Researching History Using High-Tech

In my last post, I shared the story of a centuries-old dwelling in Paramus that is in danger of being torn down. I opined about my concerns when it comes to preserving New Jersey’s past. Well, I am happy to share a story about trying to learn more about individuals in unmarked graves in one of the oldest cemeteries in the country. And I am proud to say it is in my hometown of Belleville.

A team of researchers from Rutgers are using high-tech equipment, including ground penetrating radar, to search for Chinese immigrants possibly buried in the basement of the Belleville Dutch Reformed Church. This church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Reformed Dutch Church of Second River, was founded in 1697. The church was rebuilt in 1725 and again in 1807. The current church building was built in 1853.

belleville_reformed_church.jpg

Belleville Dutch Reformed Church Photo by Jim.henderson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58082293

Throughout its history, this church has been a place of significance. During the American Revolution, the church’s steeple was used as an observation post. There are over 62 Revolutionary soldiers buried in the adjacent graveyard – the most of any cemetery in the country. It was also used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, which helped those enslaved in the south find freedom as they traveled north.

Later on, Chinese immigrants made Belleville their home. Those immigrants believed to be buried on the church grounds worked on the Trans-Atlantic Railroad. After the work was complete, the immigrants returned to Belleville because of its growing Chinese community. Belleville was home to the original “Chinatown” in the United States. Earlier this year a marker was placed at the church to serve as a memorial to those who helped build the railroad and, in turn, expand America.

I am proud to call Belleville my hometown and am excited to learn what is discovered on the property of the Reformed Dutch Church of Second River.

Remembering the Heroes: NNJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery

Since I was a kid, I liked going to the cemetery. I know it may sound strange. I grew up in a big Italian family and, unfortunately, as each family member passed, they would go to the cemetery. Once I was old enough to go a little further away from home on my bike, I would ride to the cemetery on weekends when it was nice. I would sit on the ground, clean the headstones of my loved ones and talk to them. When I was able to drive, I went more often.

Now that I live almost an hour away from Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, I don’t get there as often as I would like, but I am still fascinated by cemeteries. They hold not just our loved ones, but the history of our country.

nnjvmc-logoEnter the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

If there is one group of individuals who should always receive our respect and care, it is our nation’s veterans. And those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us deserve our highest level of respect. The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery’s focus is to make sure vets receive a respectful resting place in Northern New Jersey nearby their families.

It took a long time, lots of planning, and plenty of effort to get this cemetery in place. It is the only veteran’s cemetery that is privately owned and receives no funding from the State or the Federal governments. It relies on their small burial costs and donations to stay in place and available for vets and their families in Northern New Jersey.

This cemetery is the brainchild of John Harrigan, president of Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey. He took on the mission of creating this cemetery and enlisted the help of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, VFW organizations, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Sussex County, and services from individuals like Attorney Kevin Kelly, and businesses and organizations Mark DeVenezia of Mulch Concepts, Gardell Land Surveying, Pompton Lakes Elks Lodge 1895, and from the Sussex County Technical School. Local veterans’ organizations also have supported the effort.

The New Jersey State Legislature has approved the addition of the cemetery non-profit on the state income tax check-off list.

Now add my partner-in-crime Lisaann.

She is an amazing individual – a breast cancer survivor, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Chinkchewunska Chapter; the National Society Daughter of the Union 1861-1865, and the cemetery’s Administrator and she can trace her blood line to many veterans who fought during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It wasn’t until she attended a good friend’s Father’s Military Funeral at the Veterans Cemetery in Goshen NY, that she decided she wanted to be part of the mission of the new cemetery in Sussex County. She takes her position seriously and does all she can to make sure the vets who are buried at the cemetery receive the care and respect they deserve.

They do fundraisers periodically, but rely heavily on donations from individuals. This iscemetery-enterance an important place in New Jersey for vets and their families. If you are able, I hope you will consider making a donation to this important location in New Jersey.

If you are interested in planning a service at the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery, please reach out. I am sure Lisaann and John will help you plan a service fitting of a vet!

Great Jersey Photos

There are plenty of great places in New Jersey for taking interesting photos. If you would like to see some really unique spaces in New Jersey, I recommend you check out my friend Lisa’s blog – Spirit Soul Shutter.

Frankford-Cemetery

Frankford Cemetery in black and white by Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian.

Lisa studied photography in college and now as a member and Chinkchewunska Chapter Historian of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Sussex County, she and her small band of cemetery explorers work to preserve historic cemeteries and other locations in Northern New Jersey. She has made a point to keep her camera with her as she explores the Jersey outdoors and she captures some amazing photos that really shows off the beauty of our beloved state. I hope you check out her blog!