I haven’t been to Staten Island in quite awhile, and when the Covid Crisis is over I might even do what I did in early 2005 when compiling photos for the ForgottenBook and rent a room somewhere on the island so I can have easy traveling while I do a proper canvassing of the island for Forgotten places of interest. Till then, take a look at a trip to Rossville I did back in 2014.
I have often called Pelham Cemetery in City Island, Bronx, New York’s only waterside cemetery, but after thinking it over, I’ll have to amend that to include the Blazing Star Burying Ground (aka Sleight Homestead Graveyard) on Arthur Kill Road east of Rossville Avenue. It was founded before 1751, as that is the date on its oldest gravestone. The stones bear names familiar to Staten Island residents aware of the names on its street map: Sleight, Seguine, LaForge, Poillon. The last burial was in 1865 for John G. Shea, of the same family Shea’s Lane, now Rossville Avenue, commemorated.
There’s no sidewalk on the north side of Arthur Kill Road here, so the only passersby on the graveyard site here are motorists, most of whom speed by so quickly the completely miss the cemetery, here for 260 years at least. Hiteita Simonson’s (1722-1789) marker has been by the side of the road here since the year of George Washington’s inauguration. Arthur Kill Road is likely an amalgamation of several roads along the Arthur Kill strait. It’s fascinating that such an ancient relic is within plain sight of the car wash, gym and succession of eateries along the south side of the road.
According to Find A Grave, the Seguine family has the most family members buried here, with 11 of the surviving 46 gravesites. Here I have grouped the prominent sandstone markers, which although some of the oldest stones in the cemetery, still remain throughly legible: though sandstone can and does decay, the marble and limestone markers the followed sandstone in the 19th Century are much more subject to the predations of wind, pollution and rain. Israel Oakley (1739-1824), whose gravestone is the largest in the cemetery, was the great-great-grandfather of Staten Island historian William T. Davis, an entomologist by trade who wrote several Staten Island histories and guidebooks. He co-founded the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences.