Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Remains of 53 Individuals Thought to Be Revolutionary War Combatants Reinterred at St. Paul's Church on October 17, 1908

As I have written many times before, the history of St. Paul's Church of Eastchester, now a National Historic Site, is closely entertwined with that of the Town of Pelham. Consequently, I often have written about the history of the church here. For a few of many examples, see:

Thursday, March 26, 2009: Excerpt From Book Published in 1860 Provides Memories of Sundays at St. Paul's Church Before 1838.

Thursday, November 8, 2007: Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1886.

Friday, September 21, 2007: The Ringing of the Bell of St. Paul's Church of Eastchester on the 100th Anniversary of the First Service in the Stone Church.

Thursday, September 6, 2007: Information About St. Paul's Church, the Battle of Pelham and Other Revolutionary War Events Near Pelham Contained in an Account Published in 1940

Wednesday, August 15, 2007: Plan of Pews in St. Paul's Church 1790

Monday, August 13, 2007: 1865 Comments of Rev. William Samuel Coffey of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Regarding the Tenure of Rev. Robert Bolton of Pelham

Wednesday, August 8, 2007: A Description of an Eyewitness Account of Interior of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester During the Revolutionary War

Friday, June 15, 2007: Photograph of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1914

Monday, April 9, 2007: An Account of the Election Victory of Lewis Morris in the So-Called "Great Election".

Monday, February 12, 2007: Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site Opens New Exhibition: "Overlooked Hero: John Glover and the American Revolution"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006: A Brief History of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester Published in 1907.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes a brief article that appeared in the October 18, 1908 issue of The New York Times. It describes a solemn ceremony in the graveyard of St. Paul's held the previous day to reinter the skeletal remains of at least 50 individuals discovered at a site in Tuckahoe, New York thought to have been Revolutionary War Combatants. The date of the ceremony certainly was not coincidence. October 17 was a Saturday and preceded by one day the anniversary of the Battle of Pelham fought on October 18, 1776. St. Paul's Church was used as a field hospital by British and German troops following that battle. Below is the text of the article.




Fifty skeletons, supposedly those of Colonial soldiers who died in the Revolution, were buried in the yard of the pre-revolutionary Church of St. Paul, in East Chester, yesterday afternoon, the Rev. W. S. Coffee officiating. They were buried in a big plain board coffin.

There was no plate upon the coffin, only a small American flag, but the Daughters of the American Revolution of Mount Vernon, who took charge of the burial, hope in time to erect an appropriate monument over the grave.

There was no service in the church, only the commitment service of the Episcopal Church at the grave, where some seventy or eighty persons, many of them members of the D.A.R., gathered. There were no addresses. Some persons think the skeletons, which were discovered in excavating a Tuckahoe road, are really bones from an abandoned colored cemetery, and other persons were certain that a goodly number of the bones were those of women.

Reginald Pelham Bolton, Dr. Philip Schuyler Van Patten, and Mrs. Joseph Woodk, Regent of the Mount Vernon Society, D. A. R., have made a thorough investigation of the place where the bones were found and the history of that part of the country. It was found that several skirmishes between the Americans and British soldiers took place on that ground, which was near the tavern of Stephen Ward, an old-time patriot. The skulls have been proved to be those of white men, and Prof. Huntington of Columbia University has asserted that the bones were all those of men.

Two gravestones in St. Paul's Church yard are dated 1704. There is an old Prayer Book in the church dated 1715, and a Bible, 1759, used in the service of the church, and these, with the bell still in use, were buried in the Revolution.

At that time the church building was used for a hospital, and across the path from the graves of the American and British soldiers buried yesterday is the site of an old sand pit, from which material for the building of the church was taken, and where those who died when it was a hospital were buried, unknown and unnamed. The burial spot for the fifty skeletons was purposely chosen in this place. The rector of the church, Mr. Coffee has held that office for fifty-six years."

Source: Colonial Heroes Buried, N.Y. Times, Oct. 18, 1908, p. 8.

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