The rural cemetery of Rombout is a sacred land: Dateline

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Anthony P. Musso

Located on the north side of Route 52, just west of its intersection with Route 82 in the town of Fishkill, Rombout Rural Cemetery was established in the mid-18th century as the cemetery for the Presbyterian Church of Rombout. The package contains the remains of more than 500 people buried there since it opened.

In 1747 a church congregation was formed, but the construction of a physical church was not completed for three years. That said, a member of the LaDue family was buried there in 1747, officially establishing its status as a burial place.

Judge Theodorus Van Wyck and other family members helped found the church in Brinckerhoff, a hamlet in the city, and Reverend Chauncey Graham was appointed its first pastor; he led the congregation for its first 23 years.

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During the Revolutionary War, when a smallpox epidemic affected troops at the nearby Fishkill Supply Depot, the Presbyterian Church at Rombout – as well as the Trinity Church in the village of Fishkill – was used as a military hospital to treat soldiers. Dr James Thatcher supervised the operation at Brinckerhoff Church.

The place of worship of Rombout suffered a fire in 1830 and was quickly rebuilt. However, when a second fire caused significant damage to the structure in 1866, church officials decided not to rebuild. In August 1885, the congregation was formally dissolved by order of the New York State Supreme Court in a special session held in Poughkeepsie.

“As the church was not going to be rebuilt after the second fire, it was dissolved and possibly incorporated into another local congregation,” said Lisa Daley, member of the Rombout Rural Cemetery Association. “State law prohibits the sale of a cemetery by a non-profit entity for profit or for any reason other than the cemetery. Any transfer of ownership must be made and approved by the courts.

The proposed transfer of ownership to the new Rombout Rural Cemetery Association was drafted in September 1885 and the transaction was finalized with a document filed in Orange County three months later.

While the ruins of the church have been cleared from the land, the space it once occupied remains intact.

“We have no evidence that the earth has been officially decommissioned,” said Daley. “Frankly, even if we did, historically it made sense to leave the space open so people could see where the church was. If you look at the patch from the right angle, you can see where the building foundation lines are.

Although the church has disappeared, the cemetery continued as an active entity. Among the buried personalities are General Abraham Van Wyck, Dr William Annan, and Colonel and Mrs Jacob Griffin. The latter couple owned Griffin’s Tavern, the ruins of which today stand along Route 82, just east of All Angels Road. During the American Revolution, the tavern was an important meeting place for Patriot activity and was frequently visited by Washington, Lafayette, Putnam, and Steuben, as well as many soldiers from the Continental and French Army.

In recent years, the association of cemeteries was in danger of disappearing. Fishkill resident Arnold Restivo has started contacting family members of those buried at the Rombout rural cemetery to alert them to impending action. In response, the association was relaunched in November 2013.

Since that time, the association’s trustees have mapped the cemetery land and located the existing plots and sections that are currently available for sale. Along with local residents, association administrator Ethan Dickerman found the graves of veterans that represent the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.

“Another notable person buried in the cemetery is John Haight, captain of the 7th Regiment during the Revolutionary War, and subsequently served as a judge in Putnam County,” Dickerman said.

The council oversees all plot transactions and information for burial can be obtained by calling 845-393-4793.

Dateline ”appears on Wednesday. To suggest a topic, email Anthony Musso at [email protected]


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