Category Archives: Queens

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.