Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries will host the reinterment of the 19th Century Immigrants at Court House (Marine Hospital) Cemetery at Central Avenue and Hyatt Street in Staten Island on April 27th. The event is open to the public by seating is limited.
Between 1799 and 1858, Staten Island was home to the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station. ALL ships entering New York Harbor during those years were stopped and if New York medical inspectors found anyone on the ships suffering from infectious diseases they were removed and held at the Staten Island facility to await their outcome. Local residents from Staten Island, Manhattan and the adjacent communities in New Jersey were also sent to this facility.
Tens of thousands of immigrants, ships crews, merchant and military personnel were held in quarantine which was located in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island. Many died and were buried en masse in cemeteries operated by the Marine Hospital. One of those cemeteries was on the site of the new Court House complex in St. George. During construction of the court facilities, a team of professional archeologists exhumed a portion of the mass graves.
On Sunday, April 27 at 12:30 p.m., Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries will conduct a funeral service and reinterment of those remains in a recreated cemetery on the grounds of the new Court House. Participating at the reinterment will be Monsignor James Dorney, Reverend Erick Sorensen, Assemblyman Michael Cusick who is also president of the American Irish Legislators Society of New York State, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Staten Island Pipes and Drums, Staten Island OutLOUD and tenor Andy Cooney.
Lynn Rogers, Executive Director of the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries notes, “Many of these immigrants, mostly Irish and German, whose only reason for being on Staten Island was because of the quarantine decided to stay and make their new life here. Today, they are 6th and 7th generation Staten Islanders. It would be so fitting if some of the heirs of those first immigrants were to join us on the 27th.”
Hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants arrived in New York between 1845 and 1852, as the Great Hunger aka Potato Famine ravaged the Irish nation. One New York newspaper reported in April, 1851, “The number of poor people from Ireland who are wandering through the streets of Staten Island in a starving condition is dreadful.” Invariably when these immigrants died on Staten Island, either on the streets or in the Marine Hospital, they were immediately buried. No death certificates were issued and no cemetery logs kept. They simply vanished and were never heard from again.
“It was a ghastly end for so many people who had left their countries in the hope of a new life in America but died so very close to their dream,” Ms. Rogers said in a statement announcing the event. “Their fate was tragic, but now, more than a century and half later, they will receive the recognition and benediction they never received in life.”
To learn more about the work of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries can be found online.
The Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries is producing a commemorative booklet and is seeking memorials, family immigration stories and sponsors; $35 1/3 page; $70 1/2 page; $140 full page. They can be reached at 917-545-3309 or SICemetery@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.