The following article originally appeared in the Brookhaven Village Association Fall 2010 Newsletter
I would like to thank the more than 50 people who have contributed to the BVA’s cemetery restoration fund, which, coupled with Caithness grant money, has so far allowed us to repair six of the seven historic cemeteries the Fire Place History Club felt could be restored.
The history of Brookhaven and South Haven, historically known as Fire Place, lives on in such irreplaceable sites as these family cemeteries that cradle the settlers who populated Fire Place for the first 200 years – farmers, fishermen and artisans. There are 18 such cemeteries in Brookhaven and South Haven, nine of them with ten or more graves (unfortunately, one, the Nathaniel Hawkins cemetery, is vandalized beyond repair). No generals or heads of state rest here, just ordinary people, but at least 13 fought in the American Revolution.
Here’s a breakdown of the work that has been done over the past two years.
• Rose Family Cemetery. The Rose family was the first to settle Fire Place Neck; their family cemetery is located off Jared’s Path. This was the first one restored, at a cost of $2,885. In this cemetery lie several veterans of the Revolution, including Lt. Thomas Rose, who, in 1780, gave his life during the war.
• South Haven Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Interred here in one of the oldest cemeteries in our community are several prominent community leaders, including the Revolutionary War leader, Doctor and Reverend David “Priest” Rose, minister of the South Haven Church. The cost to repair this cemetery was $2,600.
• Carman Cemetery. The Carman family, after whom the river is named, operated the Fire Place mills, an inn, store and post office in South Haven, circa 1780 to 1870. Cost of repair was $2,250.
• Corwin Cemetery. Richard Corwin, a farmer whose house still stands along South Country Road, was present at the battle of Yorktown and at Cornwallis’ surrender. George Washington once tested Corwin’s fidelity as a guard by attempting to pass him in the night. But Corwin would not allow Washington to pass and afterward received commendations for his fidelity. The Corwin family cemetery is located between Chapel Avenue and Beaver Brook Drive and cost $950 to repair.
• David Hawkins Cemetery. Located on the west side of Old Barto Road, this cemetery contains 22 headstones, all with the surname Hawkins. Several generations of this family farmed the peninsula between Yaphank Creek and Little Neck Run. Cost for repair was $2,600.
• Selah and Azel Hawkins Cemetery. The Hawkins’s were some of the earliest settlers in our area and were church and community leaders. Azel Hawkins built many of the houses here. The cemetery off Stillwood Road was repaired using $1,000 of the BVA fund to repair the broken headstones and $826 of the fund to install a fence around it.
We also purchased 8 interpretive signs for these cemeteries with $726 from the BVA fund.
The next cemetery to be repaired will be the Barteau Cemetery, which contains 40 headstones. We are waiting for Brookhaven Town to clear the access road to the cemetery so that our stonemason, Hollis Warner, can get in with his equipment.
--Marty Van Lith, BVA Historian