The Factoryville Cemeteries Part 2: Trinity Chapel Cemetery

Patricia M. Salmon

By 1836, the community we now know as West New Brighton was called Factoryville. It was an accurately descriptive name since thriving manufactories flourished and the community featured all types of enterprises and services including carpenters, wagon makers, butchers, saloons, hotels, and of course churches and cemeteries.

Trinity Chapel and Cemetery opened long before the factories and populace arrived. Imagine what a sparse and barren location it was in 1802, but, there must have been a “flock” needing spiritual attention for the Church of Saint Andrew’s to open this outpost. Or perhaps the church elders had an eye towards the future and they possessed the savvy awareness that a community would soon develop? The Church of Saint Andrew’s, was the first Episcopalian Church on Staten Island. The Episcopalian religion was one of three creeds practiced by the original settlers of Staten Island in 1661. The clerical leaders were correct. In no time at all a community began to develop. It initially grew around Barrett, Tileston and Company, a dyeworks that opened in 1820, at the southwest corner of what is now Richmond Terrace and Broadway. It would eventually be called the New-York Dyeing and Printing Establishment and in one form or another it operated on the island into the Great Depression. After it opened the dyeworks prospered and soon a number of other factories were flourishing in the village. The population of Factoryville exploded!

The Old S.I.Dyeing and Printing Establishment

The New-York Dyeing and Printing Establishment, West New Brighton, no date.

Thus the Factoryville Cemeteries became a prime location for the burials of community members. This trio of burial grounds includes Staten Island Cemetery (our last post), Fountain Cemetery (an upcoming post) and the currently discussed Trinity Chapel Cemetery. The latter cemetery would eventually be referred to as the Church of the Ascension Cemetery owing to the magnificent edifice that was built onsite. Combined, the three cemeteries today form the shape of a hefty “L.” Trinity Chapel Cemetery is now a small, oblong plot nestled in by Staten Island Cemetery, Rogers Surveying, Tompkins Court and Fountain Cemetery. Originally less than one acre, today it is approximately twenty feet wide by fifty feet long.

Many might find it difficult to believe that the remains of Native Americans were discovered at the Trinity Chapel Cemetery. They were members of the Lenape which when translated means “Original People.” The Lenape were part of the Algonquin tribe. The discovery was documented by William T. Davis and Charles W. Leng. The historians wrote that the skeletons were “flexed in Indian fashion” and buried with grave goods (Native American implements). “Indian Fashion” refers to the custom of placing bodies on their sides, with knees up, sometimes with the hands of the deceased covering their faces. This body position has been found in a half dozen locations on the island. The remains were uncovered when a parish house for the Church of the Ascension was built in 1903.[1] As if that isn’t enough to motivate any history lover’s interest the waterfront directly in front of these Factoryville Cemeteries was a documented Native American fishing village. In addition, Mr. Davis and Mr. Leng verified that a Revolutionary War redoubt (earthen fort) held by the British army was located on this site. Furthermore, and this is a huge furthermore, a skirmish between the British militia and invading Colonial rebels occurred at this location in 1777. Sadly, enough the redoubt was removed to make way for the foundation of Trinity Chapel. These facts and the presence of slaves and former slaves who resided in the area indicates that additional artifacts and even remains might someday be located at the three burial grounds.

Accommodating soldiers who participated in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the Factoryville Cemeteries became the final resting place for at least one-hundred-and-twenty Civil War veterans, and for men who fought in the First World War.

As with Staten Island and Fountain Cemeteries, the Trinity Chapel Cemetery is a reflection of Staten Island’s early settlers. Here are buried members of the Brittain, Bodine, Cubberly, De Hart, Seguine, Sharrott, Simonson, Slaight, Van Pelt, Van Name, and Van Cleef families. This is only a small number of the prominent families buried onsite.

Many of the Trinity Chapel Cemetery headstones were relocated in 1870, when construction began on the Church of the Ascension. This grandiose structure replaced Trinity Chapel. These headstones were repositioned elsewhere throughout the three cemetery properties. Relocation of headstones took place again in 1903, when the Parish House was built.[2]

Approximately fifty headstones still stand at Trinity Chapel Cemetery. Most are illegible as they are made of marble and the epitaphs have been eroded by environmental conditions, neglect, and vandalism. The oldest known standing gravestone is to the memory of Anne Cubberly who died on June 18, 1806.

The Church of the Ascension relocated to central Staten Island in 1929. This led to the permanent abandonment of the cemetery. A church fire in 1954 wrought further havoc on the burial ground when firefighters drove their trucks haphazardly through the cemetery and destroyed many of the historic headstones found therein. The last burial at Trinity Chapel Cemetery took place in 1963, when a wife was interred with her husband per her living request.

In 2000, Trinity Cemetery was placed under the domain of the New York City Parks Department. It is maintained by the non-profit Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island (FACSI). The Factoryville Cemeteries were abandoned for at least forty-six years. It was in 1980 that the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island was formed to oversee the rehabilitation of the burial grounds. Major milestones were reached in 2003, with the help of the Richmond County Savings Foundation and other funders who granted FACSI close to $800,000 over the next twelve years. This money allowed FACSI to purchase sturdy metal fencing, upright several hundred stones/monuments, remove over one hundred invasive trees, repave the entrance to Staten Island Cemetery, hire the necessary heavy equipment to re-establish original pathways and remove tons of natural and unnatural debris. Much has been accomplished over the past thirty-five years by the not-for-profit, Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island.

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Entrance to Staten Island, Trinity Chapel and Fountain Cemeteries on Richmond Terrace. Image courtesy of the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island.

Trinity Chapel, Staten Island and Fountain Cemeteries provide a primary source of genealogical and biographical data through tombstone epitaphs, and because the original cemetery burial logs, cemetery association minute notes, and correspondence records have been preserved and are accessible through the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island. Corroborating and additional information is also available in the records of Staten Island coroners and funeral homes that are in the care of the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island (FACSI). Digitized and transcribed information is available free of charge online at rootsweb.com.

All three cemeteries harbor historical information that has yet to be discovered or unearthed including data focusing on the re-interment of individuals from other cemeteries. These properties have yielded and are likely to yield, important information relative to prehistory and the history of Staten Island. For further information on Trinity Chapel, Staten Island and Fountain Cemeteries please visit the “Cemeteries” section of Rootsweb.com at

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyrichmo/cemeteries.html#c

Also be sure to visit and support the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island at:

https://www.facebook.com/Friends-of-Abandoned-Cemeteries-of-Staten-Island-FACSI-158775687492624/

For information on Staten Island cemeteries “Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island” is available at:

https://patsalmonhistory.com/bookshop/

[1] Leng, Charles, W. and William T. Davis, Staten Island and Its People, Volume I. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1930

[2]  Rogers, Lynn, email, March 9, 2015.

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