The following information has been extracted from three ledgers that kept track of burials that were preformed at the Hudson County Burial Grounds, located at Snake Hill, Secaucus, New Jersey. The land on which this cemetery is located is barren, unprotected and does not resemble characteristics of common cemeteries as we know
There is a project currently being conducted by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, who seeks interest in the land. This project is the disinterment and re-interment of the remains found in a section of the Potters Field believed to be used from 1923 to its last burial in 1962. This section of cemetery is most likely to include 2,978 burials in plots number 5320 through 6537. Thirty
five of these burials were parts of humans and 131 of the burials had been disinterred previously. A total of 2,812 individuals are expected to be re-interred to the Hoboken Cemetery, North Bergen, New Jersey. This is said to be the largest project of its kind in the Nation. There are still a noted total of 6,803 burials which are currently located at older sections of the Hudson County Burial Grounds.
The earliest entry is for December 31, 1880 which states that Ellen Carroll, who was from the Lunatic Asylum, was buried in plot number one. The last recorded entry was for April 13, 1962 of an unknown female in plot number 6537. The years between 1880 and 1915 averaged 156 burials per year. In 1916 there were 237 burials and
the year of 1917 yielded the most burials with 271. This was most likely because of the 1917 Spanish Flu epidemic. The 1920s averaged 111 burials per year with the high being 142 in 1926. By the 1940s burials were under 100 per year. The 1950s had fewer than 50 per year, with only 10 in 1959. There is evidence that there were burials prior to December of 1880, which only death certificates can prove at this time.
The men, women and children that died in Hudson County, who were believed to not have anyone to pay for their funeral, were buried by the County of Hudson in the Hudson County Burial Grounds. This included 6,761 males; 2,081 females; and 939 burials of
unknown gender. Persons that were listed with an “Unknown” name totaled 820. There were 378 still born/birth children. Fifty seven burials were of parts of human remains. The total number of burials listed is 9,781, out of which 434 were disinterred at some point, including 78 that were relocated in the 1950s by the New Jersey Turnpike. It has been said that these remains were re-interred behind the Meadowview Hospital. However, there is a map that indicates that these remains were
re-interred on the land that now stands atop a temporary pre-release jail complex which is abandoned.
The people buried on this land were not only from the Hudson County Institutions. The largest numbers of burials were from the Hudson County Almshouse with a total of 3,325 people. The second largest was titled “Jersey City” with 2,335. Among other
townships and cities there were a total of 1,293. Hoboken and West Hoboken had a total of 797 interred at the cemetery. Various undertakers were listed as the place where 736 people were from, with Speer having the highest total of 145 and Hoffman with the second highest of 109. The various hospitals in the county contributed 1,964 burials with the Lunatic Asylum and Mental Hospital numbering the most with 905. The County Jail and Penitentiary totaled 97. Pest house had 3 burials.
Welfare also had 3 burials. There were also 16 that had no listing as to where they were from and 8 were on railroads.
To Where: It is believed that the earlier burials listed in the ledgers were located on the western side of Snake Hill, by the Hackensack River. This section of land is currently a boat launch area and parking lot. The approximate four acre section was labeled
as a vegetable garden on maps circa 1909. In a report to the State Charities Aid Association of 1900 this land was mentioned as “Farm, site and burial ground, 4 acres; valuation, $4,000.” This report also mentions comments of the warden’s annual report described as “It gives a detailed statement of the products of sewing-room and farm, as well as the work done by inmates about the buildings and farm – “farm” meaning here the burial ground where about $2,300 worth of
vegetables are raised.” The 1902 State Charities Aid Association also mentions the vegetable farm as “Farm – 4 acres, all cultivated; valuation, $4,000.”
An article written by William H. Richardson in 1914 mentions “…so many of them came to the Almshouse, to pass through later and fill those rude graves with numbered wooden headboards at the edge of the swamp below.”
Map number 769 from the Hudson County Engineers Office depicts the location of graves with wooden headboards and plot numbers ranging from 4855 to 5316. This section is likely to lay adjacent to the following section of cemetery; it falls within the N. J. Turnpike right of way and also under the turnpike roadway.
Map number 2002 from the Hudson County Engineers Office outlines a one acre section labeled “burial ground’ on the eastern side of Snake Hill which is seen on other maps as well. This acre is well within the right of way of the New Jersey Turnpike. Map 2002 also depicts a larger section of the cemetery which is an approximate eight acres in size. This is also labeled as “burial grounds” and
appears to be within the New Jersey Turnpike right of way, as well as under the turnpike roadway itself. This larger eight acre section is not depicted on many maps and seems to have been forgotten by all.
The last section of cemetery to be used is mentioned above as being that in which the disinterment project is being conducted. This section of cemetery is well within the New Jersey Turnpike right of way and under the bridge that was erected over the burial grounds in the 1950s. This section of cemetery appears to be approximately four acres in size, giving an estimated total of the burial grounds to 17 acres.
This does not account for any
burial grounds prior to the burial date of December 1880.
The land at Snake Hill was a very large County Farm at one
time. The burial ground was most likely started just outside of the
Almshouse and Penitentiary grounds. When it was realized that the current
burial grounds location would not suit the future needs of the counties
deceased, it was continued on the eastern side of Snake Hill well after the
Hudson County Institutions started to establish themselves to the land. The
county was responsible for the burial of anyone who died while in their care
at any of the institutions or in the prison system.
In a State Charities and Corrections report it mentions one inmate’s death. “This man, so dissolution that attempts at expectoration resulted only in the sputa barely passing his mouth, falling upon the bed clothing, while members of your Council were present, died, was hastily gathered up, placed in a box which seemed to be
awaiting his departure, and without any indication of the existence of any individual in authority, and carted off to be buried in a pauper’s grave.”
State Charities Aid Association report mention of the inmates of the penitentiary and their employment about Snake Hill “….eighty-six inmates actually employed, not including four men digging graves….”
The earlier days of the cemetery depict one person was placed per grave. Infants and still births were noted as being placed in the same grave as adult persons. There was even mention of a brother being buried in the same plot as his sister who preceded him by a number of years. In December of 1895 there were two people often placed in each plot. Infants and still births were still being placed on
the sides of graves already occupied by two adults. This may have indicated the start of a newer burial location and burial practices.
What’s next: It is in general belief that the County of Hudson will try in the near future to conduct a project of disinterment and re-interment of the remaining sections of cemetery and sell the land to help balance their upcoming budgets. There is also a chance that some sort of park and ride for the new Allied Junction project would be incorporated in the area, since no previous arrangement of parking has
been planned for that project.
To consolidate a cemetery, 17 acres in size, and its relocation for monetary profit or other benefits is simply disrespectful to those who are buried there. The undermining of the New Jersey Turnpike roadway to recover remains held under it would most likely not be incorporated into a disinterment project. To restore the land to cemetery like conditions would be a costly project but must not be an overlooked alternative. It seems that the only sensible and respectful
future of the land is to continue the Laurel Hill Park project keeping the natural habitat and creating a memorial park like atmosphere. To honor our past and remember who and what once occupied this land is much more respectful to them, us and our future.