NEW MILFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A search is underway for an African burial ground in New Jersey.
CBS2’s Meg Baker has more on what prompted the search.
Hedy Grant found an old iron in the backyard of her New Milford home that dates back to the 1800s. The previous owners found an axe head that now hangs above her fireplace. Now, Grant said she may have stumbled upon another important piece of history.
“I came across an 1883 deed,” she said. “On the second page of the deed, it talks about an ‘old colored burial ground.’ I was quite taken aback. I saw that, I read it several times,” Grant said.
The deed names the brook that runs behind Grant’s property as one boundary line. Her home just off Boulevard may have been a slave house or other type of farm building.
“This is the original part of the house. It is listed in a book on local history as having been owned by Demarest family,” Grant said.
Nancy Varettoni with the New Milford Trust For Historic Preservation met CBS2’s Baker at a marked burial ground that dates back to 1677.
“David Demarest was known as the founder of New Milford and Bergen County,” Varettoni said. “This was a farming community. There was a lot of farms and there were slaves in the area for many years. It’s entirely possible they had slaves or other servants working for them.”
Varettoni said small grave yards near large properties were very common. Grant’s home was a part of a five-acre farm.
“That whole area is new developments and stuff and there just wasn’t sensitivity to those issues years ago when those homes were put in,” Varettoni said.
Once grant and local researchers can narrow the site down to a half acre they hope to work with Rutgers University and use ground penetrating radar equipment to see if there are graves in that location.
Researchers said the best place to start looking is across the brook from Grant’s home in open land owned by the borough.