I love exploring, looking for details of those long gone, and locating remnants of a previous life. So, when Glenn and I were exchanging information on old cemeteries in our area, he mentioned some information on an old cemetery hiding in the woods, and I just had to go see it!
Knowing the general area where the cemetery is located, I did that old guy thing and did some drive-by’s in the immediate area, hoping to spot a clue that would lead me to the exact spot. Nothing was obvious. Next step? I chatted with people working in the general area. Finally, one outstanding lady told me she sometimes would take walks and remembered it!
Now, armed with more information, I began zeroing in on the location. In this particular site, the area is fenced in to protect what is left from back when the Stewart Field industrial area was being developed in the 1980s. As it is located behind some businesses, I stopped and obtained permission to look around. In these days, it’s best to make sure. People seeing an old guy wandering about in the woods, looking a bit lost, normally will result in a call to local law enforcement, believing one of the following: he’s lost, he’s got Alzheimer’s, he’s casing the business for a breaking and entering, or all of the above.
After being pricked and stuck by a significant number of brambles, I spotted the fencing. Thinking back to the warning the lady had given me about watching out for the bears, I was beginning to wonder if my journey would be more adventurous than I wished. Making my way closer, I was able to peek through the fence and see a grave marker, with a couple of footstones. Getting excited, I had to make my way around the fencing until I located the gate and got inside.
Walking over to the grave marker, I was impressed at its excellent condition. The entire inscription is completely legible, as well as the initials on the footstone. Perhaps the sheltering by the trees has shielded it from the elements. But, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loneliness and melancholy. The setting is rather peaceful, away from the fast-paced world of today, sitting in the shadows of sheltering trees.
I walked about the entire fenced-in parcel but didn’t find any other markers. There was a fair amount of leaves on the ground, making it difficult to identify any other potential markers. Are there any others there? Or, have their markers gradually eased their way into the ground, sinking away from a world so far removed from what those interred here lived? Being immersed in the world of today, these individuals would be horrified and lost. I believe they’re resting easily beneath the shade, with the occasional gentle wind caressing the branches. Maybe it would be nice to hang up some wind chimes there for the occasional serenade. I later learned there aren’t any other markers still visible.
Based on the clues I was provided, I contacted the New York State Museum in Albany for the records associated with this land. I was very pleased with their quick and thorough response. The proposal for the development of the land was published in 1987 and is very detailed, over 72 pages! This includes details of the house, other buildings, and an overview of the family with a timeline, and the cemetery. It even has mention of the occupation of the land as far back as 3,000 BC to 4,000 BC!
John Robinson, from Brookhaven, Long Island, was not the original settler on this parcel. From what the research states in this report is the property, land which may have been owned by Samuel and Thomas Belknap in the beginning, was then sold it to Samuel and Jerusha Sprague. When John Robinson purchased the farm of 200 acres from Samuel and Jerusha Sprague in 1761, there was a house. No determination of the builder was made.
Shortly thereafter, in 1763, John added another 200 acres to the west of the original parcel. Thought is the immediate 200 acres were not the best for farming, the area to the west offering much better soil. This he developed and raised wheat which he sold to the Continental Army.
John Robinson was a staunch patriot, a proud member of various committees, including the Committee of Public Safety, and was even a Town of Newburgh Supervisor, serving two terms! When he passed away, his farm was left to his nephew, Richard Robinson, who was a personal friend of George Washington. There is a reference to a visit to Richard in 1797, by President Washington. John Robinson’s widow, Elizabeth, lived on the farm after John’s passing, finally deeding the property over to Richard in 1805, according to the request in John’s will, by which time she had remarried, in 1798, to a gentleman named Isaac Fowler. Descendants of John Robinson lived on this farm all the way into the 20th Century!
There is simply too much to include in a weekly article, but the entire report will be posted on the Newburgh History Blog. For those of you who want to dig into all the details, this will be the place to go.
Photos Provided by the Author