The Old Dutch Cemetery of Greenville Church is part of the Greenville Community Church, a member of the Reformed Church in America. Hidden from view and unknown to most of the residents of the area, the cemetery has been there for almost 175 years. It was there when Greenville was a hamlet of farmers and summer vacationers escaping the heat of New York City. It was there before a developer created the name “Edgemont” for a new community of homes. And it was there long before a high school was built on one side and a mini-mall on the other.
From 1842 to 1976, the Greenville Community Church stood between the cemetery and Central Park Avenue, near the intersection of Old Army Road. Fifty-five years ago, our growing congregation sold the property surrounding three-quarters of the cemetery and built a larger sanctuary and campus atop Ardsley Road hill, on the land of the Seely family, former members of the church. After being used as a funeral home and then abandoned, the historic old sanctuary in front of the the cemetery was torn down to make way for a mini-mall. But the cemetery has lived on. Though we have cared for it, we faced significant challenges in recent decades.
The cemetery suffered a tremendous setback in 1976, during construction of the nearby mini-mall, when someone vandalized the premises and damaged over 90 grave markers. Many of these were towering granite columns put up by loving families with names like Underhill, Seely and Tompkins to memorialize the dedication their parents had shown to family and community. The fallen markers bear the same names as some of our local streets and schools. At one point, the congregation and community did pull together to repair a small number of these monuments (see pictures to the left) but the task or repairing all of them must have been too daunting.
Our current congregation has formed a dedicated team to find a way to restore this property to its former stateliness and beauty. Our goals:
- Restore and maintain the Cemetery grounds’ garden-like setting
We’ve cleared back the infamous “Westchester weeds”: that tenacious mix of poison ivy, bittersweet, honeysuckle, English ivy and porcelain berry vine, as well as the unplanted, quick-growing trees like Norway Maples, Ailanthus and European Alders.
- Repair and Restore Headstones and Monuments
With the help of a historic cemetery conservator, we are planning an ambitious program of restoring the monuments and headstones (some weighing more than a thousand pounds) and are exploring ways to encourage community involvement.
- Preserve the Past for the Future
We’d like the cemetery (and this website) to be a vibrant educational resource for school children to experience their past, for descendants of those interred in the cemetery to see their ancestors’ monuments and learn more about what they meant to their community in their lifetimes, and for lovers of history of our community to connect with a pastoral time that is not that far behind us.
- Present learning opportunities
Because of its proximity to the schools, the grounds offer a unique open-air laboratory for teachers to help students explore issues in math, physics, environmental engineering and history.
We encourage your support in this! We welcome volunteers to help with the restoring and rebuilding, the gardening and fundraising, and the historical research and community building. It will take a multi-year, multi-dimensional and multi-generational approach to save and protect our past for our use today and for Greenville’s and Edgemont’s future families.