Our first clean up this year will be at the Leverich Cemetery on April 8 from 10 AM to 1 PM. All are invited to help.
This small family burial ground, hidden behind homes and businesses along Leverich St and 35th Ave, in Jackson Heights, Queens, is all that remains of the colonial homestead established by Caleb Leverich in the 17th century, in what was then the Trains Meadow section of old Newtown, Long Island. Caleb was the son of English minister William Leverich, who immigrated to America in 1633. The Leveriches became a prominent Newtown family and their old homestead, originally built by Caleb in 1670, stood nearby the burial ground until it burned down in 1909.
When the cemetery was first used is unknown. Nineteenth-century historian James Riker recorded the 33 headstones that were present in the cemetery in 1842; the earliest was that of Caleb’s grandson John Leverich, who died in 1780. The cemetery appears to have fallen out of use during the mid-1800s, around which time the Leverich homestead seems to have passed out of the family. Although the cemetery was abandoned as family members moved out of the area, the plot was excluded from the development that sprung up around it in the early 20th century.
City property records still identify the site as the Leverich Family Burial Ground, but there is nothing left to distinguish it as such. All of the headstones have disappeared, there are no signs identifying it as a burial ground, and the site is tangled with brush and debris and strewn with rubbish. The cemetery has not been completely forgotten, however; many of the surrounding business- and homeowners know that the site is an old graveyard and some have attempted to clean up and protect the area. When I visited the site in October 2010, the owner of one of the adjacent homes said that he and other neighbors had some of the debris hauled off and that they had installed the gate at the site’s entrance, which is in an alley behind neighboring businesses. A neighborhood woman holds the key to the gate, and comes each day to feed the cats that seek shelter there. A family descendant, Tom Leverich, has researched and written about the burial ground, and local preservationists and community groups have also expressed concern for the site and an interest in preserving it.