Revolutionary Cemetery IN WESTFIELD, NEW JERSEY" by
Henry Clare Hamilton, D.D.S. June, 1975 - Approved by Westfield
Bicentennial Committee, Approved by Presbyterian Church, Westfield,
[This is an excerpt from that work]
Appropriate credit for
the material for the Revolutionary Cemetery paumplet goes with thanks to "Commerative
History of the Presbyterian Church 1728-1928" by McKinny, Philhower and
Kniffen; "Stranger, Stop and Cast an Eye", by G. Walker Jacobs, published
by the Stephen Greene Press of Brattleboro, Vermont; to Richard Veit in "The
Vanishing Epitaph"; "Working Materials for Cemetery Committee",
the S.A.R., N.J. State Archives and History Bureau. and G.S.A Veterans Records
plus other valuable sources.
Westfield, New Jersey
"Cemetery" is derived from a Greek word koimeterion meaning "sleeping room". It was known as the great equalizer as here "all men are now equal." Almost all old cemeteries are adjacent to a church and on a high piece of ground. In parts of Europe, on special holy days, the worshippers would hold a procession by candlelight to the cemetery after midnight mass.
The land for our Revolutionary Cemetery was acquired in the early years of the 1720's as part of "parsonage land" and was set aside for a burying ground. This was not the five or so acres that we know today because shortly after 1854, the original cemetery was enlarged to twice its original size or to its present dimensions. Almost all of the first plots wer sold on an individual basis, as needed so that different members of the same family were many times buried a few graves distant or in a row or two to the rear. Some time before 1860 a more organized plan was adopted, with family plots of four or more graves being sold. This appears to have been the case in a later acquired section of the southwest half. In the early days of the cemetery, the church offered the sexton "the privilege of the grave yard," which meant that he had the option of digging the graves at $1 each. "Perpetual care" was never used. Records indicate that 1121 plots were sold, although some were never used. Other records show 1125 burials. At one time, grazing privileges were rented by the church to nearby farmers for their sheep and calves.
Many of the beautiful evergreens in this cemetery were planted more than 100 years ago. It is estimated that the iron fence along the Mountain Avenue side was erected before 1940, as a wooden picket fence is seen on a postcard dated 1919. The wall and sidewalk were built in 1969.
The oldest grave with a stone is that of Noah Miller, died 1730, age six weeks. It is reported, but not confirmed, that a Mr. Hetfield (Hatfield or Heatfield) was buried there in 1724, also that slaves with unmarked graves are interred there. The last burial was that of Mrs. Julia Hartop Phillips, who died October 18, 1958, and is buried in the Moses Pierson plot. Some adults and children under 15 years of age did not have stones, or at least dressed stones. All of those old stones or boulders unfortunately have been removed.
James Morgan (died January, 1782), who while on duty as a sentinel, shot and killed Rev. James Caldwell, is reported to be buried in an unmarked grave in the northwest area of the cemetery. Other reports state that James Morgan was executed and buried on Scudder's farm on Gallows Hill Road. There is no question about the location of the execution, but the burial plot is uncertain. Other burials of interest are: "Aunt" Betty Frazee, died July 27, 1792, age 86, who had a little repartee with General Cornwallis about giving him some of her fresh bread; Captain Isaac Littell, died February 25, 1825. He was a cousin of Captain Eliakim Littell, military commander for protection of this area; Baltus Roll, "murdered" February 22, 1831, age 61, whose farm was purchased by the famous golf club at Springfield and named Baltusrol; Mrs. Sara [Sarah-ed.] Collins, died June 18, 1860 [1868-ed.], age 101 years, 3 months; Samuel Downer, died Oct. 22, 1824, age 101 years and 7 months, and was Westfield's greatest Revolutionary War hero. In the newer part are Marian and Donald McVicar, "natives of Glasglow, Scotland"; Rebecca, wife of William Harry Rogers, age 32 years, 6 months, and 12 days; and Emma Jane Mott, daughter of John and Sara Mott, age 16 years, 3 months, and 11 days. The last two ladies were "drowned" as it reads on a connecting arch between their two stones, having apparently died in a common accident on August 24, 1861.
