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May 17, 2022

DAR Restores Historic Holmdel Graveyards

By Lori Draz

All throughout our area are many graves of soldiers, slaves, families and business owners that have fallen victim to the ravages of time and lack of maintenance. These vital connections to our past deserve respect, and thanks to National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, they are getting the attention they deserve. 

There is a grassroots effort underway in Holmdel to identify and, where applicable, mark all the graves of Revolutionary War Patriots. The members of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who are organizing a new chapter in Middletown, have taken on the tough work which means navigating poison ivy and thorny bushes in overgrown, forgotten graveyards – complete with uneven turf, fallen tree limbs and spider webs – to locate the graves of these soldiers and their families.  

High on a hill, on the corner of Line Road and Wigwam Lane, sits the Lequier-Van Brackle family burial ground. Research compiled from a list of inscriptions copied in the early 1900s said the grave of Revolutionary War Patriot John Lequier was located at that site but was not visible. A section of the burial ground was so full of fallen logs and weeds that it was impassable and blocked the graves of the patriot and his family. But all that changed on March 26 when a team of volunteers made up of members of the Holmdel Police Department, the Police Cadets, the Holmdel Historical Society and the Scouts BSA, Troop 131, as well as members of the DAR took on the challenge of cleaning the site. They raked leaves, cleared thorny sticker bushes and sawed down the old logs with chainsaws. Not only was the burial site of John Lequier uncovered, but five more historic graves that were also hidden are now visible. 

A second site, the Schenck-Covenhoven, was also restored on April 2. This burial ground is adjacent to a Catholic burial ground as well as an African American burial ground. It was equally impassible. Buried there are six Revolutionary War Patriots including a woman named Jannetje Covenhoven Schenck who paid taxes to support the war effort.  

The same hardy group, with the addition of the Monmouth County Genealogical Society and Sons of the American Revolution, cleaned up this burial site as well. More than 20 volunteers did the heavy work, clearing about 90 percent of the graveyard. Michele Donnelly, one of the founders of the new Middletown chapter of the DAR described the efforts as something the whole area can be proud of. 

The group is planning a return visit to finish the clearing of the Catholic cemetery and the African American Cemetery. Cleanup of more cemeteries and burial grounds are planned for May. After the completion of the project to identify all patriots’ graves in Holmdel and cleaning those cemeteries where required, the project will be expanded to the rest of Holmdel’s burial grounds.

If you would like to learn more or volunteer for this important work, email michelemdonnelly@gmail.com or maneribeckteam@foxroach.com.