Actors played the roles of the people buried in Cedar...

Actors played the roles of the people buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson, a Spirits Tour, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the cemetery. (June 5, 2010) Credit: Liz Malone

Much of the history of Port Jefferson and the Three Villages resides on this Liberty Avenue hilltop - one of the highest points on Long Island, which overlooked the distant harbor before the trees grew up to shade the grave sites.

The voices of those buried there come alive on Saturday - through actors, not ghosts - as the Greater Port Jefferson and the Three Villages historical societies observe the 150th anniversary year of Cedar Hill Cemetery.

"This is our greatest history museum," says Fred Bryant, president of the oldest nonsectarian cemetery in the Port Jeff-Three Villages area and owner of Bryant Funeral Home, the oldest in Setauket.




The idea of a "Spirit Tour" arose from similar events at the Three Villages Historical Society in Setauket, in which actors portrayed spies for George Washington, among other pre- to post-Revolutionary War figures.

Bryant's own family occupies a plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, directly across from the family plot of O.B. Davis, who established the first funeral home in Port Jefferson. "It's just how it worked out. Purely coincidental," he says of the two competing undertaker clans in adjacent plots. "We've had a chuckle or two over it."

At 271 feet above sea level, Cedar Hill is the spot of which cemetery caretaker Ken Boehm says, "Here's where I'll be when the tsunami comes."




John Hiz, a Port Jeff historical society trustee, recruited 16 actors from Theatre Three, the Performing Arts Studios of Port Jefferson and Five Towns College in Dix Hills for Saturday's "cultural tourism" event. "You'll get a little educated and have a little fun," he says. Actors will portray prominent Long Islanders buried here. Some will speak directly to the "spirit tourists," while others will enact a play of two or three minutes, Hiz says. There'll also be a Civil War encampment on the grounds.

Before the "spirits" rise from the grave sites, there's a wine-and-cheese preview party at Port Jefferson Village Center overlooking the harbor. Thursday night, Gene Horton leads a "Sleeping in Suffolk" presentation about notable historical figures buried in the county. Also featured is an unveiling of a painting by Adam D. Smith inspired by a period etching of the view from Cedar Hill to the harbor, circa 1850, followed by an auction of the artist's framed proof. Signed limited edition prints will be for sale as well.




James M. Bayles (1815-1889): Bayles Dock adjacent to Port Jeff's Danfords Inn is named for the family of Bayles, one of many shipbuilders with generations of descendants buried on Cedar Hill.

John T. Mather (1854-1928): He financed the building of Mather Hospital, was descended from shipbuilding magnate Richard Conklin Mather. The Mathers' is one of the biggest family plots in the cemetery.

Caleb Woodhull (1792-1866): A mayor of New York City, he's buried here, along with Capt. Charles Scanlan, a soldier with the Confederate States of America who fought during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, S.C., which initiated the Civil War.

Thomas B. Hawkins (1819-1901): Builder of a pleasure boat, The Wanderer, which was converted to a slave ship before it was seized by federal authorities on Long Island Sound. It was known as "the last slaver."


Cedar Hill Cemetery 'Spirit Tour'


WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Liberty Avenue, Port Jefferson. Buses depart every 15 minutes from the Vandermeulen High School parking lot, Old Post and Dark Hollow roads, to the top of Cedar Hill. Once inside the cemetery, it's a walking tour. Each tour lasts 11/2 to 2 hours. Wine and cheese reception 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday night, Port Jefferson Village Center

INFO Reservations required:, 631-751-3730

COST $28 ($9 ages 13 and younger); $30 reception

Nassau gun permits … Massapequa motel closed … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

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Nassau gun permits … Massapequa motel closed … Boxing bus driver  Credit: Newsday

Nationwide cellphone outage ... Last LI Boston Market closes ... LI home prices ... What's up on Long Island

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