Historic Cemetery at the First Presbyterian Church
Our Cemetery Sexton
Our Cemetery Sexton is Robert Nichols and we are very blessed to have Rob on staff. Rob considers his care of the cemetery to be his ministry and we couldn't agree more. Rob's special care for those who are interred in First Presbyterian Church Cemetery is evident from the care he gives the grounds and the headstones & memorials. Thanks to Rob's tireless searching for information, a large number of veterans' graves that were previously unrecognized as such, now have special markers from the United States government (in honor of their service). Rob is a wealth of information about the background of the cemetery and many of those interred there. To contact Rob, either call the church office and leave a message (973-627-1059) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Historic Cemetery of First Presbyterian Church, Rockaway, New Jersey
Part of the present day cemetery was believed to be an old Native American burial ground. Colonial settlement took hold here in Rockaway, Morris County New Jersey, around the year 1720, and considerable business formed around 1730 with the building of the Job Allen Sr. Iron Works. Tradition states that this particular spot was selected as a burial ground by the earliest families. On March 2, 1758 the Presbyterian Church was founded and organized. The first Meeting House constructed of wood, was built in 1758-60, primarily by Job Allen Sr. Job Allen Jr. would complete the construction of the Meeting House some 36 years later in 1794. The present church sanctuary was built in 1832. (Photograph above is the tomb of General William Winds.)
The original church property consisted of 10 acres and 30 perch, which used to cover property west of Wall Street, and also included property across the street from the present church. Some of the earliest settlers whose grave sites are unknown and forgotten can be under the large church parking lot or even under some of the cemetery roads.
On September 27th 1773, David Beaman: a founding member, deacon, chorister, elder of the Rockaway Presbyterian Church, was voted "to take care of the burying yard, to tell people where to bury their dead, and to advertise it through the parish.” This makes him the first sexton at the Rockaway Presbyterian Church. Ironically, David Beaman is buried in a grave that was never marked. He passed away in 1802, and has a cenotaph in the cemetery. Thomas Conger became sexton in 1797. Revolutionary War veteran, David Gordon, became sexton in 1802. People used to call him “the old sexton.” His broken tombstone bears the same inscription. He held the position as sexton for over 30 years. He died in 1852 at the age of 92 years and 10 months. In 1832 William Wear became the sexton for the "new church", having “the privilege of tilling and pasturing the grave yard.” After his service there was Silvanus Howell in 1840, in 1845 Samuel Garrigus, then John B. Kelsey and Fredrick Star, then David Hamilton in 1858, Joseph H. Beach in 1864, then John Gordon Mott (David Gordon's grandson) in 1875, who held the position for an astounding 47 years! He was also the first sexton who kept accurate records. He was assisted by William Rogers and Peter Beatty in the last few years of his tenure. Peter Carlyon followed John Gordon Mott in 1923 retiring in 1955.
The oldest grave stone is dated April 8th 1762. David Estill lost his beloved wife Mary at the age of 24 years.
There are estimated to be 47 Revolutionary War veterans buried here, including a Hessian Soldier named Leopold Zindle (d. 1821), some accounts say around 100 people buried here participated in the conflict. The Morris County- New Jersey Militia’s highest ranking officer, Brigadier General William Winds is buried in the small knoll behind the church. He was also elected as one of three delegates from Morris County to the New Jersey Convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States for the state of New Jersey in 1788. He died in 1789.
There are 16 War of 1812 veterans interred in the cemetery, 6 War of 1812 "peace time era" service members of the Morris County N.J. Militia, 132 Civil War veterans, 13 Spanish American War veterans, 89 WWI veterans, as of December 2021 there are 168 WWII veterans, 41 Korean War veterans, 20 Vietnam War veterans resting in peace. There are approximately 7,000 people interred in the cemetery.
In 1861 - 1865 the cemetery was surveyed and plotted, and walkways and roads were constructed. In 1933 part of George W. Stickle’s will was bequeathed to the cemetery. Part of the money was used to erect the iron spiked fence that surrounds half of the property.
First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway 35 Church Street, Rockaway, NJ 07866-3027 Phone: 973-627-1059 Fax: 973-983-0090 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.fpcrockaway.org