American Dreamers

The issue today is the same as it has always been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite. ~ Thomas Jefferson.

A short distance from the Fairfield House is a historic cemetery dating from the colonial period.  The location is identified by a few names: “Old Christ’s Church” on the Cohansey River, the “Old Fairfield Church”, the “Old New England Town Church” and “Swing Cemetery”.

Swing Cemetery

The site originated in 1680 as a Meeting House called Christ’s Church, part of the settlement known as New England Towne, established by a congregation of Puritans from Fairfield, Connecticut and Long Island, New York.  In 1697, the First Presbyterian Church of South Jersey was formed by these settlers. It was one of the six churches that originated in Philadelphia as the first Presbytery in America.

Cedar Row

This granite monument stands on the site of their first log meeting house. It was dedicated in 1909.  John Ogden’s grave stone still exists. He died  on December 22, 1745 at age 75 and is noted prominently on the monument.

Monument

In 1717, a framed shingled meeting house replaced the original and was used until declared unsafe in 1775. The congregation then purchased other land and moved.  In the 1790’s Michael Swing, the pioneer Methodist preacher purchased a farm at New England Town and a meeting house, called the Swing Meeting House, was constructed directly in front of the graveyard of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church. Soon afterwards, Methodists began burying their family members in the church graveyard, hence the name Swing Cemetery.

Reverend William Ramsey

Above is the horizontal gravestone of Rev William Ramsey, M.A., who died on November 5, 1771 at age 39. He was the local pastor for 16 years. His stone has broken in pieces with the passage of time.

Cohansey Path

This path leads from the cemetery to the river.

Cohansey River

Trunk

I've been told by older, life-long residents and local historians that American Indians are also buried here in unmarked graves.

Cemetery Trees

It was custom of the day that cemeteries were extensions of church grounds, among a grove of oaks, maple and cedars; I'm sure some were saplings when this cemetery was new.

Leaning Headstones

There are several Revolutionary War Veterans laid to rest here alongside their fathers and the changes wrought over a single generation are striking. The earliest graves in this small cemetery are the resting place of men who died loyal subjects of the British Crown.  Their sons died American citizens, founders of a new nation destined to become the  greatest in history, a beacon of liberty to the entire world. Surely none of that was foreseen. In one generation so much was swept away and so much  more was gained. For all of history it has been this way, the passing from one generation to the next is the key moment in which everything can change.

Ephraim Seeley

James Boyd

Wrought Iron Fence

The Daughters of the Revolution solicited funds in 1899 to put a fence around the cemetery. The complete fence was never put in place, however one exists at the entrance.

These patriots endured many ordeals in their long struggle to be free of English rule. They began by demanding recognition of their natural rights as Englishmen, and finished by establishing a new nation conceived in liberty. Their new nation enshrined the right of men to be free to live according to their own purposes and not those of an overreaching and far away elite. It gives me pause to consider the current state of our union. What would these Patriots say today–how well have we preserved the liberty each generation holds in trust for the next, and for which they laid down their lives? So much can change so quickly, a generation from now will anyone even recall the liberties we have lost or question the authority we will have come to accept?

Swing Cemetery

Site of one of the oldest Christian congregations in our country. When the American Revolution was still nearly a century in the future, the first pastor was giving sermons.

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10 Responses to American Dreamers

  1. Kathy July 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Deborah,
    Beautiful! I love old cemetaries, the kids and I walk through the one in our neighborhood quite often. They have so much valuble information on the stones and are much prettier to look at than new cemetaries.

    Hope you have a wonderful 4th! We’ll be leaving for Florida on Saturday – wish us luck!!
    Kathy

  2. LindaG July 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    I love history. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
    I agree, and often wonder; would they be happy for us or are they rolling in their graves…

    Hope you all have a great week!

  3. Laura Ingalls Gunn July 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    I am one of those people who find lovely peace in the walking through cemeteries. The older the better. It is just amazing to think about the time spaned and the lives and those who loved those long buried.

  4. Michele July 5, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    You have a compelling way with words, Deborah. Much to consider here, and I thank you for sharing this hallowed ground through pictures with us. We lived in NJ for several years ~ my husband grew up there and his family still resides throughout the Garden State ~ and it is painful to admit it now, but I just wasn’t into history then. We have approached history differently with our children and take as many trips here in NC that time and money will allow. Thank you for such a timely post. xoxo michele

  5. vicki July 5, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Loved the info you shared here Deborah, great history lesson. I saw on the news where 42% of the people surveyed did not know why we celebrate July fourth. Didn’t know why the year 1776 was important. How outrageous! How sad….

    Hope you enjoyed the day.

  6. Oklahoma Granny July 5, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Our family is very interested in history and I very much enjoyed this wonderful history lesson. Thank you, Deborah.

  7. Maggie July 5, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Beautiful cemetery! I have a thing for cemeteries. I love to just wander around them and take it all in. Those headstones are soapstone. Very fragile over time. They tend to break with the weather. Here is something interesting for you. The symbols you sometimes see on headstones mean something. I don’t see any on these. For instance, a dove usually symbolizes a young child’s grave. It means innocence. It can also signify resurrection too. So sometimes you might see it on a well known to the area person’s grave. It was thought that his good deeds would be resurrected within the communities from whoever took over his duties. A hand with the finger pointing up means the person is hoped to be in heaven. Pretty neat how they incorporated symbolism into the headstones. Have a great 4th my friend!

  8. Kim July 6, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    What a wonderful history lesson Deborah! I’m a huge history buff – it was my major at Rutgers – and living in New Jersey makes reading this post even more fun! Thanks and as always, your pictures are amazing. Have a wonderful day.
    xoxo,
    Kim

  9. Cass at That Old House July 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Lovely post, Deborah. There is so much history — colonial and Revolutionary — stuffed into our little Garden State, and yet most people don’t think “New Jersey” when they think of the Revolution.

    I haven’t yet walked thru the old cemetery in our new town; I’ll have to put that on my list for the summer.

    All the best — Cass

  10. Victoria July 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Such a beautiful cemetery- and so nice to see someone who appreciates history as much as I do!

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