I first published an article on this interesting cemetery in April 2009 on the website Delaware Township Post. After five years, I have a learned enough to justify revising and republishing this article.

The cemetery is located on the Lambertville-Headquarters Road, on a farm near the intersection with Sandy Ridge Road. It is a private family cemetery without public access. The origin of the cemetery is nicely described by Egbert T. Bush.

“Old John Opdyke,” the wealthy builder of the Headquarters Mill and Mansion House, as well as of other mills and mansions in Amwell Township, was strolling {with his wife} one summer day over their wide acres of prosperous farm land. Coming to a fine shade tree then on this spot, they halted for rest, and the wife said: “John, I want to be buried under this tree when I die.”

Gravestone of John Opdycke, 1777

Gravestone of John Opdycke, 1777

The wife died, and John remembered. She was buried here, and here she now rests with her husband and many others. But the tree was gone long ago. There is plenty of shade, such as it is; but it is far from being the fine shade and the pleasant verdure which her eyes beheld, and which her imagination pictured for the future. John set aside a liberal area, and had all surrounded with the conventional stone walls. He provided for a perpetual right of way to and from the grounds. The pity is that he did not, out of his abundance, establish a fund for perpetual care of the grounds, the fences and the graves.1

Margaret Opdycke died on March 16, 1775 at the age of 64. Husband John Odpycke followed soon after, dying on August 10, 1777, age 68.

Gravesites Identified

To write of the Opdycke Burying Ground is to write of the Opdycke family, and that takes far more space than is appropriate here. So—in short—Samuel Green, a surveyor, acquired hundreds of acres in Amwell Township and moved there with his family sometime before 1709. About 1730, his daughter Sarah (eldest child by wife Sarah Bull) married Benjamin Severns of Trenton. About 1737, daughter Margaret Green married John Opdycke of Maidenhead (Lawrence) Township. Both couples also settled in Amwell, probably because Samuel Green gave each of them about 450 acres in the vicinity of Headquarters. (I have written extensively about Samuel Green and his families. You can see a list of some of these articles here.)

When John Opdycke came to Amwell (Delaware) Township, he must have brought his spinster sister, Sarah Opdycke, with him. She is buried in the Opdycke Burying Ground, having died in 1804, at the age of 80.

John and Margaret Opdycke stayed in Amwell, and raised a family of nine children. (They eventually had 50 grandchildren.) As a pioneer settler, John Opdycke did a lot of building, starting with the mill at Headquarters, and a mill on the Wickecheoke, plus three handsome stone houses, one at the covered bridge and two at Headquarters. He appears to have lived for a time at the Wickecheoke house, but then retired to the earliest house at Headquarters. This was a house just north of the Opdycke Cemetery (not the stone house next to the mill). John Opdycke was Constable for Amwell in 1744, Chosen Freeholder 1750-53, and a Justice of the Peace in 1755 and probably every year thereafter until his death. He was a member of the Amwell Township Committee from 1773 to 1776. According to the Op Dyke Genealogy, he was a fervent supporter of the patriot cause during the Revolution.

John and Margaret Opdycke’s eighth child, John Opdycke Jr., predeceased them, dying in 1773, age 20. He was buried in the burial ground his mother had selected and was probably the first person to be buried there.

John and Margaret’s youngest child, Thomas Opdycke, was born in 1756. In 1775, when he was 19, Thomas was given 267 acres south of Headquarters by his father. But Thomas seems to have left that property and spent some time in Pennsylvania, where I believe he married Anna Cowell (1757-1830) around 1777, about the time of his father’s death. Thomas Opdycke was not taxed in Amwell in 1780, and yet he did sell a small lot of 7 acres to David Johnes that year. In 1793, he bought a farm on Upper Creek Road of 248 acres from Jacob Rouser, but the family habit of milling would not be repressed. In 1801, he sold that farm to Elisha Rittenhouse, and bought Rittenhouse’s mill on Old Mill Road. Thomas Opdycke died there on November 18, 1805, only 49 years old. His wife Anna Opdycke was living at their stone house on Old Mill Road when she died on January 12, 1830, in her 73d year. Both were buried in the Opdycke Cemetery.

