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Inside This Issue

The FACSI Newsletter

Volume 15 Issue 1/2 Spring/Summer 1998

Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island

Pearse O'Callaghan (1921-1995), Founder

Org.1982 Inc.1983


God's Quarter Acre: Old Clove Cemetery



Passings: Helen Murray Spence, 102


City-Owned Cemeteries Need City's Help


Safe Techniques for Gravestone Cleaning


FACSI Membership Form

God's Quarter Acre: Old Clove Cemetery By Doris Lane

Aug 27 1785 - The following persons were baptized by Elder Elkanah Holmes in the fall of the year one Thousand seven hundred and eighty five: Belichy Fountain, 27th August, Anthony Fountain Sen., Hannah Fountain, Nicholas Cox, Margaret Kruzer.

Staten Island's first Baptist Church was built in 1809 on the side of Emerson Hill overlooking Clove Road. John and Vincent Fountain felled trees from their own woods to build the Meeting House.

Oct 24 1809 - The meeting house in the Clove was opened for divine worship... The Rev. W. Parkinson of the First Baptist Church in New York preached the first sermon from Exodus 20, v.24

It was known as the Old Clove Church and its burial ground was a scant quarter acre. Between 1821 and 1868, at least 35 burials were held there and 31 headstones were recorded by William T. Davis in 1890.

Alas twas brittle clay/That built this body first/And every month and every day/tis mouldering back to dust - In memory of Catharine Maria, Daughter of David and Anna Van Name who died November 24th, 1826, aged 2 years, 5 months and 4 days

At the north side of the small church, were six rows of 28 headstones up and down the hillside. South of the church, were three stones, one commemorating the former pastor, Rev. Arauna R. Martin, died October 26 1835, and a second his four year old son.

April 1824 - We do promise and agree to give him the sum of Three Hundred dollars for the year's services and to find him his firewood for the said term likewise assist him in his family with flour meat & other things from our farms as the Lord in his providence shall bless us in basket and in store.

March 12 1826 - He said the church must be aware that he like other men must have a living, he was not a spirit to live on air.

To My Mother, Ann Stevenson, Died 1st of May 1843, in the 65th year of her age.

Lord's Day 28th May 1826 - Met at the Water Side near Tompkinsville, Our Pastor spoke to a large multitude who had assembled on the occasion (who were solemn and attentive thro the whole) a hymn was sung while walking from Mr. Vanduser's house to the water. The Ordinance of Christian Baptism was administered to Mrs. Ann Stevenson who followed her Lord in his appointed ways being buried with him in baptism.

Weep not for me surviving friends/I've paid the debt was due/Prepare yourselves, you know not when/Jesus will call you too - Abraham Cole departed this life June 12th, 1835, aged 59 years

January 6 1825 - Mrs. Elizabeth Cole wife of Mr. Abram Cole presented a letter of dismission from the Bethel Baptist Church in New York requesting to join this Church. Resolved on motion that she be received.

In 1998, FACSI member Scott Gabel found only the two stones of Hendrick Kruser, died 1831, and Charles Ford Martin, died 1825.

Here lies the grief of a fond mother and the blasted expectations of an indulgent father - Charles Ford, son of Aruna & Jane Martin, Died April 21st, 1825, Aged 4 years & 4 months

Scott said the cemetery "is located on the side of the hill at the top of the retaining wall totally invisible from the street. When you do find it, all you will find are some broken stones someone has tried to piece together, and the two intact stones of Henry Kruser and Charles Ford lying face up."

In Memory of Henry Kruser, who departed this life Nov. 2nd, 1831, Aged 79 y'rs 10 mos and 12 days - Surely he shall not be moved forever/Gather my Saints together unto me those that have made Covenant with me by sacrifice

June 24 1827 - The present fence round the burying ground in the rear of the meeting house is very poor and not sufficient to keep the cattle from coming in and treading down the graves and doing other damage. Resolved that we put up a strip fence sufficiently close to keep all cattle &c and also that Deacon G. Fountain be a committee to carry this resolution into effect.

Scott Gabel said in 1998, "As I was looking around, I came across a piece of wood with two large and very old hinges on it which appeared to me to be the gate of the churchyard."

