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Where Is St. John's?: The Old Burying Ground


 Old St. John's burying ground - Between Hudson - Leroy - Clarkson Streets., Digital ID 720542F, New York Public Library

St. John's Burying Ground used to occupy the space which is now James J. Walker Park, between Leroy, Hudson and Clarkson Streets. In a sense it still does since the old stones were buried in place and few of the 10,000 occupants were moved. The only stone remaining is one dedicated to three firemen who gave their lives in the line of duty over 150 years ago.

Undoubtedly the residents of St. Lukes Place were relieved to have the cemetery removed, but some former residents of the area found inspiration in this crowded and stony lot. Edgar Allan Poe would wander the old burying ground when he lived for a short time on Carmine Street, perhaps imagining what is was like to be buried alive (see The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher).



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Last known maps of St. John's burying ground and graves/names

Does anyone know if period maps exist of St. John's Burying Ground? One of my relatives (Sarah Newell) and her baby are buried there, 'on the east side near the fence'. I would like a map of the graves to put with the family records.

Addendum to the question about a map of St. John's Burying Groun

Hi moderator, If instead of posting my comment, if you can let me know if a map exists of the grave locations in St. Johns, I'd be most appreciative. Sarah Newell is my relative buried there. Thank you. Linda

St John's Burying Ground

Does anyone know when the cemetery was turned into a park? I have several ancestors and collaterals who were buried in "the burial ground of St. J." around 1809 to 1812, and another 1832. I wonder if people had the option to move the bodies. Thank you for this interesting post and the earlier one, you have solved a mystery.

St. John's became a park in

St. John's became a park in 1897. People were given the opportunity to have their relative's bodies moved, however few did. Many of the bodies remaining were left as they were either "friendless poor" or their families had become extinct. There were also many people who thought it would be a sort of sacrilege to remove their ancestors.

St John's Burying Ground

Trinity Church has records of its burials in this cemetery. People did, of course, have the option to move the bodies of their loved ones before the park was created. But, they had to first be aware that the city was taking the land, or had to have seen the city's very small article in the paper calling all who wanted to move the bodies to contact the city by mid-November 1896. While Trinity still owned the property, they cooperated with anyone who wanted to move their loved one. Once the city had the land, Trinity did not have the right to access it anymore. They tried to contact families of those buried in vaults. Other than that, it would have been very difficult to find specific bodies, as many were buried without tombstones and the burial records were not precise enough to indicate exact locations of burials. Many of those buried in the St John's Cemetery died during cholera epidemics and many of them were quite poor. Trinity's records indicate that they are inclusive in their acceptance of bodies for burial; some were black, some jews, some orphans, some servants, and some of fairly high standing. Not all were episcopalian. In all, less than 100 bodies were moved, and ultimately day laborers were hired to break up and bury tombstones about 2 feet beneath the surface, in preparation for the coming small park.

Remaining graves

You may find this link helpful in locating graves either remaining here or re-interred at the "new" cemetery at 155 st & Broadway.

Aricle on the remaining graves

Another link that may shed some light on those remaining there.

Names list of those buried in St. James

Here is another more concise history about St. Johns burial ground. It lists the names of many buried there.

St. John's Burying Ground - Greenwich Village

I know that some of the bodies were reburied in uptown Trinity Cemetery at Broadway and 155th Street. I would check with their office (they are very helpful, or at least were in the past) and also check with Trinity Church on Wall Street to see if they have records. Good luck with your search!

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