Dutch history spans the world. From Spitsbergen to Brazil, and from America to India, Dutch trade left its mark, which includes many burial grounds. One area in particular was the territory of New Netherland in the present-day US, which was established around the same time that the English settled New England. Dutch settlements were concentrated in the Hudson River Valley and scattered throughout the states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Connecticut. Interestingly, the oldest gravestones in the area date to the beginning of the 18th century, although the first settlements were established a century earlier. In comparison, New England’s oldest gravestones date to the mid 17th century, some 60 to 70 years earlier than than the Hudson Valley. This article will discuss what had become of the earliest Dutch gravestones, as well as provide a background on the earliest burial grounds.

 

The colonial era burial grounds and gravemarkers of the upper mid-Atlantic states (Map 1) have been the focus of little research to date. That which has been conducted primarily concerns the New York / New Jersey gravestone carving tradition, originally established in the British communities circa 1720, and its skillfully crafted sandstone markers. Although slate gravestones were imported from New England prior to this time, the vast majority of the earliest markers were simple, unadorned fieldstones. This study examines the fieldstone traditions of colonial New York, New Jersey, and Delaware; more specifically, those markers erected by and for the descendants of the New Netherland colonists.

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