By Jack Reinhard
The County of Warren is one that is very rich in history, having been founded in 1824, with one of its lesser known historic landmarks dating back half a century before that.
Predating the American Revolution, the Greenwich Cemetery was established in Stewartsville in 1775 while some of its memorials date back to 1740. Since that time it has served as the final resting place for people from all walks of life. However, it is far from being just another cemetery as it is the burial site for some historically significant people.
Legend has it that Chingachook, the Indian chief from James Fennimore Cooper’s book “The Last of the Mohicans” is buried there. That is believed to be one of the primary reasons why the cemetery came to be located where it is today off of Route 173 near the banks of Pohatcong Creek and across from the Kennedy House and Mill.
Military veterans of every era, from the American Revolution to the Vietnam conflict, are buried there. Twenty of them happen to be patriots who fought in the American Revolution. One of them, William Maxwell, was a Continental Army General who also fought in the French and Indian War under British General Edward Braddock. Maxwell commanded the 2nd New Jersey Battalion and later was ordered by General George Washington to command a crack team of 700 men, known as Maxwell’s Brigade.
General Washington’s personal secretary from Valley Forge, Thomas Stewart, is also buried in the Greenwich Cemetery. According to Bill Lee, the cemetery’s facilities manager, Washington stated that Stewart “fulfilled the position with honor.” Stewart was a local farmer and later the town of Stewartsville would be named after him. He also went on to become one of New Jersey’s first civil engineers.
Greenwich Cemetery is not just about the past, and its historic significance does not rest solely on those buried there. In recent decades the cemetery has established an ongoing tradition of planting trees from the American Forests Historic Tree Nursery. These trees are grown from the seeds of historic ancestors; trees rooted in the soil of American history that have silently witnessed wars, watched famous figures grow older and still others that have been to the moon and back. The cemetery has planted the trees as a unique way to further link history with the present and future. These trees have connections to famous people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Clara Barton, as well as to historic events from the Civil War to Apollo 14. There is a tree in the cemetery that is the last direct descendant of one planted by Johnny Appleseed as well as another that is a descendant of the Survivor Elm which survived the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.
Greenwich Cemetery has plans to grow far beyond what it is today. Cemetery president Tom Ahart noted that back in the 1990s the Cemetery took advantage of an opportunity to purchase 28 additional acres to meet the needs of future generations. With the assistance of an architectural firm that had done work for many other cemeteries, including Arlington Cemetery, a master plan was developed to address the needs of present and future generations. Some of these plans have already been implemented while others that include a stone chapel, mausoleum and meditation trails, are yet to come.
While Greenwich Cemetery has a rich history, it is not just about the past. With its plans for the future it will likely continue as a preferred resting for people from all walks of life for generations to come.