|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Named the Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery, it was incorporated in 1831 with a cholera epidemic and privately owned by the plot holders. This is the oldest cemetery in New Jersey and built on land that was once a 16th century military base. By 2007, the last Board of Trustees president died, and with no more space for new lots, and no money to pay for upkeep, the venerable old cemetery closed its gates. The neglect of time and natural rapidly began to reclaim the graveyard. The history shows that the Jersey City cemetery was a runaway success. Many of the well-heeled members of Jersey society bought plots, among them William Colgate, founder of Colgate-Palmolive; the President of the Board was David C. Colden, son of the Mayor of New York. While other old cemeteries in the state became National Historic Landmarks, Jersey City Cemetery fell by the wayside. In 2008, a group of volunteers finding the cemetery in chaos started clearing away the weeds that covered the over-turned markers. The homeless, who had pitched tents in part of the cemetery, were relocated. The group found in a cottage on the grounds a metal canister. Inside was the original map of the cemetery from 1831, which listed who was buried where and the cause of their death. Over the years, the group had been clearing away the dense undergrowth plot by plot, lane by lane, but the map showed that the graveyard continued up the hill to the west, where now there was only dense forest. One day, clearing undergrowth, a volunteer stumbled upon a stone step, which led up to a staircase going up a hill and ended in an old rusted iron door set into the hillside. Breaking open the old door and stepping inside out of sunlight, they found a marble-walled antechamber. It had been undisturbed for over 100 years. Torchlight showed a series of tunnels disappearing into the hillside, snaking left and right. These were used by the military hundreds of years ago. Many coffins “waiting for burial” were found in the tunnels including an ornate one for a 19th century Viennese Count. He had been visiting New York and died unexpectedly. Unclaimed and forgotten, the Count is still in the Jersey hillside without a marker to remember him just like the hundreds of others in the coffins there. One area was clearly a military bunker with weapons left over from the War of 1812. The on-going clearing and claiming of graves and history continues with goal that one day this cemetery will also be recognized by the National Historic Landmarks.