Destroyed historic NJ cemetery, with ‘piled up headstones’
A historic Quaker cemetery in Burlington County was destroyed earlier this month, and residents say no one is held responsible.
Victor Ramos said he was driving along Route 206 in Mansfield just before Easter when he saw construction equipment tearing up Old Friends Cemetery, which dates back to pre-Revolutionary times. When he later passed, the construction equipment was gone and the cemetery was in ruins.
“I saw gravestones piled up, just trashed, the whole thing,” Ramos, a member of the local historical society, told NJ Advance Media.
Photos from the cemetery show headstones removed from their original locations and several examples of what appear to be open graves, including at least one that appears to have been a child’s grave. Some tombstones are split in two.
Tom Stevenson, also a member of the historical society, said it wasn’t just about destroying the tomb: it was about holding those responsible accountable. Township officials did not say who was responsible for the damage, but Stevenson said he believed it was a company trying to build a through road for a nearby warehouse.
The township administrator did not return NJ Advance Media’s request for comment.
Stevenson says a report was written by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office to assess the historic nature of the land in 2010, but no one at the local historical society was able to locate that report.
“We have ancestors and our families (buried) here and our heritage, but where is the government’s responsibility?” Stevenson said.
The land that housed the former meeting house of Mansfield’s early friends was sold to private individuals in the 1980s, according to an email from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office sent to Stevenson and reviewed by NJ Advance Media. The private owners have acknowledged the land as a cemetery and have pledged not to disturb the graves, while allowing visitors, the email reads.
But the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office can’t help either, the email says, and advises Stevenson to contact an attorney.
“Everyone seems to be saying, ‘It’s out of my hands,'” Ramos said.
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