June 27 1827 - Deacon Garret Fountain reported that he had procured boards &c for the fence and requested that the brethren would appoint a day and come, with teams &c to haul some stone to assist in making the fence, agreed to come on Saturday next the 4th August. Our Pastor reported that he had seen Mr. Leonard Parkinson respecting some stone and that the church were at liberty to take as many as they wanted.

October 1 1828 - Our Sister Nancy Burbank wife of Deacon Jacob Burbank was buried in our ground on Iron Hill.

O death, thou destroyer can naught restrain thee/Can neither usefulness piety or worth/The humble Christian and the unshaken friend/The affectionate wife the tender parent/The useful Citizen lies here a prey to thee/But short thy reign, the resurrection morn/Shall set thy prisoner free in an eternal day - In memory of Ann wife of Garret Fountain, who died October 8th 1826, aged 57 years, 6 months, and 19 days

October 29 1826 - It has pleased the Lord in all his wise providence to remove from among us one of our sisters Mrs. Anna Fountain wife of Deacon Garret Fountain on the 9th Inst.

This life's a dream a fading flower/That thrived and vanished in an hour/But death! False friend to you and me/Will shortly come and summon thee - In memory of Maria, wife of Isaac Haughwout, who departed this life July 31st 1840, Aged 27 years, & 3 months, also an infant, aged 15 days

Lordsday January 31st 1841 - At a regular meeting in the Clove it was moved and seconded that we meet on Wednesday 8th of Feb. between the hours of ten & eleven O Clock if the weather be fine, if not the first fine Day at the Northside meeting House in order to Constitute that branch A Separate body from us. The vote was unanimous.

Source: Records of the First Baptist Church on Staten Island; thanks to Joan Hill.

Spring! Cleaning

To Volunteer for Future Cleanups, Call Fred Crane xxx

Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island xxx , New Brighton, Staten Island NY 10301

Dick Dickenson, President Fred Crane, Vice President & Secretary Marjorie Johnson, Treasurer Lenny Robusto Counsel/Membership Janet Kiernan, Recording Secretary

Doris Lane, Editor Juan Santiago, Production Assistant

FACSI Statement of Purpose To initiate the preservation and cleanup of neglected or abandoned cemeteries, graveyards, burying grounds and churchyards; and to assist in the beautification, rehabilitation, and/or attempt to restore, and maintain, the markers, stones and history of such final resting places.

Notice to FACSI Members

Please look on your mailing label for your membership expiration date to know when to renew your membership

Photocopying and paper for this issue of the FACSI Newsletter courtesy of United Federation of Teachers.

Passings Helen Murray Spence, 102 Years of Age FACSI wishes to take note of the loss of one of our long time members, Helen Murray Spence, who died last year on January 16 in Arlington VA. A New Brighton native, born November 24 1894, Mrs. Spence was raised in Port Richmond. She retired in 1962 as editor of the Food and Drug Review, a publication of the Food and Drug Administration. Moving to Arlington in 1942, Mrs. Spence worked for the Office of Press Intelligence. Her husband, Alfred Edward Spence, a Veteran of World War I, died in 1946 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he is now rejoined by Helen Murray Spence. Their daughter, Janet Spence of Arlington, is continuing her mother's long support of FACSI.

FACSI in Action

City-Owned Cemeteries Need City's Help

FACSI president and Borough Historian Dick Dickenson has written the following letters to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Borough President Guy Molinari regarding the rehabilitation of City-owned cemeteries on Staten Island.

December 18 1997

Dear Mayor Giuliani:

There are approximately seven City-owned cemeteries on Staten Island and they are woefully neglected.

Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries (FACSI) with sparse resources has conducted some clean-ups on a sporadic basis but whatever progress that was made is soon canceled out by continued regrowth and human incursions of mischief. This is also true despite the heroic efforts of Borough President Guy Molinari and his considerable use of Arthur Kill Correctional Facility inmates.

