Tag Archives: Queens cemeteries

Fourth Shearith Israel Cemetery / Beth Olam Cemetery

The Calvert Vaux chapel at Beth Olom.
The Calvert Vaux chapel at Beth Olam. (Mary French)

Following the closure of its First, Second and Third cemeteries in Manhattan during the first half of the 19th century, in 1851 Congregation Shearith Israel established a seven-acre cemetery in the Cypress Hills area that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border.  The Fourth Shearith Israel Cemetery is one of three burial grounds that form Beth Olam Cemetery, which is co-owned by Shearith Israel along with two other Manhattan synagogues.  B’nai Jeshurun, NYC’s second-oldest Jewish congregation, founded in 1825 by a faction that seceded from Shearith Israel, has a four-acre burial ground within Beth Olam; Shaaray Tefila, an offspring of B’nai Jeshurun that formed in 1845, has two acres.  Beth Olam is located on the west side of Cypress Hills Street, just south of Jackie Robinson Parkway, in the Ridgewood-East New York neighborhoods. About half the property lies in Queens and the other half in Brooklyn.

Several thousand members of Shearith Israel, B’nai Jeshurun, and Shaaray Tefila are interred at Beth Olam, including a number of the congregations’ spiritual leaders. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1932-1938, is buried in the Shearith Israel cemetery at Beth Olam, as is his uncle and namesake, Benjamin Nathan, a vice president of the New York Stock Exchange whose 1870 murder remains one of the city’s famous unsolved crimes.  Poet Emma Lazarus, whose sonnet “The New Colossus” is inscribed at the base of The Statue of Liberty, is also interred at Beth Olam. The chapel near the entrance to the Shearith Israel section at Beth Olam is the work of Calvert Vaux, the co-designer of Central Park. Commissioned in 1882, the small, red brick chapel is the only religious building that Vaux is known to have built.

Location of Beth Olam Cemetery, which includes the Fourth Shearith Israel cemetery and burial grounds of B’nai Jeshurun and Shaaray Tefila (OpenStreetMap)
The divisions of Beth Olam Cemetery in Queens (top) and Brooklyn (bottom), 1905 (Hyde 1905)
Entrance to the Fourth Shearith Israel Cemetery at Beth Olam. (Mary French)

View more photos of Beth Olam Cemetery

Sources: Ullitz’s 1898-99 Atlas of the Brooklyn Borough…Vol. 1, Pl. 44; Hyde’s 1903 Atlas of the Borough of Queens Vol. 2, Pl. 29; Hyde’s 1905 Atlas of the Borough of Brooklyn Vol. 4, Pl. 10; Portraits Etched in Stone 141-142 (de Sola Pool, 1952); “Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938),” Judicial Notice 6, Jan 2009, 3-18; “The Criminal Record: The Nathan Murder,” New York Herald Tribune, Aug. 2, 1870; Country, Park & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux 285 (Francis R. Kowsky 2003); AIA Guide to New York City 779 (White et al 2010); NYCityMap; OpenStreetMap

Mount Lebanon Cemetery

Abraham Sanders and his daughter, Esther, beside the memorial to their family in Mount Lebanon Cemetery (Forward)

There may be eight million stories in the Naked City, but there are countless stories of loss represented in the city’s graveyards.  In Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Queens, the monument to Celia Sanders and her five children embodies one example of intense personal tragedy. Striking in its size and simplicity, the memorial is in the form of six blocks in descending height that represent the mother and her children, aged four to fifteen, who perished together in a tenement building fire in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1932. Abraham Sanders, the father, and his sole surviving daughter were joined by 3,000 mourners at the family’s funeral.

The Sanders family is among over 88,000 interments at Mount Lebanon, a Jewish cemetery founded in 1915 on 85 acres of dormant land purchased from Cypress Hills Cemetery.  Located south of Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, it is bordered by Cypress Hills and Jackie Robinson Parkway, and is one of a number of cemeteries along the Queens-Brooklyn border. Over 240 societies and synagogues have areas in the cemetery, and thousands more plots are owned by individual families.

The Sanders family monument, Block WC, Section M, Mount Lebanon Cemetery.
The Sanders family monument, Block WC, Section M, Mount Lebanon Cemetery. (Mary French)

View more photos of Mount Lebanon Cemetery.

Sources: “Mother Dies in Fire with Five Children,” New York Times, April 14, 1932; “Six of Family Buried,” New York Times, April 16, 1932; “Cemeteries of Greater Ridgewood and Vicinity (R. Eisen, Greater Ridgewood Historical Society Lecture, Aug. 1988); A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward (Newhouse 2007), 129; Mount Lebanon Cemetery; NYCityMap.

