Sunday, November 1, 2015

Did they move the bodies?

Autumn is my favorite season for photographing gravestones because of the lush colors.

(For neglected cemeteries, the opportune season is at the end of winter, after the snow has melted, and before new growth has started.)

Today I visited a cemetery that I first read about years ago in an issue of Weird NJ: Your travel guide to New Jersey's local legends and best kept secrets.  The cemetery is unique enough for mention in the magazine (now online) because a parking lot was built around the burial site.

Now that I found this cemetery, I have more questions.

I didn't want to post about a cemetery on Halloween (October 31), even though cemeteries are my thing year-round.

"Mary Ellis Burial Site" is the name of this family cemetery on Find A Grave.  It is located near the Raritan River off US Route 1 in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey.  Apparently the people who owned the land in the 1800s used this parcel for burials.  The owners and purpose of the land changed over the years, but the burials were preserved.  As the area became more commercially developed, the land was regraded, so the cemetery now sits above the parking lot.  Or at least a gravestone sits atop this pile of dirt, neatly encased in stone.

The story is that Mary Ellis, unmarried, purchased this piece of elevated land overlooking the Raritan River to pine away for a lost love, a sea captain who promised to sail back to her.  Mary died in 1828 according to the the photograph of the gravestone in the Weird NJ article.  New Jersey does not have death certificates from that time period.  Some New Brunswick newspapers are digitized online.  Mary's death appears in the Fredonian from January 14, 1829 on a list of people who died the prior year.  Mary Ellis died February 17, 1828, aged 77 years.  This is consistent with the Mary Ellis from the gravestone, born 1750.

Seven people appear on the list of those buried in this family plot.  You can read their names on the Find A Grave page for the cemetery or on the Wikipedia page.  I'm not a fan of regurgitating online lists.  I could only see the name Mildred Moody (1746-1816) on the one visible stone.

Margaret Ellis (1767-1850), wife of General Anthony Walton White (1750-1803), may have been a sister of Mary Ellis.  Or daughter, but this ruins the love story.

The horse of the sea captain is also buried in this plot, according to the story.

I found notices in newspapers from 1822, six years before Mary Ellis died.  Mary Ellis and Margaret White, likely the people buried in this family cemetery, lost their land to auction "at the suits of John Clark, Thomas Clark, William Clark, Peter Overt, Sarah Voorhees, and others."  I don't know the nature of these suits, or where these parcels of land were, other than in New Brunswick and adjoining the land of Abraham Potts.

Does this preserved mound of dirt actually contain the coffins and the horse?  Or was the remaining stone moved and future generations assumed the bodies were below?

If anyone has done research into this family and their land, please let us know.

1 comment:

  1. Its great that the preserved the site, even with the many changes. I bet it was easier than trying to re-locate the graves.