Most of the daughters of John and Margaret Odpycke and their husbands can be found here. Margaret Opdycke (1751-1820) married John Besson in 1772. He fought in the Revolution as an ensign and died at the age of 92 in 1842. He was among the war veterans who marched in the Jubilee of 1826 in Flemington. Both Margaret and John are here.

The Buchanans

Daughter Sarah Opdycke (1741-bef.1786) married John Buchanan about 1760, the son of Samuel and Jane Buchanan. He ran Buchanan’s tavern at the corner of Routes 523 and 579 from about 1775 until his death, in December 1818 at age 78. (You can click on this link for an extensive history of Buchanan’s Tavern.)

John Buchanan has a stone in the Opdycke Cemetery. His wife Sarah may also have a stone; there is one with the initials S B and another with S A B, but no dates. Since John Buchanan married his second wife Azubah Lake on June 14, 1786, we must conclude that Sarah Opdycke Buchanan died some time before that date.

There is a Levina Buchanan here who died in 1830, but I have not been able to identify her. John Buchanan died intestate, so we do not have a full list of his children. There is also a stone that reads: “F. M. B. 1838.” This could be either a Buchanan or a Besson.

Sarah and John Buchanan’s son George Buchanan (1767-1826) was buried here; his stone reads: “died Nov 25th 1826 aged 53 years 2 mo 4 days.” His wife, Elizabeth Fulper Buchanan, daughter of Jacob Fulper and Catharine Hoppock, is buried next to him. Her stone reads “died Aug 30 1846, age 61 1 mo 24 days.” George Buchanan acquired a farm from his father-in-law Jacob Fulper not far from Buchanan’s Tavern.

George and Elizabeth’s daughter Amy Buchanan was a spinster, who died on September 12, 1868 at the age of 60 and was buried in the Opdycke Cemetery near her parents.

George and Elizabeth Buchanan also had a son John Buchanan (1800-1890). He and his wife Catharine Williamson (1803-1891) had a daughter Amy who was born on March 28, 1808. She married Izer G. Rake in 1856. He fought in the Civil War with Co. D, 30th NJ Infantry, died in 1875 and was buried here. Amy Buchanan Rake died in 1904 and was buried with her husband.

Margaret Buchanan Case is buried here. She was another daughter of Sarah Odpycke and John Buchanan, born on April 15, 1761. She “departed this life October 28, 1808” at age 46. She is said to have married Johann Matthias Case, who left Amwell after his wife died and moved to Indiana.

Another Buchanan buried in this cemetery is Harriet Susan Buchanan (1832-1885), daughter of John Buchanan and Catharine Williamson, and great great granddaughter of John & Margaret Opdycke. She married John C. Hellier (1828-1883) who is buried next to her.

The Gordons

John and Margaret Opdycke’s daughter Mary Opdycke (1747-aft 1830) married Agesilaus Gordon (c.1745-1815), a tavern keeper. Gordon’s tavern was in Skunktown, later known as Sergeantsville. There are no stones here for Mary and Agesilaus, but their son John Gordon is here. The stone says John Gordon died 1866, age 79. His wife Sarah Fulper (1795-1866) is supposed to be buried next to him, although her name is not on my inventory. She was the daughter of Jacob Fulper and Catharine Hoppock, and therefore the sister of Elizabeth Fulper who married George Buchanan.

People Who Should Be Buried Here

Sarah Bull Green

Sarah Bull was the second wife of Samuel Green. She died sometime before 1738. Since she died shortly after John Opdycke and Margaret Green married, she may well have been buried near her own home, but the location of the Samuel Green house in Amwell Township has never been identified.

In 1739, Samuel Green and some of his family moved north to Warren County (part of Hunterdon at that time). Benjamin and Sarah Severns also moved north in the 1750s, but their son John Severns remained in Amwell. His land (probably from his father) was just south of Sergeantsville. I do not think that Severns, who died in 1818, was buried here, but I also do not know where he was buried.

