Trinity Church Cemetery, at Broadway and Wall Street, is one of Manhattan’s oldest cemeteries. (The oldest may be the First Shearith Jewish Cemetery on St. James Place just south of Chatham Square.) The first mention of this space as a burial ground was in 1673, over twenty years before the first Trinity Church was built from 1696-1697 when a small group of Anglicans living in Manhattan petitions Governor Benjamin Fletcher for approval to purchase land for a new church. Approval is granted and the petitioners purchase land for the new church from the Lutheran Congregation in Manhattan.
That first church was burned down during a 1776 fire begun by invading British forces. The second church was built between 1788-1790, surviving another great fire in 1835, but was found to be inadequate for the needs of a growing body of worshippers, and so the third church, the neo-Gothic structure designed by Richard Upjohn, was consecrated in 1846. For many years, it was the tallest building in the city. The adjoining memorial chapel built from 1912-1913.
Until the Revolutionary War there were about 160,000 in the Trinity Cemetery churchyard. However, during the fires many tombstones were destroyed and others rendered unreadable.
One of the more picaresque tombstones in the cemetery is that of Adam Allyn, whose profession, “Comedian,” is inscribed prominently…
“Sacred to the Memory of Adam Allyn, Comedian. Who Departed this Life February 16, 1768. This Stone Was Erected by the American Company as a Testimony of their unfeignd regard. He Posesed many good Qualitys. But as he was a Man He had the frailties Common to Mans Nature.”
Adam Allyn arrived in NYC with his wife in 1758. He made his American debut in Philadelphia’s South Street Theatre on July 20, 1759 in The Recruiting Officer. He also played in NYC, making his first appearance at the Beekman Street Theatre in November 1761.
The American Company, organized in 1758 by David Douglass, is considered the first American professional theater company. On February 15th 1768, the day of Mr. Allyn’s death, he was advertised to appear at 6PM as Old Philpott in a farce entitled “The Citizen.”
Incidentally, the spellings on many of these tombstones are not misspellings in all cases; these were educated people, but until dictionaries were published that standardized the spellings, such as Noah Webster’s, variant spellings were the norm.