The Morse family plot

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 dead 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….









7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by vtht65 on July 16, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    My grandfather, George Edgar Morse, was the eighth generation born in the farmhouse on this Morse property. I knew of this graveyard and Morse’s Creek. Thanks to whoever posted this history.


  2. Another such grave is that of the palindromically named Yoos Sooy, who is buried in the old shipbyard in Lower Bank, NJ on the Mullica. Sooy was the second settler in South Jersey, after Erica Mullica. He was born in 1685 and died in 1737. His son owned a house that is still standing. Grave:


  3. Posted by Jack Rescoe on December 23, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    One additional comment, I’m pretty certain the earliest date of the gravestones was either 1664,65 or 66, and the name was Samuel Morse (old style lettering). The gravestones were near the embankment of Morses Creek. The old letters indicated a double ess, so it was Morss in those days.


  4. Posted by Jack Rescoe on December 23, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Well, there was a fence there in 1952. The general look of the area is much more affected by human activity in 2012. In ’52 (I was 10) the place was hard to find, there were cattails, foxtails & much brush & I believe the road was just gravel. The story told at the time was that these gravestones were buried and broken in pieces, as you can see. The actual graves’ location is unknown. So the workers collected what they could and called in the history experts. My dad talked about the stones quite some time before the “monument” behind the fence was built. At that time we were in process of moving from Elizabeth to Linden (May of ’52).


    • Posted by lostinjersey on December 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM

      i suspected as much because the headstones are broken and appear to be mounted. It’s like the grave of Elsie the cow. theres a headstone but nobody knows where she really is buried on that farm. Thanks for sharing this info.


  5. Posted by Jack Rescoe on December 23, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    I know this place. My dad worked for Standard Oil from about 1930 until 1968 at Bayway. In the late 1940’s or perhaps in 1950, refinery workers were beginning a new construction project when they came upon these old Morse family gravestones that were for all intents and purposes lost and forgotten. About 1951 or 1952 the current protected plot was made with available funds. My dad and I drove down there one weekend (we lived in the area) to view what you have in your photos. The earliest date on the old stones was 1664, wasn’t it?


    • Posted by lostinjersey on December 23, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      the only one I could read as for someone born in 1700. they’re in bad shape and I couldnt get very close cause of the fence.


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