Samuel Opdycke and wife Susanna Roberson

The other sons of John and Margaret Opdycke were George (1743-1795) and Samuel (1749-1801). Neither of them are in the Opdycke Family cemetery, or at least, their stones have not been found there. George lived in Kingwood and ran the mill at Milltown. Samuel lived at the covered bridge and ran the mill there. It is not known where Samuel (1749-1801) or his wife Susanna Robeson (c.1750-c.1795) are buried, but it is quite possible they were buried near their home at the covered bridge.

Daniel Carrell and Elizabeth Arnwine

Susan Pena has provided information suggesting that Daniel Carrell, first husband of Elizabeth Arnwine, could have been buried here. The idea comes from a DAR application submitted by Mary Elizabeth Loudenbeck (DAR #221010), and approved in 1925. Susan wrote that “information on this part of the family was provided, in part, by some of the aunts living in Florida at the time of the compiling (1926-1929).” She also stated that this was the only place she found that indicated that Carrell might be in this cemetery.

Daniel Carrell was born about 1765 in Tinicum, Bucks County, the third of five children, to James Carrell (1730-1804) and wife Sarah (c.1735-1797). The first record of him in old Amwell Township is on April 6, 1809 when he bought 113 acres on today’s Lambert Road from Daniel Rockafellow.2 That was the year that he married Elizabeth Arnwine. There is some dispute about when Elizabeth was born; calculating from the 1850 and 1860 census records, she should have been born c.1781. But a relative (Fanny Opdycke Carrell) claimed she was born on Jan. 30, 1770. The earlier date makes more sense given that husband Daniel was born c.1765. He died in 1817.

After the death of Daniel Carrell, his widow Elizabeth Arnwine married second Elisha Warford (1785-1872). Oddly enough, Elisha is the only one of this family whose stone can be found here. He died on May 16, 1872, age 86.

Before he married Elizabeth Arnwine, Elisha Warford was married to Elizabeth’s sister Mary (1775-1818). Some sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that Elisha Warford was ten years younger than wife Mary, and five years younger than wife Elizabeth. He must have been fairly charming in his youth. He is another person who merits a long post, if for no other reason than he owned much of the land stretching from Locktown to Croton.

Neither Mary nor Elizabeth have gravestones in this cemetery, although it seems more than likely that they were buried here, for the simple reason that their mother was Elizabeth Opdycke Arnwine.

John Arnwine and Elizabeth Opdycke

Elizabeth Opdycke Arnwine was the daughter of John and Margaret Opdycke. Oddly enough, neither Elizabeth nor husband John Arnwine have gravestones here. John Arnwine Sr. died intestate about 1819, age 84. Elizabeth Opdycke Arnwine died on Jan. 15, 1837 at the age of 99.

Agesilaus Gordon and Mary Opdycke

As previously mentioned, John and Margaret Opdycke’s daughter Mary Opdycke (1747-aft 1830) married Agesilaus Gordon (c.1745-1815), and their son and daughter-in-law were buried in the Opdycke Cemetery. It seems most likely that Agesilaus and Mary Gordon were buried there also, but if so, their stones have not survived.

Chart of the Opdycke Family

Showing who was and was not buried in the Opdycke Cemetery.

I have underlined those people who most likely are buried here but whose stones are missing. People known to be buried in the cemetery are shown in bold. The numbers in parenthesis indicate the generations. This is not a complete descendants chart. I have left out many descendants whose families seem to have no connection to this cemetery. However, I have included all the children of John & Margaret Opdycke.

