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18th-century Hempstead tombstone laid to rest

Town of North Hempstead historian Howard Kroplick points

Town of North Hempstead historian Howard Kroplick points to the where the ivy meets the ivy sculpted on the Horsfield family tombstone. (July 19, 2012) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

A 238-year-old headstone is returning to its rightful resting place after a chance encounter with a history buff.

Charlie Rubin, 52, of Merrick, discovered the burial marker for 2-year-old Elizabeth Schenck earlier this month on the patio of his daughter's Port Washington apartment.

The rest, one might say, is history.

Rubin's Internet research revealed the headstone had been missing from Monfort Cemetery, roughly a mile away, for three years.

His inquiries ultimately led him to North Hempstead Town historian Howard Kroplick, who used his pickup truck to retrieve the roughly 35-pound stone from the 18th-century Thomas Dodge House, where Rubin's daughter rents an apartment.

Elizabeth Schenck was the daughter of Martin Schenck, a Revolutionary War era resident of Manhasset who signed a declaration of independence from loyalist Hempstead in 1775, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

Elizabeth died May 23, 1774, less than a month before the death of her 8-month-old sister, Sarah Schenck. Kroplick said the pair might have suffered from the same illness. The entire Schenck family is buried in Monfort Cemetery, according to Kroplick, but Elizabeth's headstone was reported missing in 2009.

Kroplick said he plans to deliver the headstone to its plot by the end of August.

Rubin hopes to be on hand to see the sandstone marker returned, which he said would give him some "closure" after his discovery of the origins of the headstone -- and the Schenck family.

"I kind of feel like I know them," he said. "It's become a personal thing for me."

On his next trip to Old Bethpage Village Restoration, he said he'll be looking through a new lens at the village's restoration of the 1735 Manhasset home once owned by Elizabeth Schenck's father.

"I will have a big smile on my face," Rubin said, "knowing that even though she died very young, she was still playing some place in that house."

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