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Historic Gethsemane Cemetery (1860) Hackensack, NJ

HISTORIC GETHSEMANE CEMETERY (1860) HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY

Gethsemane Cemetery was first established in 1860 when three distinguished white residents of Hackensack were given a deed of sale of land to be used as a cemetery or burial ground for the colored population of the village of Hackensack… Forty-one years later, the Gethsemane Cemetery Association was incorporated and the cemetery was passed from white to black trusteeship. The seven trustees appointed were Samuel Winfield, William Jackson, James P. Westcomb, Thomas See, George W. White, William Hire and Thomas H. Tiebout. They determined the name to be Gethsemane Cemetery.

Gethsemane Cemetery Purchased in 1860 for the “colored population of Hackensack” and in 1901 incorporated by African-American Trustees as the Gethsemane Cemetery. The one-acre lot has about 500 internments of free blacks, former slaves, as well as a number of Caucasians. Few stones survived but there are grave marker artifacts of southern black influence traceable to African burial practices. Since 1985 the site has been owned and restored by the County of Bergen.

Since its founding, many prominent African-American figures have been buried in Gethsemane Cemetery. One of the most well-known and controversial burials has been the one of Samuel Bass, sexton of Hackensacks First Baptist Church in January 1884. Bass, who was denied burial in the all-white Hackensack Cemetery, was laid down to rest in Gethsemane. New Jerseys Gov. Leon Abbett protested the denial by saying that “The regulation that refuses a Christian burial to the body of a deceased citizen upon the ground of color is not, in my judgment, a reasonable regulation In March 1884 the Negro Burial Bill” was passed.

Few records for burials before the 1870s have been found. The last documented burial occurred on December 14, 1924. Remaining stones show dates between 1878 and 1911.  Some family plots are outlined with low fences and stones. The gravestones at Gethsemane do not necessarily reflect economic or social status of the deceased or their families.

(c. Angela Meyster and Nicole Ferlise, edited by Lawrence E. Walker, 2007)

NOHAN READ (born 1885-died Junly 29, 1902 age 17 years Jesus In Heaven) HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY (c. LAWRENCE E. WALKER FOUNDATION)

WILLIAM O. BLENUS (born 1823-died December 14, 1894 age 71) HACKEMSACK, NEW JERSEY (c. LAWRENCE E. WALKER FOUNDATION)

KAREN R. MATTLEEN (born 1799-died November 27, 1822 age 23 years 10 months) HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY (c. LAWRENCE E. WALKER FOUNDATION)

HISTORIC GETHSEMANE (1860) CEMETERY, BENCH MARKER, HACKENSACK, NEW JERSEY (c. LAWRENCE E. WALKER FOUNDATION)

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