On Sept. 14, the Village of East Hills celebrated the first stage of the Townsend Cemetery restoration.
Roslyn Landmark Society members, Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Councilmember Peter Zuckerman and others were in attendance.
Six families — Townsend, Jackson, Horsfield, Titus, Willis and Boerem — were among the 31 early English and Quaker settlers buried there. The cemetery was in operation for 136 years from 1790 to 1926 and is the only one in East Hills.
Notably, Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University, was a descendant of the Townsends.
A resident contacted East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz about the dilapidated cemetery next to their home 10 years ago. Then Koblenz contacted the then-Town Historian Howard Kroplick. Kroplick, now the Roslyn Landmark Society’s co-president, said the burial ground was in ruin.
“Thanks to the cooperative efforts of officials from the Town of North Hempstead, Village of East Hills and the Roslyn Landmark Society, the surrounding neighbors and grant support from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, the first phase of its restoration has been successfully completed,” he said. “Everyone associated with this project should be very proud of this accomplishment.”
Throughout the summer, the Town of North Hempstead’s Department of Highways cleaned the area. The Burying Ground Preservation and the Stewart Preservation Services restored 16 headstones, 11 footstones and over 200 fragments. Additionally, they identified 21 of the 31 grave sites.
A $10,000 grant from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation to the Roslyn Landmark Society from December 2021 made the restoration possible.
“Historical preservation is imperative to allow future generations to learn from the past and I’m proud that the Town has completed the first phase of this important restoration project,” said DeSena. “As American historian David McCullough once said, ‘History is who we are and why we are the way we are.’ Restoration projects like this one go a long way towards helping preserve our Town’s rich past.”
Descendants of the Townsend and Jackson families were also in attendance. Zuckerman expressed his gratitude for their presence.
“Restoring historical landmarks is so important to preserve the history of these families and of the Town,” he said. “North Hempstead is proud to be able to assist with these efforts and ensure that historical cemeteries are preserved and well cared for.”