Was Ichabod Crane, the scrawny schoolteacher who met the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving’s classic “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” a real person?
Of course he was, and he rests in peace in Staten Island.
Or rather, his namesake does. This isn’t the Ichabod Crane of fantasy and fiction, but rather, an army major who lived in the early and mid 19th Century. He is buried in a corner of the othwise overgrown and mostly Forgotten New Springville Cemetery in the Bulls’ head section of Staten Island.
Crane and Washington Irving were contemporaries at least for a few years. Apparently they met and Irving used his name, without permission, in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Reportedly, Crane was horrified.
In the 1840s, Ichabod Crane was not all that unusual a name. There are two more Cranes buried in New Jersey.
By the early 2000s, Crane’s worn, desecrated old gravestone had been replaced by a new memorial. When I first explored the cemetery, his grave was worn and abandoned, as shown above.
Honored here are Crane; his wife Charlotte; and “Juan, an Indian boy of the Umpqua tribe in Oregon.”
While we’re here, let’s take a look at this and more forgotten cemeteries of Staten Island.
NEW SPRINGVILLE CEMETERY, Bulls Head
On Richmond Avenue south of Signs Road. This cemetery is mostly overgrown and abandoned, but in spring 2000 I found a great deal of trees cut down, leading me to think it was being cleaned up. When I returned in the fall (locating Ichabod Crane’s stone) I found it covered with weeds where the trees had been.
Springville Cemetery is located adjacent to the Son Rise Church and is, presumably, inder its auspices.
Though Lake Cemetery fronts on two of Staten Island’s busiest roads, Forest Avenue and Willowbrook Road, it’s ignored and abandoned except for graffiists and gravestone topplers.
The Decker family is represented here as well as in several other Staten Island cemeteries.
LEFT: the stone of John Van Pelt, who died on his 6th day in the world in 1889, lies on the ground.
A warm spring left Lake Cemetery encased in weeds. At right, a graffiti ghoul has left his mark.
In contrast to Lake Cemetery, Merrill Cemetery, on Merrill Avenue near Richmond Avenue, has held up pretty well, since it’s protected by a chain link fence that’s locked part of the time.
The Merrells (that’s the original spelling) were early settlers in the western end of Staten Island.
LEFT: A stone from 1818 lies in the grass.
STATEN ISLAND CEMETERY
Staten Island Cemetery is hidden behind an auto body shop on Richmond Terrace in West New Brighton. Its eastern half is known as Fountain Cemetery.
By early 2005 Staten Island Cemetery had been given a new gate on its Richmond Terrace entrance, though it’s still fairly easy to just climb around it.
Prominent Staten Island families such as the Deckers and van Names are interred here. Some of the monuments are the worse for wear.