The Town of Rye African-American Cemetery
New! Click below to view an interactive map of the cemetery!
The African Cemetery was established in Rye when its site was deeded to the town on June 27, 1860, by Underhill and Elizabeth Halsted “(to) be forever after kept and used for the purposes of a cemetery or burial place for the colored inhabitants of the said Town of Rye and its vicinity free and clear of any charge therefore.” In the latter part of his life, Underhill Halsted became a fervent follower of the Methodist movement, which was profoundly opposed to slavery. However, being anti-slavery did not mean one was not prejudiced. Such bias led African Americans to separate from the Methodist church and form their own Methodist organization, African Methodist Episcopal Zion or AME Zion. The presence of two AME Zion churches in nearby Mamaroneck and Port Chester could have also motivated Halsted to gift the cemetery to local free persons of color. The cemetery includes a variety of professionally carved and dressed grave stones, with 35 indicating that a war veteran is interred. African American veterans of the Civil War through World War II are buried here. One such soldier was World War I veteran Francis M. Husted, buried in 1947. A former labourer, he was a member of the 370thColored Regiment, the only unit in the U.S. Army with a full complement of African American officers from colonel to lieutenant. This unit was called the “Black Devils” by the Germans because of their courage and the “Partridges” by the French because of their proud bearing. In 1983 the African Cemetery was listed as a Westchester County Tercentennial Historic Site, and in 2003 the cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The African American cemetery is accessed through Greenwood Union Cemetery, North Street, Rye, New York
The Restoration Project
This project will restore the deteriorated landmark African American Cemetery. This unique site has important historical and cultural significance to the African American as well as the overall community dating from 1860. It will enhance the quality and quantity of heritage tourism, offer educational opportunities, and expand passive recreational opportunities in this highly populated area.
The overall goal of this project is to comprehensively restore the deteriorated New York State and Federal land marked African American Cemetery, using technical professionals including an archeologist, architect, landscape architect, environmental engineer and interested local historians. Also, this project will allow us to further research the history of the African-American community and the relationship of that community to the larger Rye Town community.
The site is unique as it was deeded by a local philanthropist in 1860 to be used specifically as a free cemetery for African American residents. The cemetery was used until 1964. Gravestones in the cemetery reflect the diverse backgrounds of African American residents of Rye, many of whom were soldiers in the Civil and Spanish/ American Wars as well as World Wars I and II.
The research will document the cultural significance of the cemetery to the community; establish a preservation plan for the cemetery while highlighting its educational value for students, citizens and visitors. Another facet of this project is to conserve open space and protect other critical environmental resources.
We plan to preserve the mature landscape while complimenting it with indigenous plantings, protect the perimeter ecosystem that includes a wetland, brooks and varied hardwood second growth woodlots. This site is adjacent to a larger cemetery, many small open undeveloped spaces that all work together "from a bird's eye view" as a sizeable wildlife area and affords many opportunities to maximize its use for wildlife habitat.
This project will enhance the quality and quantity of heritage tourism~ expand passive recreational opportunities~ and link to other open spaces in this highly populated area.
After successful completion of the entire process including finished documents, all could be used by other communities as a format for successful public/private partnership development, fundraising, maintenance and operations, and preservation of similar sites of historical and cultural significance.
Recently, an anonymous donor has restored two fallen headstones. This donor, not a resident of the Town of Rye, saw a need and responded, below are before and after photographs.
Below is a local news video on the cemetery.