FACSI has requested me to invite you and/or your representative to tour one or more of these cemeteries to help decide how they can be better cared for on a continuing basis. Among the suggestions for future care are:

  1. A 4-fold enlargement of the cemeteries unit in the Department of Citywide Administrative Services with a pilot program to be initiated on Staten Island.
  2. A request for proposals by Citywide Administrative Services to the relevant Local Development Corporations (LDCs) to encourage local businesses and communities to profit by the upkeep and maintenance of these cemeteries. The department would have to fund this until private funds were found.
  3. Seek the advice, in a Forum, of Island funeral directors, monument makers and operating cemeteries; the State Division of Cemeteries; Citywide Administrative Services; the Department of Health; Office of the Staten Island Borough President and the Staten Island Borough Historian; Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries and religious bodies plus other interested parties.

This last suggestion might be the easiest and a first step. Perhaps it could be held on Staten Island during the last week in February, leaving leeway for planning.

Your attention to this matter is sought and welcomed.

January 16 1998

To: Borough President Guy V. Molinari

City-owned Cemeteries: Your staff is doing a superb job in countering vandalism and graffiti in cemeteries throughout Staten Island. In addition they have guided the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility inmates in cleaning up various cemeteries (e.g. Lake and Merrill) throughout the Island. None of the other boroughs are doing as much and the activity appears to be unknown throughout the State of New York. I suggest one major improvement to build on the service you are already providing.

New York City is not required by law to maintain the cemeteries they own. Perhaps you could recommend to Mr. William Diamond, Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, that he initiate a model program for the upkeep of the Staten Island cemeteries in consultation with your staff and other community groups, such as community boards, Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, LDCs, and local businesses associated with cemeteries; monument makers, funeral directors, and cemetery owners. Basically it would mean creating a budget to clean up and maintain the city-owned cemeteries on Staten Island that would emanate from the office having responsibility within the department. Possibly the work could be privatized by issuing RFPs through the LDCs, as an alternative to building a small bureaucracy within the department.

Institute Studying Blazing Star/Sleight Family/Rossville Burial Ground

One of the earliest community cemeteries on Staten Island, 1750 or earlier, the Blazing Star Burial Ground in Rossville is the subject of a combined environmental and preservation survey by the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences.

The Institute intends to produce an environmental inventory of the site based upon four season surveys of birds and plants, with special attention to locally rare species.

A second aspect of the project will be the historical documentation of the site to sharpen our understanding of cultural process and cultural change on Staten Island during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.' Located in the village of Rossville, the burial ground is the final resting place for members of pioneer Staten Island families, among them, Winants, Sleights, Seguines, Perines and Poillions.

The historical part of the process is to include probate, newspaper, and epitaph research; documentation of funerary artifacts; analysis of religious variations and design elements used by gravestone carvers.

A third vital component involves the concept of environmental stewardship among such local community-minded groups as the Charleston Civic Association, the teachers and children of nearby PS 4, the Lynn Robbins Steinman Foundation, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

By incorporating the idea of environmental community service with the ideals of historic preservation, the project proposes to restore the cemetery into a model for other abandoned and neglected cemeteries, and to provide a basis for continued maintenance and preservation.

Educational programs, historical lectures and workshops, and walking tours of the site are planned for this year. A booklet drawing on local histories, gravestone studies literature, and natural history sources will be published.

Collaborating with SIIAS in this endeavor are Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island; Dick Dickenson in his role as the Historian of the Borough of Staten Island; and Marjorie Decker Johnson representing the Preservation League of Staten Island. Funding is provided by the Urban Resources Partnership.

Staten Island's Closed, Obliterated, Abandoned and Once Abandoned Cemeteries

Note: Dates are culled from various sources and represent either the founding year of the cemetery or the earliest known burial.

Book Notices

Tombstone Touring on the Internet

The U.S. Civil War Center's web page at www.cwc.lsu.edu/links/hist.htm has links to the Civil War cemetery websites across the nation.

Rites of spring

The Chinese spring festival of Ching Ming is celebrated in the first week in April and is also known as "the sweeping of the graves" - Ching Ming celebrates ancestral reverence - the grave-cleaning ritual to honor departed family members originated in China but is practiced annually here in the United States - after the graves are cleaned, offerings are made of food and incense, "hell money" is burnt, and firecrackers lit, followed by a picnic nearby.

