Hope, Blairstown and Fredon Township, New Jersey – A Day's Excursion
I am finding, if I do not write my cemetery blogs the day of my excursions, I do not write them. I do hope this writing holds my same excitement of this day's explore. So today in July, I am backtracking to January 20, 2015. A very cold day, and the last snow free week of the winter. That weekend we got one of our first accumulating snows, and it just accumulated from there. If you are from the Northeast, you know what I am talking about.
On this trip, my forever friend Nancy accompanied me! My childhood, best friend – what better way to catch up than on an hours drive north to Hope, NJ and beyond! As always, a big thank you to my Wise Owl Workshop friend's suggestions on where to travel today!
Today we started out at the Swayze Family Burying Ground or Swayze Cemetery, in Hope. This small cemetery screams of history, tucked behind a newly restored stone wall among neighboring farms. I hear the grass is maintained by the sheep that reside at one of these farms! Any relations to the late actor Patrick Swayze, you ask. Why yes! The Swayze family name goes back to great historical importance to the Hope area, which was largely a Moravian settlement. Unfortunately the elements are deteriorating many of these stones, including Israel Swayze's sandstone grave marker. His name is primarily missing, but you can still see the lovely winged soul at the top, and read much of the remaining inscription – "My flesh shall slumber in the ground, Till the last trumpets joyful sound..." many laid to rest here are the descendants of Israel Swayze. He and his brother Barnabas came from Morris County in 1743 and settled on 800 acres of land just southwest of Hope. Hildebrant is another name frequently found within this cemetery. Aside from my favorite winged souls, also here, are a few field stone markers with initials carved, some more ornate stones with shaking hands (matrimony I believe because the sleeves looked different), hands pointing upward (soul has risen to heaven), carved flowers, carved urns, a few obelisks and intricate lettering throughout (as a graphic designer, I love studying the different typefaces used). Notably around the center of the cemetery, is the elaborate, yet weathered statue of a child and lamb laying on a long table-shaped base, for Olivia Hildebrant, only aged 4. Also carved all around the base are elaborate sayings/quotes. For about five years now, a group of wonderful people, The Friends of Swayze, Inc., have worked hard restoring this place of history. They are taking action in various stages to preserve the history here. Please visit the link above to see their progress, but always, much more work to be done!
Ok, I am a true horror movie fan and have been since I was very young. One of my initial reasons for trekking up here, was to visit the Moravian Cemetery, also located in Hope. Picture Annie walking past this cemetery, backpack in tow, on her way to Camp Crystal Lake – a scene from the original Friday the Thirteenth movie. Much of this movie was filmed right here in Hope and Blairstown. The Morvian Cemetery is located right next to the St. John's United Methodist Church (picture postcard perfect white church with towering squared steeple). Yes of course, I first got photos of the infamous cemetery sign, as seen in Friday the 13th. Then we began our exploration. This was by far a much larger cemetery than our first stop, so we kept close to the church, as that is where the oldest gravestones are found. I always have to thank Nancy for her company and finds, with two exploring, more ground can be covered, and she always calls me over for a unique find! It was here where we noted the much used carved art form of the weeping willow (which suggests sorrow and grief). Now the following information I am gathering from a Hope Township website. The German Moravians arrived here in the 1760's traveling from PA on their way to New England. The Morvian religion comes from overseas. They were followers of John Hus from Prague who was eventually burned at the stake for his rebellion against the Catholic Church, in the early 1400's. It is one of the earliest forms of the Protestant religion. These followers continued his practice into Moravia and Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). In the late 1600's they were persecuted and traveled to Germany to get away. Later many missionaries traveled to North America to settle. This cemetery dates from the mid 1700's with the church next door being built in 1876. Numerous Civil War veterans are laid to rest here. Marble stones with artwork adorning the tops - the shaking hands, wreaths, flowers, scrolling banners, crosses and weeping willows. My favorite stone there, holds a strong graphic of a weeping willow with urn and the name "SARAH" strong and bold in a most unique curled serif typeface... Wife of James F. Compton. A simple squared stone with a curved top, with a carved double outlined pointed arch. Within this arch is the artwork and inscription. I do need to post my photo finds soon! I say that often, I know. I am so behind.
