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Cemeteries in Rye


In Charles Baird's book (published in 1871) Chronicle of a Border Town: History of Rye, Westchester County, New York, 1660-1870, including Harrison and the White Plains till 1788, there is a chapter on cemeteries which follows below in its entirety.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CEMETERIES
'Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.'

"The visitor on his way to our Beach may notice at the turn of the road above Milton, the little burying-ground by Blind Brook; not as differing from other country grave-yards in its aspect of seclusion and neglect, but for the quiet beauty of the scene in which it lies. Just here the outlet of the stream, whose meanderings have proceeded through the low meadow lands, becomes visible toward the south, and the waters of the Sound appear beyond the higher banks that skirt the creek. It is a spot well chosen for its suggestions of rest and of heareafter.

"The oldest legible inscription in this cemetery is to be found on a tombstone near the entrance. It reads thus : --

'Here Lyeth the Body of
NEHEMIAH WEBB,
Son to the Rev'd Mr. Joseph Webb of Fairfield
Who Dyed at Rye April ye 24  1722 in the
28th Year . . . .'

"The preservation of this epitaph for so long a time is doubtless due to the fact that the face of the tombstone has become much inclined, so as to be sheltered from the weather. There are many time-worn slabs around it that are probably much less ancient, but their records cannot be deciphered.

"The oldest inscriptions that are legible on other graves in the Blind Brook Cemetery, are these: --

    'In Memory of Mr. Elisha Budd, who died Sept. ye 21st 1765 in the 60th year of his age.'

    'In Memory of Mrs. Anne Budd, wife of Mr. Elisha Budd, who died Dec. 6th, 1760.'

    Mr. Joseph Lyon, who died Feb. 21, 1761, in the 84th year of his age.'

    Sarah Lyon, wife of Joseph Lyon, died Jan. 26, 1769.'

    'In Memory of Godfrey Hains who departed this Life July 22, 1768, aged 93 years.'

    'In Memory of Anne wife of Godfrey Hains who departed this Life Feb'ry 19, 1758, aged 68 years.'

    'In Memory of Jonathan Brown, who deceased June 15, 1768, aged 62 years.'


Four tombstones in this grave-yard bear the name of EZEKIEL HALSTED :--

    'In Memory of Ezekiel Halsted who Deseased(sic) in Rye 30th October 1757 in the 49th year of his Age.'

    'In Memory of Ezekiel Halsted who departed this life Feb'ry 20th 1805 in the 67th year of his Age.'

    'Sacred to the Memory of Ezekiel Halstead who died April 18 1829 aged 68 years 2 months and 13 days.'

    'Sacred to the Memory of Ezekiel Halstead jr. who died August 26, 1828, aged 41 years and 13 days. Having been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church 22 years.'


One of the tombs in this cemetery was erected --

    'In Memory of Martha wife of Dr David Rogers and daughter of the Rev'd Charles Tennent, who died April 12, 1813, aged 62 years.'

"Two of the rectors of Christ Church lie buried here. Their graves are near the entrance of the grave-yard. The Reverend Evan Rogers, who died January 25, 1809, in his forty-second year; and the Reverend William Thompson, who died August 26, 1830.

"The earliest mention of this burying-ground in our Town Records, occurs in a deed dated 1753. It speaks of 'ye boring [burying] place in Rye neck,' opposite a certain tract of land on the west side of the mill creek, which Samuel Purdy conveyed to his sons, Samuel and Caleb. " [Footnote: Town Records, vol. D. p. 88.]

"In 1761, 'Jonathan Brown iuner is aloud' [allowed] by the town 'the priviledge of pastring the Buring yard upon the Conditions that he mackes a Geat and Cuts the Brush and Keeps it Clear.' [Footnote: Records of Town Meetings, April 7, 1761.] This permission was renewed yearly until 1770.

"It seems likely that the Blind Brook Cemetery was laid out about the year 1750. An aged person has informed me that the land was given to the town for this purpose by Joseph Lyon, who lies buried here, and who died in 1761. The fact that older inscriptions, like that of Mr. Webb, are to be found, may be accounted for by the supposition that bodies were removed to this place from other localities, after the opening of a common burying-ground.

"For it is quite certain that in early times the practice of maintaining private or family places of interment prevailed here, as it did elsewhere. Fifteen or twenty of these cemeteries are still to be seen, and many others have doubtless been obliterated in the course of manifold changes and improvements.

"The earliest allusion in our records to a family burying-ground is in a deed of 1741, from JOSHUA BRUNDIGE to Gilbert Bloomer, conveying his house and farm of thirty acres, on the corner of the Ridge Road and the road to Bloomer's mill. This property is now owned by Mr. Thomas Lyon. The deed in question excepts and reserves --

    'The liberty of a burying place at the southwesterly corner of said premises for the burying of my family, where some persons are already buried.'
[Footnote: Town Records, vol. C. p. 208; vol. D. pp. 130, 161.]

"This plot was to be two rods square. It lies on the north side of the road, nearly opposite Park's mill, and contains a number of graves, with dilapidated head-stones, upon most of which only here and there a letter can be made out. One half-buried slab bears the inscription:--

'R. B.
1771.'