Association of Gravestone Studies 1998 National Conference June 25-28 1998 Monmouth University West Long Branch NJ

To register, call: W. Fred Oakly, Registrar, (413)584-1756; email oakl at javanet dot com

Safe Techniques for Gravestone Cleaning

Use a non-ionic soap like Orvus (commonly used for horses). Mix a solution of one heaping tablespoon of Orvus to one gallon of clean water.

Pre-wet the stone thoroughly with clean water and keep wet during entire process. Thoroughly wash the wet stone using natural bristled brushes (wood-handled, not plastic). Start at the bottom and work up. Rinse thoroughly with lots of clean water.

For marble or limestone, one tablespoon of household ammonia may be added to the above mixture to help remove grease and oils. Do not clean marble, limestone or sandstone more than once every 18 months. Occasional rinsing with clean water to remove bird droppings and other accretions is fine.

Do not use ammonia near any metal elements. Lichens and algae can be removed by first thoroughly soaking the stone and using a wooden scraper (like a Popsicle stick) to gently remove the biological growth. Not all stains can be removed. Do not expect the stones to appear new after cleaning, just readable.

Texas Preservation Guidelines

Are These Your Ancestors?

(For follow-up information on this article, see facsivol15no1_followup.html

These summaries are from the record books of the Staten Island Cemetery in West Brighton. If these are your ancestors, and even if they are not, won't you help us show respect for their memories by contributing to the upkeep of their resting places. Please join us in our work by using the FACSI membership form on the back of this issue and volunteering a few hours of your time.

Record 400 of Staten Island Cemetery, Abraham P. Gibson, Superintendent, shows us that James Wright was buried in Lot 144, rear-west, on Monday, April 9 1900 at 2:00 PM. James Wright was born in Ireland and died at his residence, 96 Castleton Avenue. He died two days before his funeral at 79 years of age. The undertaker was Lawrence Steers. Lot 144 was a double lot joined by Lot 143 and owned by Abraham and Cornelius Britton. We searched the FACSI database for Lot 143/144 and found others who were buried there: Charles H. Malloy, 24, died 1888; Abraham Britton, 8 months old, died in 1865; Abraham Britton, 79, died August 26 1866; Isabella Malloy, 61, died in 1890; Anna Jane Wright, 74, died May 19 1906; and Jane A. De Forrest, 68, died May 8 1900 on Prospect Street in West New Brighton. Also buried in Lot 144 was Elsa J. Britton Bush, died 1801. From her early date of death, it is likely that she was buried first at Trinity Chapel and later "removed" to Staten Island Cemetery. It can be useful to speculate that these individuals were all family members. A genealogy researcher would take these names and dates and examine death records at the Municipal Archives in Manhattan to determine parents and siblings. As the only two Wrights in the Britton family plot, James and Anna Jane could be found to have been a married couple and Anna Jane a Britton by birth.

John Wright, Record 18, was buried at Staten Island Cemetery on November 26 1876 in Lot 134 in a front grave. He was about 55 years old when he died of general debility and living on Richmond Street in West New Brighton. His funeral was held there at 2:00 PM on Thursday, November 29. The undertaker was John Steers, who was also the Superintendent of Staten Island Cemetery. The FACSI database shows the owners of Lot 134 to have been J. Smith and T. Wright. Also buried in Lot 134 was Thomas Wright, 65 years old, who died October 1 1901 at 73 Jewett Avenue in Port Richmond. He was a Civil War Veteran, Company I 156th New York Volunteers. James L. Wright, 35, who died in Elizabeth NJ on January 3 1911, George A.H. Smith, 36, who died February 8 1900 in Barrett's Park, and James S. Smith, 45, died November 30 1864, were also buried in Lot 134.

Both John Wright, Record 18, and James Wright, Record 400, were born in Ireland in the 1820s and both later died in West Brighton. However, we cannot tell from the information in the cemetery records whether they were related or not.


FACSI Membership Form

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Address____________________________________ Dues $6.00 ________

Telephone__________________________________ Tax Deductible Contribution $ __________

Please call me about volunteering ________

Return this form and your enclosed check or money order to:

Marjorie Johnson, Treasurer

115 Townsend Avenue, Staten Island NY 10304






Staten Island NY 10301