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St. James A.M.E. Zion Church Historic Cemetery, Matawan, Monmouth County, NJ


St. James A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery is an African-American burial ground located on Johnson Avenue in Matawan, New Jersey.  In 1843, Richard Little and his daughter, Matilda Conover, organized the first congregation of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, at 102 Atlantic Avenue. Several local obituaries suggest that what is today called the St. James A.M.E. Zion Church Historic Cemetery may also have been referred to as the Little Family Burying Ground in its earlier years. In 1847, James Jameson sold the 60′ x 100′ lot to the Methodist Episcopal Church for $20.  Plate 28 of Wolverton’s 1889 Atlas of Matawan, shows the cemetery on Atlantic Avenue as the “Colored M. E. Ch. Cem.”

Today, only six grave sites are visibly marked by bases or partial stones. The only gravestone partially legible belongs to William H. Shemo, but this one is broken in two.  As of January 2002, there is not one legible, complete gravestone standing.  A list of known interments are:

1. BEAL/BEALS, Alice – died Aug.13, 1898, wife of Charles H. Beals, at her home in Keyport from apoplexy; funeral was  held at A.M.E. Zion Church and interment was in the adjoining churchyard. Matawan Journal  obituary, 08/18/1898.

2. BEARD, Edna C. – died July 12,1889, at Matawan, child of John M. and Eva L. Beard, 10 months old, interment was in St. James A.M.E. Zion burial ground. Matawan Journal obituary 07/20/1889.

3. BODINE, Lallage L. – died Jan. 18, 1891, daughter of Abraham and Sarah Bodine, aged 8 years and 3 months; funeral held at Alfred Shemo’s house, Reverend C. L. Percy, interment in A.M.E Zion Church Cemetery. Matawan Journal obituary 01/24/1891.

4. HENDRICKSON, Charles – Co. E, 25th Infantry Regiment, Colored Troops, US Union Army, enlisted Jan. 21, 1864, Private, mustered out Dec. 6, 1865; Civil War Veteran; wife/widow Hannah; only readable gravestone standing. An obituary for a Mr. Charles I. Hendrickson, died Apr. 21, 1889, age 84, appeared in the Matawan Journal 05/04/1889.

5. JAMESON/Jamison, William A. – Co. E, 25th Infantry Regiment, Colored Troops, U.S. Union Army, Civil War Veteran.

6. McREEVES, Martha – died July 16,1889, child of Asa and Fannie McReeves, 2 years 7 months old, interment at St. James A.M.E. Zion graveyard,. Matawan Journal obituary 07/20/1889.

7. RILEY, James H. – Co. B., Colored Troops, U.S. Union Army, Civil War Veteran.

8. SHEMO, Hazel Alfreda – died July 10,1889, near Matawan, youngest child of Alfred and Katie Shemo, aged 8 months and 6 days; funeral July12th and interment in St. James A.M.E. Zion burial ground, Matawan Journal obituary 07/20/1889.

9. SHEMO/Sherno/Shermo, William H. – Co. H, 127th Infantry Regiment, Colored Troops, U.S. Union Army, enlisted Sep. 3, 1864, Private, mustered out Oct. 20, 1865, Civil War Veteran; died Jan. 31, 1899, from pneumonia, age 58 years; funeral at A.M.E. Zion Church and interment in adjoining graveyard; Matawan Journal obituary 02/02/1899.


BODINE, Alfred – died Feb. 26, 1891, of brain fever, aged 3 months and 1 day, infant son of Abraham and Sarah Bodine. Matawan Journal obituary 02/28//1891.  Note:  The month before Alfred died, Abraham and Sarah had buried their eight-year-old daughter Lallage Bodine in A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery, but no place of interment is mentioned in Alfred’s obituary.

BODINE, Willie V. – died June 17, 1906, son of Abraham and Sallie Shemo Bodine, aged 16 years and 4 months of acute alcoholism.  Matawan Journal obituary 06/21/1906.

BOOKER, Euphemia – died Aug. 11, 1898, wife of Watt Booker, from dropsy, aged 51 years and 11 months; funeral in the A.M.E. Zion Church and interment was in Little’s Burying Ground. Matawan Journal obituary 08/19/1898.

CONOVER, Matilda M. – died Oct. 16, 1895, aged 9 months, daughter of Charles and Matilda Conover; funeral at the home of her parents. Matawan Journal obituary 10/19/1895

LITTLE, John S. – died Feb. 8, 1892, son of Richard, of consumption at his father’s home.  Funeral at his late home and interment in the same place. Matawan Journal obituary 02/15/1892.

LITTLE, Mrs. Mary E. – died May 5, 1896, from heart disease, aged 60 years, wife of Richard. The funeral was held May 7th, in the A.M.E. Zion Church and interment was in the Little burying ground. Reverend L. G. Mason officiated, assisted by Reverends Butler and Burton. Matawan Journal obituary 05/09/1896.

LITTLE, William Richardson – died Jan. 31, 1885, near Matawan, colored, 100 years, 7 months old. Matawan Journal obituary 02/14/1885.

SHEMO, Robin – died June 15, 1894, aged colored man of Matawan, funeral at St. James A.M.E. Zion Church. Matawan Journal obituary 06/16/1894.

Others, in as many as 65 unmarked graves, are suspected to be interred in this cemetery.


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