PHOTO: Photo by Tina Collella
LINCROFT, NJ – What began as an extensive restoration project by graduate students of the Monmouth University School of Social Work has already proven to be a project of how a community working together for a single cause and a common goal can accomplish what some might consider miracles.
Saturday, the students, in collaboration with St. Leo the Great Parish, hosted a reception to highlight the work that has been done in the “ Cedar View Cemetery: Linking the Past to the Present” project. It was also an opportunity for those involved to take account of the groundwork that has been put in place for the eventual restoration of a historical black cemetery which, among more than 100 graves, is the final resting place for several local black soldiers who fought with the North in the Civil War, as well as other family members.
The cemetery, located on property directly behind 25 acres owned by St. Leo’s parish, is comprised of a large number of lots sold in 1850 by John B. Crawford to 14 black men, each given a parcel approximately 38X 99 feet in size. The parcels were family legacies, and in many cases, the only land the recipients ever owned. Active for burials throughout the 19th century, the last person buried there was in 1942, and since then the acreage fell into neglect and overgrowth.
Joelle Zabotka, Ph.D, LCSW, LCADC, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Monmouth, designed the program for students to not only restore the cemetery, but also to research the names of those entombed there and to seek out descendants.
The project has grown from then to include Michael Palladino, interim vice provost and Anne Deepak, all from Monmouth University, as well as the Rev. John Folchetti, pastor of St. Leo’s Church, and numerous others who have both historical and personal interest in the project. Maureen O’Connor Leach, bursar and HR Director at st. Leo’s as well as a member of the Monmouth County Historical Commission, and Joseph Grabas of the Grabas Institute for Continuing Education and Save our Cemeteries of Middletown, as well as also being a member of the County Commission, have both been instrumental in continuing research and joining others together to continue the studies as well as design a plan to continue preservation and care of the cemetery and foster historical connections between those b uried there and surviving relatives.
Joining in the massive clean-up and other activities furthering the ultimate goal were members of Boy Scout troop 110 of Lincroft, numerous other scouts, local residents, interested neighbors, Ray Veth of the Middletown Cemeteries Commission, and descendants of persons buried at Cedar View. Robert Shomo, a descendant and genealogist, has worked with Grab as in uncovering further historical information and ties with families whose names are still well known and highly regarded both in the Lincroft area and the bayshore sections of Middletown.
The stones uncovered and restored to an upright position date from 1851 to 1942 and represent people of all ages buried in 24 different plots. The stone for the youngest person found was for a nine year old son of Lloyd Johnson, buried in 1864.
Amanda Mae Edwards, a descendant of another person buried in the cemetery, and former president of the NJ Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, was on hand for Saturday’s ceremonies and recalled that her grandmother was one of the 11 children of Charles and Anna Hughes and related that in her earlier years, Mrs. Edwards had accompanied her mother to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves’ however, her own advancing age and the overgrowth at the cemetery have prevented her from continuing the practice.