Harbor Road Cemetery
It was shortly after I arrived at St. John’s that I heard about the “slave cemetery” on Harbor Road.
I was pretty attuned to cemetery work from my previous experience as a trustee for the City of Alexandria, Virginia, for an African American Cemetery in Fort Ward Park that had been neglected for many years, so the words “slave cemetery” caught my ear.
The obvious questions piled up: where was it? Whose was it? Whose slaves were there? Was there more to learn? How can this cemetery help us to know more about who we are and how we are connected to our past? Can this be an opportunity for deeper understanding?
These questions, though pressing, were not immediately so. As I began to find my way in Cold Spring Harbor, they moved into the deep background of my mind. Filed: “Important.” “Later.”
It was only when an African-American woman came to the church looking for her ancestors that my interest was raised again. I directed her to the Memorial Cemetery. “No,” she said, “I’ve been there. They aren’t there.”
The Jones Cemetery was unlikely, and so I mentioned the “slave cemetery.”
“Well,” she said, “ my people weren’t enslaved. But, if its an African-American Cemetery, they might be there.” I promised to follow up - then lost her information. I also learned something important. My use of the word slave was ill-informed and used too casually, perhaps. It won’t be the last mistake I make in this project.
Now, some months later and following some research with Robert Hughes, the Huntington Town Historian, and Deirdre Butterfield, former Town attorney and parishioner, work has begun to more actively preserve the African-American Cemetery on Harbor Road.
The gravestones are mostly simple broken or conscientiously placed rocks nestled in the woods off Harbor Road. There are only two formal headstones with markings and those are nearly illegible. But, there are people there. Buried long ago with some connection to our community, the Jones family, and the history of Huntington and Oyster Bay. Who they are and what that connection is remains to be discovered. But, the work has begun.
With the help of Robert Hughes, Kevin Thorbourne, Director of Minority Affairs and his team, parishioners from St. John’s began to clean up the Cemetery and to clear the fallen sticks, leaves and detritus that are covering the head stones. Soon we will mark the various locations of headstones and begin our work of research to try and understand who is there and how we are connected.
It is an exciting and ambitious project and we hope to be joined in it by one or another community partner who can help us to understand the history better.
A gallery follows below.
Photos of the Harbor Road Cemetery