After this extensive walk around the older section of the Moravian Cemetery, it was time to replenish our energy, and get warmed up. So the horror movie buff in me took us to the Blairstown Diner, again, as seen in Friday the 13th! A great, tasty lunch for both of us in this quaint, New Jersey diner!
Onward! Right down the street from the diner is Cedar Ridge Cemetery, founded in 1889. Our primary goal here was to locate the resting place of Princess Doe. Ok, being from Hopewell Township, NJ, I remember our own, but recently identified severed head from Jane Doe in 1989, that was found on a local golf course. I was unaware of the story of Princess Doe, so hit the internet, I did. On July 15, 1982 the body of a young girl, aged 14 to 20, was found right here at Cedar Ridge Cemetery in Blaristown. After following up on missing persons reports, DNA, artist renderings, being featured on television shows, including America's Most Wanted, she sadly remains unidentified to this day. She was buried six months after she was found, after remaining un-named – funds being donated for a coffin and headstone. Thirty years to the day that she was found, the citizens of Blairstown, who never forgot her, gave her a memorial service. What a touching tribute by the Blairstown community. Nancy and I split up to find her final resting place. I remembered that I learned that she was buried at the top of the ravine to where she was found, so by looking at a map I headed in that general area, and found her. It was very touching to see all of the mementos left by visitors, including notes from school children, jewelry, angels and flowers. Her headstone reads
Missing from home
Dead among strangers
Remembered by all
Born ? – Found July 15, 1982
So sad that she remains unknown that no one missed her.
In our scramble to find Princess Doe, zig zagging amongst the tombstones, we came across more weeping willows and traditional art of the 19th century, but also some of today's, most unique, full color laser etched stones that I have ever seen! But one simple one made me smile – Snoopy playing the piano.
On our way out of Blairstown, on our way to our last cemetery stop, we took a drive by the old arched Grist Mill, also of Friday the 13th fame. Is this a movie destination trip or a cemetery trip!? It could have easily turned into a movie destination trip by going much further away to find the location of the fictional Camp Crystal Lake, but we kept on track making our way down Rt. 94 to Fredon Township to The Yellow Framed Presbyterian Church and adjoining cemetery.
In the 1750's it originated as a log church not far from it's present day location. Originally completed and dedicated in 1786, it is as it is named, a yellow church with white trim – delightfully unique! As soon as we pulled up, I was very excited to be here, as Lorna from Wise Owl Workshops mentioned there were many, brilliant red sandstone gravestones! And many stones there were signed by the carvers themselves! Another aspect of gravestone study that I want to explore further! Many I found were signed by John Solomon Teetzel, either with a "T" or J.S. Teetzel. I am also still trying to master the identification of the types of stones, what they are made of. I believe there are a number of slate stones, too. The age of these go back to the mid 1700's, yet there are some that seem to be unharmed by the weather. The style and age of this cemetery is where I could plop myself down in front of each stone and study it – make out all of the inscriptions, is there a signed carver, study the uniqueness of some of the type styles and intricate initials. This is also the first cemetery that I am seeing the use of an "f" in a word that should actually be an "s", as in "Fons" instead of "Sons". The first use of an "s" is changed to an "f". I also saw a great deal of this at the Whippany Burying Ground. And again, much use of the weeping willow as an art form. Although over an hours drive away, I have made a mental note to return here. Even just wandering all day taking photographs, you still do "hit a wall" and run out of steam. And the frigid cold did not help. I was chilled to the bone. I have the gloves that I can easily slip out my fingers to adjust my camera, but frozen just the same. It was time to get warmed up in the car and make the drive back home. At this point, Nancy was even in the car already warming up. Even with a friend, you also have to keep in mind their span of attention and know when to call it quits. But with Nancy, her span of attention is much longer than that of my family's!!! Thanks Nancy!!
On the drive home, we spied some additional small cemeteries and abandoned barns, but I was just out of my grand enthusiasm. I think my camera needed to warm up, as well. One small, overgrown cemetery really did catch my attention, so I made note of the location and area on a map, so here is another visit on my next travels to Warren County.
Another exploration like this is well over-do, hopefully soon...
I do my research via the internet to pass along historical facts behind the places I visit. I hope I translate in accuracy as I try to sum up the facts to keep my blogs interesting and at a decent length.