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Neglected "Slave Cemetery" Restored in Cold Spring Harbor

By Rupert Deedes When the Rev. Gideon Pollach first arrived at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring Harbor in 2016, he was told there was an abandoned “slave cemetery” somewhere on the church’s grounds. After searching in the woods, over many months, he found it, and the cemetery has now been cleaned-up and restored. St. John’s is one of the ten Diocese of Long Island churches participating in a project investigating their history of involvement with slavery, the slavery-driven economy, and anti-slavery and abolition movements. Another impetus for the search for the slave cemetery came from Denise Evans-Sheppard, executive director of Oyster Bay Historical Society, who enlisted Pollach in her effort to search for the place where her ancestors were buried. It took some doing, but eventually, a neglected plot of un-fenced land, located in the woods off Harbor Hill Drive, some 10-minute walk from St. John’s chapel and adjacent to the town’s water district building, was identified as the cemetery. The ground was unattended and un-fenced, overgrown with bushes and covered with leaves from the surrounding trees. Some people also dumped their old furniture there. The plot had been deeded to the church in 1920, but a sign indicating it was state property has not been removed. In October 2017, Pollach told Evans-Sheppard that he thought that the neglected area, across the street from the church rectory - his home - could be the cemetery Evans-Sheppard was looking for. It was. In March 2018, volunteers from St, John’s, accompanied by the Town of Huntington’s director of minority affairs Kevin Thorbourne and the Huntington Historian, Robert Hughes, cleaned up the grounds to reveal three dozen graves marked by stones placed in rows and columns, and two traditional marble headstones. A fence was also built around the grounds, and the cleanup is now an annual event. Volunteers also worked to beautify the area, planting tulips and snow bulbs to mark the site.

Up to 200 enslaved and freed African Americans are believed to be buried in

what is now called the "Harbor Road Burying Ground."

Pollach and Huntington’s officials, with the help of Oyster Bay’s Evans-Sheppard and St. John’s curate, the Rev. Mary Beth Mills-Curran, have also been working to identify those who are buried at Harbor Road.


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