Photo Essay: Old and Historical Local Cemeteries, Graves, and Burial Grounds in Westchester County
Markers of our past; memorials to our forebears
Some are in busy town squares, others are hidden away on back roads, in backyards, on small plots between houses, or deep inside the woods. Local old cemeteries and burial grounds offer a fascinating glimpse back through the centuries. Whether the graves are marked with a single word, a simple initial, or a poetic phrase, these timeworn headstones unite us through the ages, inviting us into a world we can only imagine.
Used from 1806 through 1861, this small lot along Mamaroneck’s busy Palmer Avenue is the DeLancey Burial Ground. Today, it sits quietly between several houses. The short and tall headstones here have settled into the landscape, some with gnarly tree roots grown around their bases.
The sign at Milton Cemetery in Rye reads, “Milton Road Public Burying Place Since 1750.” Here lies Knapp L. Park, who, sadly, “departed this life” as a young boy the day after Christmas in the early 1800s. Interestingly, Knapp was both born and died on the 26th day of the month.
Bedford was settled in 1680 by 22 Stamford, Connecticut, residents whose first order of business was to lay out the village green, a meetinghouse, and the Bedford Burying Grounds, which amble up a craggy hillside. Flanked by a former general store, now the headquarters of the Bedford Historical Society, it’s long been a centerpiece of the town.
Some gravestones seem to relate as people do, like these two with inscriptions that have long since worn away. Leaning on each other in North Salem’s Peach Pond Cemetery through wind, rain, and snow, they support one another as perhaps they also did in life.
The simple inscriptions of “Mother” and “Father” give these stones a universality, as if they represent all parents who have passed. Standing in front of a rustic stonewall in Rye’s African American Cemetery, the stones been there together for close to 100 years. The cemetery, deeded to the town of Rye in 1860, is accessed through Greenwood Union Cemetery.
The headstones of Bedford residents Hannah and Charles Platt have stood side by side in the Bedford Burying Grounds since the mid-1800s, when calves and sheep were encouraged to roam the grounds in order to keep the grass down. In 1689, Reverend Thomas Denham was the first to be buried here; the last burial was in 1885. Over the years, roughly 200 people found their final resting places here.
Lichen-covered and, unusually, made of sandstone, these weatherworn headstones at Rye’s Milton Cemetery lean toward one another like three trusted old friends.
The African American Cemetery in Rye includes 35 veterans of the Civil War through World War ll. It is here that a World War ll private lies with what has to be one of the most evocative names ever: Endless Hudson. Oh, to know more about the man behind the beautiful name!
With graves dating back to the 1700s, Coutant Cemetery was the original burial ground for the Coutants, one of the founding families of New Rochelle. Today, it has a combination of very old and newer graves, mixing the flinty and faded with the shiny and new.
As a photographer, Leslie Long was intrigued by the way gravestones meld with their environment. As a writer, she also found them full of stories. More of her work can be seen at leslielongportfolio.com.