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.
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)
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.
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).