George Radford, a Civil War veteran, has a monument reading "Wounded in Battle of Fredericksburg May 4, 1863 and died May 31, 1863." William Radford, died 1870, has the tallest monument, while the lowest are 2 table monuments in memory of Rev. John Grant, died 1753, age 37 (second minister) and John Crane, died September 11, 1763.
All cuts on the stones have a special significance. In fact, epitaph is derived from two Greek words meaning "upon tomb." The Egyptians were the earliest people to place a name and a prayer to one of the gods on the coffin. Biblical quotations were not used so much in America after 1600, but were replaced by short epitaphs like the following: Samuel Hetfield, died 1871, "Ye Sons of Man, a feeble race, Expos'd to ev'ry Snare, Come, Make the Lord your Dwelling Place, and try and trust his care". Also Mrs. Joanna Crane, died 1779, wife of Col. Jacob Crane, "The grave has Eloquence indeed, Hear it, Ye Mortals and give heed." Another very old one (first used in England 1376 A.D. and found on the stone of Edward the Black Prince), is here on the stone of Benjamin Scudder, who died November 20, 1708 [1798-ed.], "Remember me as you pass by, As you are Now, so once was I, As I am now, so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me." One similiar to Benjamin Scudder's reads "Nathaniel Baker, died March 13, 1799 in his 53rd year" - "my glass is run, my days are spent, my life is gone, it was but lent and as I am so must you be, Therefore prepare to follow me". There are others like the above except for the first two lines. Another inscription reads: "Reader - Here rests a remnant of the underwritten deceased who died Sept. 1807 in the 83rd year of his age". At the base is written "John Crane Senr." This stone has a square of flat top. Another one reads "Here lies the body of Mrs. Susannah Wido of Mr. John Davis who departed this life April ye 4th, 1769, and Miles Williams who departed this life Oct. ye 27th annoq e Domini 1747." The stone of Ernst Agatz, born in Germany, died 1856, age 78, has the inscription entirely in German. In many cemeteries the words "relict" or "consort" were frequently used, but only rarely found in our Revolutionary Cemetery. Many interesting stones are to be seen in this old graveyard. All of the above epitaphs as well as many more are plainly legible.
Most of the stones on the east side (Mountain Avenue) of the cemetery are of the same material, viz., sandstone. Some of them are from a quarry near Newark (or Essex Fells) and some others are from a pit near Feltville (Deserted Village). Many of the older stones are from 200 to 245 years old and are in remarkable condition - age considered. Others have weathered so poorly that sections or entire surfaces have flaked off.
In most graves on the Mountain Avenue side the deceased are buried, as was the custom of the time, with their feet to the east so that the graves lie west to east with the stone at the head. The east was the beginning of day, or significantly, the beginning of life. In later years, this custom was discontinued and the graves in the rear half (or southwest side) were plotted out as they are today.
After the stone had been ordered and was ready, a member of the family drove a horse and wagon to the cutter's yard and brought the stone back to the cemetery. Here the family, friends, and neighbors set the stone with a religious ceremony, but many times not deeply enough, resulting in some tilting in later years.
Stone cutting by hand, which began about 1659 in America and continued until beyond the middle of the 19th century, was America's first folk art. The cutters were part-time workers, with no training, and used mostly their own motifs. It appears that the outstanding cutter, at least the one with the most widespread reputation, was Ebenezer Price, with his yard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. An Ebenezer Price was active in the Westfield church and is buried in Plot #277, died 1745, age 37. Other early cutters were David Jeffrey (an apprentice of Price), Jonathan Acken, E. Norris, J.C. Mooney and David Jennings. Their initials or full names are at the bases of many stones. Other lettering or initials are seen at the base of some stones where an apprentice had practiced but the stone had not been set as deeply as it might have been, and hence that letter is visible today. Some apprentices of Ebenezer Price established themselves in outlying areas such as Connecticut Farms (marked C.F.), Rahway and Scotch Plains.