Passionist Monastery Cemetery

View of the Passionist Cemetery, Nov. 2010.
View of the Passionist Cemetery, Nov. 2010 (Mary French)

This cemetery is on the grounds of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica Estates, Queens, and is exclusive to members of the Passionist order. The Passionists founded the parish in 1924, when they purchased 16 acres of hillside property and established a monastery, church, school, and gardens.  The cemetery has been used since the 1960s as a burial place for senior priests from Immaculate Conception Monastery and elsewhere.

The small cemetery contains the graves of about 70 Passionist priests and brothers.  Dates on the headstones range from 1961 to present.  In addition to the graves, the cemetery has memorials to a number of Passionist missionaries who died overseas.  Among those buried in the Passionist Cemetery is Rev. Leo Joseph Gorman, who for many years hosted “The Sunday Mass” syndicated television program.

Location of the Passionist Cemetery on the grounds of Immaculate Conception parish (NYCityMap)
Passionist Cemetery, Nov. 2010 (Mary French)
Passionist Cemetery, Nov. 2010 (Mary French)

Sources:  Jamaica Estates (Carl Ballenas 2010); Carl Ballenas, personal communication, Sept. 1, 2010; 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.

Strattonport Village Cemetery

From about 1851 to 1861, a village cemetery occupied the vicinity of present-day 125th Street and 15th Avenue, in College Point, Queens.  The site served as a community burial ground for residents of Strattonport, an area that was laid out into lots by land speculators in 1851 and was incorporated into the town of College Point in 1867.  John Flammer, one of the businessmen who developed Strattonport village in 1851, apparently provided the property that was used for the cemetery.  A map of the village from ca. 1860 (below) identifies four lots as “Cemetery given by Flammer.” These lots are shown on the south side of the Road to Whitestone (today’s 15th Ave), west of Amelia Street (125th St), extending to Wall Street (124th St).

In 1856, a local newspaper published the following notice regarding the cemetery:

Notice is hereby given to the inhabitants of Strattonport and all other persons, who have buried their dead on my lots at Strattonport, situated on the east side of Amelia Street, and known on the map of Strattonport as Lots numbered 677, 682, 683, and 684, to remove the same to some other place of burial by or before the 20th day of November next.  JOHN REED.  Dated, Sept 10, 1856. (Flushing Journal, Nov. 29, 1856)

Strattonport village map, ca. 1860, showing the “Cemetery given by Flammer” and the four lots identified by John Reed as a cemetery in his 1856 notice (Poppenhusen Institute Archives)

Reed’s notice states that the burials were located on lots on the east side of Amelia Street, whereas the village map from ca. 1860 shows the “Cemetery given by Flammer” on the west side of Amelia Street.  It is not known whether the map is incorrect, if the wrong lots are listed in the notice, or if the cemetery extended to both sides of the street. In any case, burials were certainly present on John Reed’s property and continued to be made even after his 1856 request for removal of the bodies.  In 1860, he gave another notice to the community:

Notice has been given by Mr. Reed to those who have friends interred in the Strattonport burying ground to have them removed by Feb. 1st as all bodies not removed by that time by friends, will be interred elsewhere. (Flushing Journal, Dec. 29, 1860)

Shortly after this last notice, family members removed the remains of 20 individuals from the burial ground to Flushing Cemetery, in nearby Flushing, Queens.  Flushing Cemetery recorded details about these individual removals and their records provide the only known information about individuals originally buried at the Strattonport cemetery.  According to their records, dates of death for the named individuals removed from the Strattonport cemetery ranged from 1853 to 1859, and surnames included Baker, Bien, Boyle, Derbing, Everhart, Gruner, Holdorff, Leopold, Loerbecker, Miller, Myers, Plitt, Schneider, and Simon.

On March 10, 1861, John Reed had workers remove from his property the remaining 68 bodies that had gone unclaimed.  These were reinterred in two plots that he had purchased at Flushing Cemetery to serve as a common grave.  No one installed a gravestone at the reburial site when the remains were reinterred, and the gravesite remained unmarked until the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point placed a monument at the site in April 2007.

Since the early 20th century, homes have occupied both of the areas (the lots owned by John Reed and the area described as the “Cemetery given by Flammer”) near 15th Ave and 125th St in College Point that were identified as the location of the Strattonport Village Cemetery in the 1800s.

View of plots 20 & 21, Section J, at Flushing Cemetery – the reburial site of remains removed from Strattonport Village Cemetery in 1861 (Mary French)
The marker installed at the Strattonport Village Cemetery reburial site by the Poppenhusen Institute in 2007 (Mary French)

Sources:  Strattonport Cemetery document file, Poppenhusen Institute Archives; Map of the Village of Flammersburg, including the land called Strattonport between College Point and Flushing, Long Island (original on file at Topographical Bureau, Borough of 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 Native American 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.