Huntington's oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Ground on Main Street, seen...

Huntington's oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Ground on Main Street, seen here May 17, holds the graves of 67 Revolutionary War veterans.  Credit: Rick Kopstein

With an eye toward the future, the Town of Huntington is looking at the past as it — and the country — prepare for America’s 250th birthday.

The town board recently approved partnering with the Huntington Historical Society for a stewardship program to help restore 53 historical cemeteries that are the final resting place of the town’s earliest settlers. The town is turning to a stewardship program with a nonprofit because such organizations can more easily get grant funding, Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes said.

“There are several granting agencies that will give money to a nonprofit organization but not to a municipality,” Hughes said. 

The historical society will serve as the applicant next fall to various foundations to get preservation grants. Hughes said grants generally are around $10,000.

Stephanie Gotard, executive director of the Huntington Historical Society, said the partnership was an easy way to support the town while benefiting important local historical sites.

“It’s an opportunity to make sure these cemeteries are in the best condition and show that our community respects these sacred sites and are doing our best ...to have them preserved,” Gotard said.

Participation in a program established in 2011 that called for volunteers to serve as the eyes and ears for the town’s cemeteries has been dwindling in recent years, Hughes said.

A bonus in joining with a nonprofit is that stewards who are volunteers with the historical society are readily available to take on tasks such as repairing and restoring broken and fallen stones.

Local towns are responsible for the maintenance of cemeteries that no longer are used for public burial and don’t otherwise have a caretaker. The maintenance includes cutting the grass twice a year and putting up fences, Hughes said.

“The town is responsible for maintaining the cemeteries, and in times of limited budgets, you need all the help you can get,” Hughes said. “Grant funding really makes a difference in doing more than just the annual seasonal maintenance.”

While grant applications eventually will be submitted for most of the historic cemeteries, with America’s semiquincentennial birthday coming up, priority will be given to securing money for the town’s oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Ground on Main Street. Established in the mid-17th century, the cemetery holds the graves of 67 Revolutionary War veterans.

On a recent afternoon at the Old Burying Ground, Hughes was joined by Greenlawn resident Wayne Haddock, a member of the Long Island chapter of the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution, a nonprofit that promotes patriotism.

As part of the preparation for America’s big birthday in 2026, the group will be visiting historic cemeteries across Long Island installing signs noting that Revolutionary War veterans are buried there, posting names when possible.

Haddock is responsible for 19 sites in Huntington. “Some of the old cemeteries have been vandalized and damaged over the years and it would be fantastic to have them restored,” he said. 

Don’t despair if you are not a member of the historical society, Gotard said. There will be opportunities to help.

“There will be cleanups and they can always donate,” Gotard said.

The Town of Huntington and the Huntington Historical Society have partnered in a stewardship program for historic cemeteries that will also create opportunities to get grant money.

To volunteer, contact the society at info@huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org

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