Port Washington’s high school students amble past the shrouded cemetery daily on their way to school, mostly unaware that behind the black fence are the graves of more than 100 of the town’s earliest settlers and their descendants.
A thick border of oak trees shields one of North Hempstead Town’s most historic sites, the Monfort Cemetery, which dates to the 18th century. With a new historic marker, town officials said they plan to change the cemetery’s obscurity.
After receiving a grant from the private William G. Pomeroy Foundation, North Hempstead Town has installed a blue and yellow marker, to be officially unveiled to the community next week. The cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is at Monfort Road and St. John Place in Port Washington, nestled right next to Paul D. Schreiber High School.
“This marker will not only ensure that all residents and visitors know the importance of this site but also will preserve legacies of patriots who signed the town’s Declaration of Independence,” said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “These local residents helped to shape our Town and our country.”
Town Historian Howard Kroplick said that the cemetery is “considered the most historically significant burying ground in our community” and that he hoped the marker would “really reinforce the history.”
“I’d watch the students walk by, not knowing what was there,” Kroplick said. “Now, they’re stopping and looking in.”
The William C. Pomeroy Foundation awards grants to eligible nonprofits and municipalities in New York State for historic sites that date from 1740 to 1918, according to the foundation’s website.
The cemetery, originally part of a 110-acre family farm, was created from a one-acre plot sold off to members of the town’s notable families to be used as a burial ground. From 1737 to 1892, more than 150 people were laid to rest there, including members of the Onderdonk, Dodge, Hegeman, Rapelje and Schenck families and four Revolutionary War patriots who signed a 1775 declaration of independence to separate from Hempstead, whose leaders had pledged loyalty to Great Britain’s King George III, prior to the national Declaration of Independence.
A century after the cemetery’s last burial, the town took ownership of the Monfort cemetery. Over the years, the marble and sandstone gravestones have sunken into the ground, the names of ancestors have faded and weeds have established ownership. Town officials said they are committed to maintaining and preserving the cemetery, and Kroplick said the town intends to hold a workshop in the summer to help rehabilitate the gravestones.
The town will commemorate the marker at a public ceremony Monday at 10 a.m. at the cemetery.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
Monfort Cemetery details
- 154 graves dating from 1737 to 1892, arranged in 13 rows by family
- Gravesites of some of the town’s earliest Dutch settlers and their descendants
- In 1984, Burtis Monfort transferred ownership to the town
- Designated a town landmark in 1985
- Added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New York State Register of Historic Places in 1988
- Notable interments include Adrian Onderdonck, North Hempstead Town’s first supervisor and a signer of the 1775 declaration of independence from Hempstead Town