Brooklyn'S 17th Century Cemeteries
17th century cemeteries are scarce in Brooklyn, New York despite its European settlement in the 1630s. Learn where the existing ones are and what to expect.
17th century cemeteries are scarce in Brooklyn, New York despite its European settlement in the 1630s. As part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, when tobacco plantations were established on the western end of Long Island amid Native American cornfields, what would become the Borough of Brooklyn was divided into six towns. Flatbush, Flatlands, and Gravesend were three of the six.
Old Gravesend Cemetery
Established circa 1650
McDonald Avenue in Gravesend
One of the smallest cemeteries in New York City, Gravesend is 1.6 acres in size. Gravesend Cemetery was the burial place for the Town of Gravesend founded by Lady Deborah Moody, an Anabaptist leader who had fled religious intolerance in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She was the only known woman voter in the 17th century. The Gravesend town charter of 1645 was the first issued to a woman in the colonies. Lady Moody designed the town as a walled village similar to those of 16th and 17th century Europe.
It is believed Lady Moody was buried in the cemetery. Many of the brownstone headstones are inscribed in Dutch and English. Several Revolutionary War veterans are buried in Gravesend Cemetery. A separate family burying ground within Gravesend Cemetery is the Van Sicklen plot. The Van Sicklens were an early settler family of Gravesend.
Flatbush Dutch Reformed Churchyard
890 Flatbush Avenue
In 1654 Peter Stuyvesant ordered a Dutch Reformed Church built in Flatbush with a stockade fence, behind which residents could escape marauding Indians. A second church building replaced it in 1698. The present church was built in 1796 and still retains the original church bell, which has rung for the funerals of all United States presidents and vice presidents since George Washington. The churchyard holds graves of early settler families and descendants. American Revolutionary war soldiers killed in the Battle of Brooklyn were buried beneath the church itself.
Flatlands Dutch Reformed Churchyard
Kings Highway and East 40th Street
Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, who founded the church, is buried beneath the pulpit, although the original church, an octagonal structure covered in spruce shingles, is long gone. The current church in the Greek-Revival style and covered in white-clapboard was built in 1848. A wrought-iron fence encloses the churchyard. The Reverend Ulpianus Van Sinderen, known as the Rebel Parson in the American Revolution, is buried there, along with members of noted Dutch settler families, such as the Kouwenhovens, Lotts, Stoothoffs, Voorheeses, and Suydams.