All the cutting on the stones is the product of the stonecutter's art, and each figure or design has a special significance. Almost all of the older stones are arch-shaped at the top, indicating a passageway or a gateway to heaven. The arches were most often supported by architectural designs or floral motifs. Most inscriptions begin "In Memory of" or "Sacred to the Memory of" followed by the name of the deceased. The date of death is given but not the date of birth, as the age was given in years, months and days. Occasionally words were misspelled as "Jonor" or a letter had to be cut one line above. Cherubs, the most popular motif of its time, or angels' faces with wings, were a symbol of immortality, while a heart was a symbol of the soul in heavenly bliss opposite to the symbol of death. Tulips with three stems and flowers represented the Trinity. To more or less repeat, angels symbolized the heavenly host and "the crown of righteousness proclaims the victorious soul, arisen to heaven through Christ." A dove meant the passage to heaven, while an hourglass signified the swift passage of time. Urns and willows appear on many stones. To explain - "the urn contained the remains of human life which arise the soul to heaven." The willow symbolized both mourning for the loss of earthly life and the joy of celestial life. Cross bones and the death mask were the traditional symbols of mortality. In the Revolutionary Cemetery, the cherubs' wings are pointed downward except on one stone where the wings point upward ("Sarah wife of Zebulon Jennings Senr who deceased March ye 31st 1775"). If this has any special meaning, we do not know it. It may have been the cutter's choice.
Around 1800, white marble and soft limestone monuments of the present day conventional shape made their appearance. The feeling was that the white stones looked so much nicer and cleaner than the old sandstone ones. However, many, if not most of these, have failed to withstand the ravages of time as well as many of the older brown stones. Only two or three have been found with the name of the maker - Anna Scudder, died 1866, made by "Manning" and Caroline Baker, died 1850, aged 27, made by D. Baker, Newton, N.J.." The inscription even on the newer stones gives the name of the deceased and the date of death and the age in years, months, and days. Near the turn of the century (1800) several changes took place. There are only a few examples of stone cutting on the marble stones in contrast to the older stones. There are a few monuments with weeping willows (symbol of eternity) and a broken column, or a flower (a rose) with a broken stem, indicating the life of man - its beauty and brevity. It was used mainly on memorials for younger people. Plots were now laid out in a more ddfinite pattern. Other minor changes are evident in the rear or newer half of the cemetery. One monument is entirely of metal, including the base, yet it appears to be stone. It is rare, but some others do exist elsewhere.
All the described inscriptions can be seen in our Revolutionary Cemetery. Some stones have fallen, others have been tipped over and some have scaled or flaked off to a point where no inscription of any kind is visible. These seem to have been of poorer quality and have fallen victim to the elements.
Colored markers have been or are being placed at most interesting locations so that self-guided tours can be made with a hand sheet. The Cemetery Committee will endeavor to repair or reset damaged or fallen monuments as far as possible to the extent that funds permit. Cooperation from anyone who could give the Committee information or help of any kind will be greatly appreciated. This hallowed burial ground should be carefully and neatly maintained at all times in honor of the veterans and patriotic, loyal, and hard-working pioneers who established this community of Westfield.
The U. S. Government (Veteran's Bureau) has place a number of markers at the graves of the veterans of the three wars: The American Revolution, The War of 1812, and the Civil War. The West Fields Chapter - Sons of the American Revolution placed a boulder near the front gate in 1942 with a plaque listing the names of 51 Revolutionary War soldiers "at rest in this cemetery." The Daughters of the American Revolution in 1924 placed a boulder at the cemetery with a plaque "in honor of the men buried here who fought in the War of teh Revolution." The Westfield BiCentennial Committee has designated the Revolutionary Cemetery as a BiCentennial site and it will be so marked.
Below are lists of veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War who are buried in this cemetery. Every endeavor has been made to present accurate lists, but errors are possible in spite of all care. Discrepencies are sometimes difficult to resolve.
[to be continued...]
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