The Hanover Township Landmark Commission gathered on the last day of winter in the town’s old, colonial burying yard. They came to find, uncover, discover, and preserve fallen headstones that lie on, and underground.
The project included excavating fallen, broken, and buried stones and placing them onto concrete block beds. Work that is more extensive is being planned to ameliorate the effects of time and the elements, including planting a hedgerow to screen the noise and exhaust pollution from Route 10.
Hanover is proud of its rich history and plans to celebrate the Whippany Burying Yard Tercentennial in 2018. In preparation for this 300th anniversary, Hanover intends to make the historic, two-acres into a tourist showplace. Hanover seeks the help of the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust to make this a reality.
The Whippany Burying Yard is rightly called a “Burying Yard,” because it predates the use of the word “Cemetery.” It is the oldest colonial graveyard in Morris County, in fact the oldest in all of north central New Jersey. The first schoolhouse and first church in what came to be Morris County stood here, long before NJ or the United States of America were founded.
Many settlers rest in the Whippany graveyard. They lived, worked, and birthed our nation. Their number includes Schoolmaster Richards, who bequeathed property along the bank of the Whippanong River. He sleeps in the first marked grave of our region. His 1718 headstone is our oldest settler relic. Many Revolutionary War heroes and notable political figures also rest in the Whippany Burying Yard.
Members of the Landmark Commission that actively participated in the project included Chair Mike Czuchnicki and members Hinck, Petrillo, Blumenfeld, Loughlin, Sieka, Polo, Conte and Fariello.
While working the rear corner of the yard, the ladies noticed a few square inches of brown sandstone and an hour of carefully excavating sod revealed an old, forgotten headstone. They called all the Commissioners for the unveiling. The excitement of the Commission members at uncovering the inscription was exhilarating. Hinck helped Fariello carefully flip the stone to display – for the first time in how-many-years – the 214 year-old inscription, “…died in 1802…” Many stones were found in pieces and carefully uncovered and pieced together like pieces of a puzzle to reveal their identity, but unfortunately, some of the oldest, long-buried, eighteenth century brownstones have lost their epitaphs and their history is now lost forever.
If interested in learning more, visit the Whippany Burying Yard and take a self-guided tour; park at JR Tobacco and cross the wooden bridge.
The Whippany Burying Yard Restoration Project is enriching the soon to be released “Journey through History,” the path through Hanover Township from Newark to Morristown. It passes through what Czuchnicki describes as the “Whippany Historic Town Center.” In 500 yards, a dozen of these historic sites span 300 years of history, more if including the earliest residents, the Lenape Indians.
The Whippany Burying Yard is between the Whippany River and NJ Route 10. Beyond the Yard’s fence, cars unthinkingly follow the old Indian Trail along the Whippany River valley.
Fifteen thousand years ago, a half-mile thick glacier covered the area. The glacier receded and formed Ancient Lake Passaic. A vast remnant of the ancient lake skirts Hanover Township – “Black Meadows” (where the Morristown Airport is located) and “Troy Meadows” from Route 10 north across Troy Road, to Routes 80 and 280; south is the Great Swamp.
Whippany is rich in industrial history. The river drops 65 feet in just a half mile, so waterpower made Whippany a mill town and the industrial hub of Morris County. Industry began in 1715 with the “Ye Olde Iron Forge.” It smelted iron ore from the hills for delivery to the market cities to the east. Bell Labs’ inventors saw NYC from atop the rise, leading to television’s first broadcast, between Whippany and New York City.
The Hanover Landmark Commission, plans several more “enrichment” projects, beginning with re-creating the old forge and waterwheel near its original site along the river, and to opening a walking tour along one of our forgotten railroad spurs between the old Hanover mill raceway and the Whippany River.
The Hanover Township Landmark Commission is looking for more volunteers to help with the many historic projects it is undertaking throughout Hanover Township.