Thursday, October 4, 2018

Vault Hill Cleanup

Vault Hill and Saint John's Parish history overlap.
Please come to the cleanup!

My body I commit to the earth, to be buried in a family vault which I intend to build on my plantation. If I do not cause the vault to be built in my lifetime, my executors are to build it, and deposit my remains therein.
Frederick Van Cortlandt (1699-1749), Last Will and Testament

Upon the death of Frederick Van Cortlandt in 1749, the family burial grounds were established on what has become known as Vault Hill in Van Cortlandt Park. The burial vault holds the remains of many Van Cortlandt family members who were interred there until the land became a public park in 1888. After that time, the family purchased a large plot in nearby Woodlawn Cemetery.

Frederick died before the completion of his new manor home, the Van Cortlandt House, and his estate passed to his eldest son, 13-year-old James. At the onset of the Revolutionary War, City Clerk Augustus Van Cortlandt, James’s younger brother, was told by the Provincial Congress to find a safe place to secure the city records for fear that they might be destroyed during the British occupation of New York. In August 1776, Augustus wrote to his cousin John Jay that he had taken advantage of a visit to his ailing mother to hide the records in the family burial vault.

Before they were permanently sealed, a bronze plaque was hung on each vault, one for the Van Cortlandt family and one for the Bailey family. The Baileys were a prominent family in the borough’s early history. In addition, the Reverend Luke Babcock, rector of St. John’s Church in Yonkers is buried here. He served as Frederick Van Cortlandt’s pastor.

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