The Willow Grove Cemetery
The Willow Grove Cemetery Association at New Brunswick was officially
incorporated on April 4, 1850. Special legislation granted a formal
Charter to the Association which was approved by the Govenor of
New Jersey on February 12, 1851. The Majority of the land on which
the cemetery is now situated was purchased between 1847 and 1849
from Ann Croes and Ira C. Voorhees. The first officer of the Association,
Nicholas Wyckoff, and all of the original members of the Board of
Directors are buried in Willow Grove.
The original shape and boundaries of the
Willow Grove Cemetery varied somewhat from what they are today.
The Cemetery once had underground holding vaults located in the
southwest portion of the property adjacent to Welton Street. The
vaults were used as a temporary holding area for deaths which occurred
in the winter months. An article in the Daily Home News from August
2, 1929 reports that the Cemetery Association was planning on selling
the section adjacent to Welton Street to Commerical developers.
The article explains the rational for the sale. "It was . .
. decided to dispose of the property, which is on the other side
of the brook and not fit for cemetery purposes, due to the ground
being too low". Individuals interred in the vaults were then
buried in the cemetery. The land was sold to George R. Morrison
on September 13, 1929 for a total of one hundred dollars.
One of the most unusual and noteworthy plots
in the Willow Grove Cemetery is the Japanese Section. Purchased
in 1870 by Rutgers College as a burial plot for the Japanese exchange
student Kusakabe Taro, this plot became the final resting place
for eight citizens of Japan who were studying or working in the
Tri-State area. The seven marble obelisks are notable for the Japanese
characters found an all four sides of the obelisks. These grave
markers were in terrible disrepair until 1977 when Dr. Yuko Ohtake
donated two thousand dollars for the restoration of the plot during
his visit from Fukui, Japan. In 1992, the headstone of an infant
buried in the plot was replaced and a general monument was erected
to the memory of the eight. Every year, New Brunswick hosts a ceremony
at this plot in remembrance of the deceased students as part of
its involvement with its Sister Cities in Japan.
Another plot of note is that of the New
Brunswick Unknown Soldier from WWI. This soldier never saw combat
and died during the flu epidemic of 1918 while stationed at Fort
Dix. His remains were returned to New Brunswick but his family never
came to claim his body so he was placed in a vault. James Neilson
and the local VFW heard about the unclaimed and now unidentifiable
soldier and buried him in the Willow Grove Cemetery. The burial
took place in the summer of 1930 with full military honors. The
VFW still places American Flags around the plot.
Other individuals of note buried in Willow
Grove Cemetery are Ira C. Voorhees, from whom most of the land was
purchased; Johnson Letson, president of the New Brunswick Rubber
Company and a Rutgers College Trustee; J.C. Ackerman, local prominent
business man; as well as Tunis V.D. Hoagland, Mayor of New Brunswick
in the mid-1860's. The Cemetery is as well as many civil war veterans
and other local people of note.
Cheesman or Central Cemetery
Much less is know about the Central Cemetery than the Presbyterian
and Willow Grove Cemeteries. The Central Cemetery Association was
incorporated in 1868 and the land was purchased from Jeptha Cheesman
on May 4, 1868 for a total of one thousand dollars. On the 1866
map of New Brunswick, the section between the Presbyterian Cemetery
and the Willow Grove Cemetery is clearly labeled as property belonging
to Jeptha Cheesman.
Jeptha Cheesman is the most notable individual
buried in this section of the site. He is described as "a local
mason, leader, and landowner." Mr. Cheesman spelled his name
without an "e" after the "s" in his name; conversely,
his name on the family obelisk is spelled "Cheeseman"
The Presbyterian Cemetery
John P . Wall , a local historian from the first half of the 20th
century , describes the first ward (the area in which Willow Grove
is located) as being referred to as "Richmond's Meadows".
This reference matches evidence found in deeds from the 1830's,
although the land on which the cemetery is situated was purchased
from Peter P. Runyon. The tract of land on which the Presbyterian
Cemetery is located was purchased in conjunction with the First
Baptist Church of New Brunswick. The Baptist Church is listed as
the grantee on the deed dated April 4, 1837 and the price is listed
as three hundred dollars. If the two churches split the cost evenly,
as it has been suggested, each church paid one hundred and fifty
The Baptist Church used the position of the
tract that is adjacent to George Street (on which a Victorian home
and part of the Hope VI project is now located) as its burial ground.
It sold this land to Simon Van Wickk on April 3, 1878 for one hundred
and fifty dollars. The land was later developed for commercial
The Presbyterian Church chose to move the
tombstones and remains from the old Presbyterian Yard on Burnet
Street to the new cemetery on Morris Street in the fall of 1846
. These stones, dating as far back as 1746, are located in the southeast
portion of the Presbyterian year in the swale area. The grave markers
in this area are remarkable not only for their age, but also for
the stone out of which they are made. Two are made from a slate
not native to New Jersey and are thought to have been mined and
possibly carved in New England. Another is notable because it is
an early example of the use of marble for grave markers.
Some individuals of note interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery are
the Neilson Family, including Colonel James Neilson, John Acken,
a mayor of New Brunswick during the 1840's, and the now entirely
ruined plot of the Reverend Robert Birch of the Presbyterian Church.