This Halloween, as costumed children parade through Scarsdale neighborhoods in search of sugary treats, some in Quaker Ridge will pass a lesser known resting place for past residents. Uncared for and somewhat forgotten, their stones are increasingly obscured, but their family names - Cornell, Merritt, Griffen, Purdy, and Brown - live on in the landscape of contemporary Scarsdale. Let us now enter and learn what we can of past lives...
The Colonial Acres cemetery was probably established just before 1800, though most burials occurred here in the time before the Civil War.
The following map was drawn in 1974 by Meredith Britz, at the time a member of the Scarsdale Environment Corps. It details the placement of its stones, although a recent visit found less than it implied would be there.
This is what was found on the headstones when the map was drawn:
1) John Morrell; son of John and Amy Morrell. Born July 31, 1814 died May 31, 1875
2) Jane; wife of WIlliam Purdy. Born May 30, 1822, died June 2, 1855(?)
5) Amy; wife of John Morrell. No recognizable dates.
8) Phebe; no other writing
11) Doctor Nicholas Morrell; Born March 10, 1810, died August 14, 1853
12) James Morrell; Died November 11th, 1837 in the 26th year of his age
13) Sarah; in memory of Sarah, wife of John Cornell, who departed this life August 23, 1832, aged 40 years, 6 months & 3 days
14) John Cornell, 1781-1864
John H. 1848-1878
17) Ruth Merritt; In memory of Ruth Merritt who departed this life January 2, 1822 in the 85 year of her age
19) Anne Brown; Born June 20th, 1766, died September 7, 1854
20) Nathan Brown; In memory of Nathan Brown who departed this life December 1814 in the 22nd year of his age
21) L Griffen; no dates
No doubt the name Merritt is recognizable, while the Cornell family spanned many generations in Scarsdale. The Purdy interred here may have been part of the same family that had already been resident for seven generations by 1795. The Browns left more than headstones to be remembered by: their house still stands!
The cemetery is mentioned in the will of Nathaniel Brown, on whose land it was then found, although it had already been established. According to the will, it was to measure "20 square rods". Former town supervisor George Cornell believed the cemetery had been established by his family while historian Helen Hurtz turned up evidence that it belonged to the Griffens; William Griffen Jr. and his wife Priscilla call out the land in a deed dated 26 June 1795. It is now in the hands of the Town of Scarsdale.
Let us now walk the cemetery together...
These are not simply the graves of residents passed and long forgotten, but milestones of a history that lives to this day.
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We are indebted to prior research conducted by Alan Steinfeld of Scarsdale. The great majority of material used in this feature comes from his earlier work. Earlier research on the Colonial Acres cemetery was conducted by Helen Lorraine Hultz and in the 1970s by Ms. Meredith Britz. Now Mrs. Meredith Britz Shelley, she reached out to us after seeing this feature, in the process adding some personal history to the history:
I was surprised and appreciative to see my name mentioned regarding the Colonial Acres Cemetery--a spot I have loved for many years. I drew the map shown in the article in 1974 after my college freshman year while a member of the Scarsdale Environment Corps--Peter Woodcock and Lowell Tooley had asked me to expand on what I found in the cemetery, which at the time was totally covered in vines and hidden from view. I felt this wonderful spot had so much history and had been sorely neglected--after my interest and map, the town decided it was time to clean it, and the Environment Corps began the job. I am so happy to see that it has now been recognized for its amazing history. I had forgotten about my map! What a wonderful surprise.
The photograph of the Nathaniel Brown house is property of the Scarsdale Public Library and used with their permission.
The Purdy family is mentioned in various issues of The Westchester Historian, produced by the Westchester County Historical Society.
We thank our piano teacher extraordinaire Brendan O'Keefe for bringing the cemetery to our attention.
All cemetery photography was taken by Miles and Lee Fischman.