Cemeteries are for most of us a communal place. Our loved ones are laid to rest alongside hundreds of others, row upon row of headstones. On certain holidays you will find many decorated with wreathes or flowers as surviving family members pay their respects in a manner that is private and personal, yet also on public display. It was not always like this. Many times families would bury their dead in plots on their own property. As these (often large) properties were sold or as parts were sold off, eventually these family burial plots would find themselves hemmed in by development both commercial and residential. Sometimes when the last pieces of the family estate are sold, the dad would be disinterred and moved to some nearby cemetery. In some cases though, the plot remains untouched. One example would be the Mary Ellis grave in the middle of the parking lot of an AMC movie theater.
The Morse graves are another example. The Morse family was one of 80 colonists who, though a combination of grants and sales by local indians came to own nearly 1 million acres in what would now be the Careteret-Linden-Iselin area. They settled in the area in the late 1600′s 200 years later they still owned several hundred acres. and owned several hundred acres of land. John Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil decided that the Morse land would make an excellent site for his new refinery. The land was purchased in 1907 and was cleared with the exception of the family burial plot. By 1910 the faciliy was produced crude oil and 100 years later Standard Oil was broken up by the Sherman AntiTrust Act and the Bayvway Facilities are owned by Exxon. Despite changing hands and name several times, the Morse Plot has never been disturbed. Surrounded by a tall, large hedge it is highly sheltered, rendering it nearly invisible to the people who drive on Lower Rd and Stiles Rd. There are three headstones as well as a marker that tells some of the history behind the Morse family. There is a small ball park across the street where people walk their dogs and watch their kids play baseball. I venture few if any of them known that they are doing so a few dozen yards from the graves of some of the earliest European settlers to live in America….