"This was probably Robert Bloomer, the third of that name, who lived in this neighborhood about the year 1765. Members of the Merrit family are known to have been buried here, and many others. One well-preserved inscription is --

    'In memory of Nathaniel Brown, who departed this life April 10th 1801 in the 70th year of his age.'

"The burial-place of a portion of the KNIFFIN family was a plot of ground by the road-side, on the land now owned by Mr. Quintard. This property, a century ago, belonged to Jonathan Kniffin. A few years since some graves could be distinguished from the road at the top of the hill south of Mr. Quintard's gate. They have been removed in order to the grading of the land.

"The principal place of interment of the MERRITT family was on Lyon's Point, now a part of Port Chester. This spot is on the north side of the street across the point, and near the bridge. Only the more recent names and dates in this cemetery are now decipherable. The tomb of John Merritt, who died in 1759, is the oldest of those that can be read.

"The cemeteries of the LYON family are situated on Byram Point, and in the neighborhood of Byram Bridge.

"The THEALL burying-ground is on the property of Mr. Abraham Theall.

"The PURDY family have a burying ground on the western bank of Blind Brook Creek, opposite the public cemetery. This is probably one of the oldest places of interment in Rye. It contains many antique memorials of past generations; but the imperfect records of their names have been worn away by time, and none prior to the present century are now legible.

"The principal burying-ground of the BUDD family is said to be situated near the shore of the creek, on the Jay property, which they formerly owned. Some members of this family are interred in a small plot of ground on the farm of Mr. J. Griffin, North Street. This spot is on the west side of the road, a short distance from the Mamaroneck River.

"There are several family burial-places on King Street. Members of the HAIGHT, MERRITT, ANDERSON, and other families, are interred here. Another branch of the Anderson family have a burying-ground in Harrison, on the cross-road to White Plains.

"The small cemetery on the west side of Blind Brook, opposite Christ Church in Rye, is well known as the spot where several of the rectors of that church lie buried. This, however, as we have already seen, was not one of the more ancient places of sepulture in the town, having been set apart for the purpose probably about the year 1760. Previous to that time, rectors who died while in charge of this parish were buried underneath the church."

"The GEDNEY burying-place is near Mamaroneck, on the west side of the river. It contains the graves of some of the oldest inhabitants of this town. Here lies Eleazar Gedney, the ancestor, we presume, of that family in Rye, 'born in Boston Government,' and deceased October 27, 1722.

"Interments were formerly made, it is said, to some extent in the grounds adjacent to the Episcopal Church. Mr. Bolton gives an inscription 'taken from a tombstone found in the wall on the west side of the church,' to the memory of 'Mrs. Martha Marven, late consort of Mr. Lewis Marven, of Rye,' who died February 5, 1767, in her thirty-ninth year. It is not probable that many persons were buried here, as the nature of the soil would render it unsuitable for this use.

"One of the most beautiful and interesting localities in Rye is the cemetery of the JAY family, on their estate. To this spot, in 1807, the remains of various members of that family were removed from their vault in New York. Here a monument stands 'to the memory of JOHN JAY.'

"The burying-ground known as THE UNION CEMETERY OF RYE, originated in 1837. In that year, James Barker and David Brooks, of Rye, bought from Benjamin Mead three acres of land, which they gave to the authorities of Christ Church, Rye, 'with a view to secure to the said Church a suitable burial place.' This gift included the front part of the ground on North Street or the White Plains Road. In conveying this property to the church, the donors stipulated that certain plots should be reserved as burial-places for the ministers of the three churches of Rye, and their families; and also that two strips on the eastern and western sides of the ground should be appropriated as a public cemetery. [Footnote: 'A copy of the Deed of the New Cemetery,' etc. ] In January, 1855, the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Rye bought eight acres contiguous to this tract; and in 1864-68, they added more than six acres, making fourteen and a quarter in all. The grounds thus owned by the two congregations have been graded, inclosed, and laid out uniformly, with no visible separation between them and they form one of the most beautiful cemeteries in this part of the country. To this spot many of our families have brought the remains of relatives buried in other localities; and here, too, many a stranger is borne from the city. Among these graves, one that will long be visited with interest is that of Alice B. Havens, whose home for the last few years of her short life was in a pleasant cottage on Rye Neck. Her monument, a cross, has the inscription :-

'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.'

"To the southwest of the Union Cemetery lies the 'Colored Cemetery;' a plot of one acre, the title of which is vested in the Trustees of Public Lands. In olden times the colored people of Rye had a place of interment in the Town Field, on the property now owend by Mr. Anderson; and another on Budd's Neck, nearly opposite the house of Mr. Benjamin Mead. The latter spot is no longer recognizable as a place of sepulture, having been for years ploughed over with the surrounding field. The former contains a number of humble, unchronicled graves."

Source: Baird, Charles W. Chronicle of a Border Town: History of Rye, Westchester County, New York, 1660-1870, including Harrison and the White Plains till 1788. [New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company, 1871], pp. 195-199.

This web page was last updated on: Thursday, 05-Apr-2012 09:39:43 MDT


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