The day began with a heavy rainstorm and high humidity, but the sky cleared just in time for a team of Hanover Township Landmark volunteers to work at the historic graveyard on Route 10 in Whippany.
The volunteers were on site at Whippany Burying Yard to repair the “1851” engraved entrance post and wrought iron gates. The post was installed 166 years ago, when Route 10 was a dirt wagon road through Morris County. It was damaged by a vehicle sometime in the late 20th Century; the only thing holding it up was a wrought iron gate latch anchored to the another post.
The formal entranceway from Route 10 is rarely used. Heavy, hand-chipped stone posts support three wrought-iron gates. The posts weigh about 500 pounds each.
The team of volunteers on site June 24 were Landmark Commission member Len Fariello, Hanover Landmark Chair Mike Czuchnicki, Whippany Garden Club gardener Tom Coates, former Whippany resident Pat Kruger and Committee Member George Coppola.
The team continued what volunteers Fariello and Bruce Bruche began the prior week, when they laid the broken, heavy post carefully on the ground. The team reinforced it with internal steel bars. Fariello used a farm tractor to lift the post and then join the two parts together. The historic wrought iron gates are being repaired by Kruger. Czuchnicki and Coates completed the work team.
Other work accomplished that day was the installation of bronze plaques to honor those whose stones are virtually illegible. The plaques were affixed to steel posts driven four feet into the ground.
The Burying Yard’s 300-year anniversary will be celebrated next year. The sign next to the entrance says: “Whippany Cemetery – 1718,” but it is not quite accurate, since the word “cemetery” had not yet entered the English language when the burying yard was bequest to the “Christian friends and neighbors of Whippanong” in 1718.
The Whippany Burying Yard is the oldest public gathering place in Morris County. The first grave is its founding father, Schoolmaster John Richards. His headstone is the oldest dated colonial artifact in all of north central New Jersey; it is the “Plymouth Rock of north central New Jersey – 1718.”
The Landmark Commission is working to beautify and preserve the burying yard in preparation for its 2018 Tricentennial. Last year, the Township Committee allocated $50,000 to start preservation work. This year, the commission is again seeking a matching grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
Another HTLC project the township is funding is a hedgerow of evergreen shrubs along Route 10 to mitigate the noise and pollution of modern Route 10 and restore the ambience of the once peaceful burying yard. A historic landscape architecture firm was hired; a Federal requirement as the Burying Yard is a National Historic Site. The hedge will be planted atop a three-foot berm, to give it immediate height and raise it above the highway’s road salt.