A descendant of Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Woodhull making a pilgrimage to Long Island Sunday to visit his famous ancestor's gravesite found the tombstone broken into pieces -- but community members have repaired it in time for Monday's Memorial Day celebrations.
Nathan Fremont Woodhull IV, 36, visited this weekend from New Hampshire, where he is stationed as a mechanical division-leading chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. But, he said, his heart sank at the sight of the broken gravestone in the Mastic Beach cemetery.
"It definitely was disappointing to finally make it out here and the main prominent member of my ancestry, his tombstone was laying there in four pieces," he said.
Woodhull discovered the damage Sunday morning, when he went to the cemetery with Edward DeGennaro, president of the Mastic Peninsula Historical Society.
DeGennaro said they saw the stone of the brigadier general, who died in 1776, broken in four large pieces. The pieces had been stacked up against the portion of the headstone that was still standing, and the breaks looked fresh, he said.
"I would hope maybe it was an accident," he said. "If it was, why wasn't it reported? It's a desecration, if you ask me. It's not a nice thing."
Suffolk County police investigating the incident said Sunday that it was not criminal in nature.
Michael Lubrano, a trustee of the historical society, said he and cemetery expert Bob Guerriero worked to fix the damage before Memorial Day remembrances at the site.
The stone, made of brittle white sandstone, was repaired with silicone adhesive, Lubrano said, but the damage is permanent.
"Really, the only method is to replace, not repair," Guerriero said. "But it's historical and it's really priceless. So there's really not much more you can do with it."
Nathaniel Woodhull, who was born in Mastic in 1722, served as president of the New York Provincial Congress and was head of the Suffolk and Queens militias.
As the Battle of Long Island drew near in August 1776, Woodhull was tasked with driving 100,000 head of cattle east across Long Island to keep them from the hands of the British. Woodhull was captured and wounded, and was sent to a prison ship, and later a house-hospital, where he died in September at age 53. His body was buried at the small, fenced-in, private family cemetery in Mastic Beach that was once part of the Woodhull Estate.
Woodhull said he was looking into the cost of commissioning a new stone based on etchings of the current stone, in case anything else happens to the historic marker.
But thanks to the fix, which Guerriero said was done "seamlessly," the stone doesn't look a day over 237 years. "It will be in good shape" for today's ceremony, he said.