(1) John Opdycke Esq. (1710 – 1777) & Margaret Green (1711 – 1775)
|     (2) Elizabeth Opdycke (1738 – 1837) m. John Arnwine Sr. (~1735 – ~1819)
|     |     (3) John Arnwine (~1760 – ~1831)
|     |     (3) Samuel Arnwine (~1762 – ~1821) & Sarah Jones
|     |     (3) George Arnwine (~1764 – ~1832) & Catherine White (~1775 – <1837)
|     |     (3) Margaret Arnwine (~1770 – >1850) & Samuel Buchanan (~1764 – 1846)
|     |     (3) Mary Arnwine (1775 – 1818) m. Elisha Warford (1785 – 1872)
|     |     (3) Elizabeth Arnwine* (~1781 – 1867) m. Daniel Carrell (~1765 – 1817)
|     (2) Sarah Opdycke (1741 – <1786) & John Buchanan (~1740 – 1818)
|     |     (3) Margaret Buchanan (1761 – 1808) & Johann Matthias Case (~1728 – )
|     |     (3) Samuel Buchanan* (~1764 – 1846) & Ann Case (~1765 – ~1800)
|     |      .   m. 2d Margaret Arnwine (~1770 – bef 1850)
|     |     |     (4) Jacob Fulper Buchanan (1804 – 1894) & Mary Gordon (1807 – 1882)
|     |     |     |     (5) George Buchanan (~1845 – ~1851)
|     |     (3) John Buchanan Jr. (~1772 – 1818) & Elizabeth Rockafellar (~1778 – 1853)
|     |    |     (4) John Buchanan iii (1800 – 1890) & Catharine Williamson (1803 – 1891)
|     |     |     |     (5) Harriet S. Buchanan (1832 – 1885) & John C. Hellier (1828 – 1883)
|     |     |     |     (5) Amie Buchanan* (1839 – 1904) & Izer G. Rake (1837 – 1875)
|     |     (3) George Buchanan (1773 – 1826) & Elizabeth Fulper (1781 – 1846)
|     |     |     (4) Amy Buchanan (1808 – 1868)
|     (2) George Opdycke Sr. (1743 – 1795) & Zeruviah Sophie Baker (~1740 – 1843)
|     (2) Catharine Opdycke (1745 – ~1813) & Abraham Larew (~1725 – 1789)
|     (2) Mary Opdycke (1747 – >1830) & Agesilaus Gordon (1745 – 1815)
|     |     (3) John Gordon (1786 – 1865) & Sarah Fulper (1795 – 1866)
|     (2) Samuel Opdycke (1749 – ~1801) & Susannah Robeson (~1750 – <1796)
|     (2) Margaret Opdycke (1751 – 1820) & John Besson (1750 – 1842)
|     (2) John Opdycke (1753 – 1773)
|     (2) Thomas Opdycke (1756 – 1805) & Anna Cowell (1757 – 1830)

 Were Slaves Buried There?

Some people have claimed that many slaves were buried near the Opdycke Cemetery. Tom Skeuse, former owner of the cemetery, said that descendants of those slaves have come to visit it. I wish I had had a chance to meet them.

In the previous version of this article I wrote that on July 27, 1905, the Sergeantsville correspondent to the Lambertville Advertiser, claimed that the old burying ground on the farm of Capt. John Shields, near Grover (Headquarters) contained the graves of more than 100 slaves.3 I have since come to believe that was not this cemetery. Shields owned the farm of Capt. David Johnes, which was not even adjacent to the Opdycke cemetery.

However, in 1975, students from Hunterdon Central High School cleaned up the cemetery and studied it. Along with marked graves that dated back to the 1780s and the 1830s, they found that the yard was 116 feet by 120 feet. There were four or five rows of unmarked gravestones which were only 1 ½ inches above the surface of the ground.  This could number something close to 100 graves. The class planned extensive study of the site and its inhabitants.4 I do not know if that study was ever completed.

There is no proof that 100 slaves are buried here. It is true that many of the Dutch families (including the Opdyckes) did have slaves, but never more than a few. Too many times, people have assumed that unmarked graves represent slaves, or Quakers, or Continental soldiers, or Indians. It’s all in the imagination. It is more likely that those unmarked graves represent members of the family whose gravestones have not been found.

Next post–three letters from Hunterdon historians that shed light on the struggles to inventory Hunterdon cemeteries, and this one in particular, in the early 20th century.

Footnotes:

  1. E. T. Bush, “Elisha Warford, Wealthiest Citizen of Croton Village,” Hunterdon Democrat, July 2, 1931. The story can also be found in the Op Dyke Genealogy, and seems to have been a long-standing family tradition in the Opdycke family.
  2. H. C. Deed Book 15 p. 459.
  3. From Iris Naylor, Lambertville Beacon, 2/16/1984.
  4. See the story printed in the Hunterdon Democrat, July 24, 1975.