The French Burying Ground as it is called is a relatively small graveyard off of patrolman Ray Woods Dr in new Milford. For the uniformed, new Milford is generally considered to be the birthplace of Bergen County. It is home to man of Bergen County’s first families including the Demarests, Zabriskies, and Van Sauns, and you can nearly always find some of their descendants in almost any old cemetery in the county. Historians theorize that David Demarest settled on the banks of the Hackensack River in 1677. His wife Marie died and was buried here in 1681.
The cemetery had become overgrown and forgotten despite its proximity to the local police station and popular ball fields. Several months ago some girl scouts “found it” and decided to explore some of it’s mysteries by cleaning it up. Why were so many family members buried in a single grave, and why did so many deaths occur in a short time frame?
They cleaned up the stones, often using a toothbrush, cleared away decades of overgrowth and brush and revealed some interesting things, such as the fact that the dead were buried facing the East which was beneficial to the souls, or so believed the colonists. Today the cemetery is fenced off and locked up by the DPW. I am not sure why but I assume it’s to keep out vandals, miscreants and kids who might drink or hang out. If true then this says to me that whomever made that decision obviously doesn’t think much of the local police. This cemetery is quite near the local police as well as ball fields, so what idiot is going to be up to no good a block from the police? Regardless, I wasn’t able to gain access but observed what I could from behind the fence.
It’s nice to see young people taking a healthy interest in history, as well as graveyards. Not to get off on a rant but I always felt that anyone who showed interest in graveyards is often unfairly maligned as weird or morose. (I certainly have gotten my fair share of unpleasant comments). I think they can be an interesting window into the past on a general and a specific scale, and these girls apparently learned something about Bergen County and themselves by putting their time into this project. Good for them.