery is now occupied by buildings that currently house a realty office and a restaurant.

The Indian Cemetery in 1913, located on the north side of Broadway (today's Northern Blvd) between Clinton Ave (Marathon Pkwy) and Old House Landing Rd (Little Neck Pkwy).
The Indian Cemetery in 1913, located on the north side of Broadway (today’s Northern Blvd) between Clinton Ave (Marathon Pkwy) and Old House Landing Rd (Little Neck Pkwy) (Hyde 1913)
The Indian Cemetery as surveyed in 1919 by Queens Topographical Bureau.
Present day view of the former Indian Cemetery site.
Present day view of the former Indian Cemetery site (NYCityMap)
Police inspect the Indian Cemetery in August 1931, a few months before its removal. (Daily News)
Excavation of the Indian Cemetery in October 1931 (NYC Municipal Archives)
Excavation of the Indian Cemetery in October 1931 (NYC Municipal Archives)
The marker at the site of the plot where remains from the Indian Cemetery where reinterred at Zion Episcopal Churchyard, Douglaston (NYPL)

Sources:  Hyde’s 1913 Atlas of the Borough of Queens 3:Pl.21; Description of Private and Family Cemeteries in the Borough of Queens 42-44; “Queens Indians Agree to Removal of Bodies,” New York Times, April 24, 1927; “Indian Cemetery in Queens Excavated for Boulevard,” Brooklyn Standard Union Oct. 16, 1931; “Collection and Use of Indigenous Human Remains” (Sanders 2005), 141-143; NYCityMap.

Leverich Family Burial Ground

Entrance to the Leverich Family Burial Ground, Oct. 2010
Entrance to the Leverich Family Burial Ground, Oct. 2010 (Mary French)

This small family burial ground, hidden behind homes and businesses along Leverich St and 35th Ave, in Jackson Heights, Queens, is all that remains of the colonial homestead established by Caleb Leverich in the 17th century, in what was then the Trains Meadow section of old Newtown, Long Island.  Caleb was the son of English minister William Leverich, who immigrated to America in 1633.  The Leveriches became a prominent Newtown family and their old homestead, originally built by Caleb in 1670, stood nearby the burial ground until it burned down in 1909.

When the cemetery was first used is unknown.  Nineteenth-century historian James Riker recorded the 33 headstones that were present in the cemetery in 1842; the earliest was that of Caleb’s grandson John Leverich, who died in 1780.  The cemetery appears to have fallen out of use during the mid-1800s, around which time the Leverich homestead seems to have passed out of the family. Although the cemetery was abandoned as family members moved out of the area, the plot was excluded from the development that sprung up around it in the early 20th century.

City property records still identify the site as the Leverich Family Burial Ground, but there is nothing left to distinguish it as such.  All of the headstones have disappeared, there are no signs identifying it as a burial ground, and the site is tangled with brush and debris and strewn with rubbish. The cemetery has not been completely forgotten, however; many of the surrounding business- and homeowners know that the site is an old graveyard and some have attempted to clean up and protect the area.  When I visited the site in October 2010, the owner of one of the adjacent homes said that he and other neighbors had some of the debris hauled off and that they had installed the gate at the site’s entrance, which is in an alley behind neighboring businesses.  A neighborhood woman holds the key to the gate, and comes each day to feed the cats that seek shelter there. A family descendant, Tom Leverich, has researched and written about the burial ground, and local preservationists and community groups have also expressed concern for the site and an interest in preserving it.

The Leverich burial ground and family home on old Trains Meadow Road in the 19th century (Beers 1873)
The Leverich Family Burial Ground in 1903 (Hyde 1903)
Site of the Leverich Family Burial Ground today (NYCityMap)

View more photos of the Leverich Family Burial Ground

Update Oct 2017:  Leverich Family Burial Ground is now regularly cared for by neighborhood groups and used as a community space.  See photos of the revitalized site.

Sources:  “Leverich Family Burial Ground”; “Rev. William Leverich”; “Leverich (Leveridge) Family History and Geneaology”; The Annals of Newtown (Riker 1852), 350-354; Riker’s 1852 Map of Newtown; Beers 1873 Atlas of Long Island Pl. 52 ; Hyde’s 1903 Atlas of the Borough of Queens 2:Pl. 30); NYCityMapWoodside: A Historical Perspective, 1652-1994 (Catherine Gregory 1994) 23.