Earliest marked graves in NJ?

Badfish740

Explorer
Feb 19, 2005
589
44
28
Copperhead Road
Here's a question for Jerseyman and any other hardcore NJ history buffs. What would be the earliest known marked graves in NJ (ie: with some sort of headstone which survives today), where are they, and how back are we talking? According to my basic research, the Dutch began settling what is now Bergen County in 1660, but it's hard to pinpoint where and when other settlements sprang up (specifically what is now eastern Mercer/Middlesex County). Someone is trying to tell me that they know of a gravesite containing the graves of "slaves and Indians" in East Windsor, near the Millstone River. The gravesite is on private property but they'd like it preserved somehow. They are claiming that the headstones are dated between the 1500-1600s, which seems like a red flag to me. East Windsor was created from Windsor Township, which was split off from Piscataway, which wasn't founded until 1666.

In 1666, the 100 square miles which composed Piscataway (and present day East Windsor) was probably about as rugged and raw a wilderness as one could possibly imagine, and the Lenni Lenape did inhabit the area. Therefore, I think it's a stretch that there would be an established grave site (which would indicate an organized civilization nearby) going back to the 1500-1600s in East Windsor, which was probably almost a days' horseback ride from the settled parts of Piscataway with no real established roads, etc... Especially since for these to be some type of engraved headstones with numbers and years that we would recognize today, they would have had to have been placed there by white Europeans.

I would just like to know if I'm totally off-base here, but I think my basic research bears out that there is no way this gravesite would be that old. The property at one time was a large farm, so I'm guessing that what this girl "found" was actually an old family plot with graves dating back possibly as far as the 1700s, but more likely 1800s. Not that that in and of itself is not significant and worth of preservation, but this person believes that they have stumbled on a major archaeological find that has somehow been missed for the last five hundred years.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
7,419
1,498
1,093
55
millville nj
www.youtube.com
I personally know a lost graveyard down here in Maurice River twp.It has five stones but only one inscribed.It says 1790 on it with the initials but I forget what they are.Have a pic somewhere.I also recall searching the old baptist cemetery on Stagecoach rd (347) the old 670 and there was a stone in there that said 1785.I"m sure there are older.My Mom lives in Roadstown and there are several very old graveyards out that way I have meandered through but never did a search for the absolute oldest stones.I'd say the oldest stones are probably close to the d\Delaware bay or River or the navigable tributaries there to or possibly up near the Hudson but that area is so built up I have no idea if any of the real old cemeteries have been preserved.I know where there are graves from the 1600's but either all the stones are gone or their all illegible.I remember the old Ludlam cemetery on Jakes Landing road had some stones from the late 1700's but once the state put a sign next to the stones which were hidden in the brush then the stones started disappearing one at a time for five years till they all were gone.It was always at Halloween. Now there is a fence there with a state placed monument but all original stones are gone.Way to go New jersey! Those stones were hidden literally a few steps off the road for centuries till the interpretive sign went up.
 
Feb 1, 2016
273
133
43
49
Camden County, NJ
Giovanni Verrazano in 1524 sailed to the mouth of the Hudson bay (but he did not land in NJ/NY). The earliest known Europeans in NY/NJ were Henry Hudson and his crew on the Half Moon in 1609. The oldest known tombstone in New Jersey is located in Perth Amboy, NJ. Helen Gordon (1660-1687) was the wife of Thomas Gordon of Scotland, she died December 12, 1687, aged 27 years. Her tombstone reads: "Calm was her death, well ordered her life, a pious mother and a loving wife, her offspring six, of which 4 here do lie, their souls in heaven, wher's do rest on high"
 
Last edited:
Here I am, late to the dance again! East Jersey would contain the earliest marked graves because settlement there preceded West Jersey, Matineconk Island and Fort Nassau notwithstanding. If you are seeking early grave markers in West Jersey, a number of burying grounds come to mind, including old St. Mary's inside Colestown Cemetery, Cherry Hill; Newton/Sloan in West Collingswood; Fairfield in Cumberland County; and several others. If you are desirous of a more complete list, please PM me.

Best regards,
Jerseyman
 

Badfish740

Explorer
Feb 19, 2005
589
44
28
Copperhead Road
The story of the graves originates from an email from Crystal Van Kirk and can be found on the Cranberry.Org website.

http://www.cranbury.org/history/graveyard.htm
Yes-this is the story the person in question is referring to-I wasn't going to call this person out directly because I don't know her nor am I able to corroborate the details, I was just trying to caution the person taking them as gospel that there seem to be some holes in the story. The story is also not correct in that it makes reference to the Township purchasing the property which this supposed gravesite is located on. The parcels are all privately owned, but the Township, at some point, recorded a conservation easement on them, presumably to create a buffer zone to protect the Millstone River, which may be the source of the confusion.

Here I am, late to the dance again! East Jersey would contain the earliest marked graves because settlement there preceded West Jersey, Matineconk Island and Fort Nassau notwithstanding. If you are seeking early grave markers in West Jersey, a number of burying grounds come to mind, including old St. Mary's inside Colestown Cemetery, Cherry Hill; Newton/Sloan in West Collingswood; Fairfield in Cumberland County; and several others. If you are desirous of a more complete list, please PM me.
Thanks Jerseyman-as to the references to graves in West Jersey, this makes total sense since Cherry Hill, Collingswood, etc...all naturally radiate from Philadelphia. However, with Cherry Hill being nearly 40 miles as the crow flies from East Windsor, it is again, quite doubtful that there would be any European settlement that far away, is it not? It's odd to think of the Route 1 Corridor between New Brunswick and Trenton as an impenetrable wilderness, but it certainly seems that would have been the case at one time with settlement concentrated around what are now the NYC and Philadelphia outer ring suburbs and unexplored territory in between, far from any water routes or roads.
 

johnnyb

Explorer
Feb 22, 2013
471
194
43
91
If memory serves me right, English settlement in South Jersey happened in the 1680's, maybe a decade earlier in a few cases. But the Finns/Swedes/Dutch were on the Delaware in the 1640's/1650's. They had at least temporary settlements in South Jersey; did they not leave a single marked grave from their early settlements? Greenwich has a house dating to the late 1600's and presumably in the past there were other houses of that vintage there; no early gravestones still extant?
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
7,419
1,498
1,093
55
millville nj
www.youtube.com
Johnny
A friend of mine in Leesburg used to hunt arrowheads on Bacons field and I used to go with him.He had permission and then the state bought it around 1990 and tore the old Bacon House down and let the field grow up so so you can't surface hunt there anymore.Right before I met my friend in the early 80's He said bacon plowed the field and turned up human bones in the up stream end.The field sits right on the Maurice river. He went out there hunting and found pieces of skulls and teeth and a femur.He notified bacon who called someone else,an archaeologist I presume? And they identified it as an Old Swedish graveyard.Weather they found Swedish artifacts I do not know.I would think Indian bones and Swedish bones would be indistinguishable without DNA testing. You can still find artifacts along the river at low tide but the field is kept in a constant state of old field succession by occasional mowing to keep the trees down but it's never plowed anymore.
 

jburd641

Explorer
Jan 16, 2008
411
13
18
Port Charlotte, Fl.
If memory serves me right, English settlement in South Jersey happened in the 1680's, maybe a decade earlier in a few cases. But the Finns/Swedes/Dutch were on the Delaware in the 1640's/1650's. They had at least temporary settlements in South Jersey; did they not leave a single marked grave from their early settlements? Greenwich has a house dating to the late 1600's and presumably in the past there were other houses of that vintage there; no early gravestones still extant?
I was thinking the same thing.