Southampton Town's Historic Cemeteries Project
Origin and history of the Town’s Historic Burying Ground Committee
In 2002, the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board focused attention on the condition of our historic cemeteries. Henry W. Moeller, then Town Historian and a member of the Landmarks Board, prepared recommendations for the Town Board to survey the historic cemeteries in Southampton Town. First, cemeteries owned by the Town had to be identified and located. Second, privately-owned, church-owned and Native American cemeteries and burial sites had to be identified and located as well. Such a list had not been compiled or updated in many years.
Zachary N. Studenroth, an architectural historian and museum professional, was selected in 2004 to research the Southampton Town cemeteries. He was charged with visiting all of the known cemeteries, burying grounds and marked grave sites; determining the boundaries of each and collecting published and archival material relating to them; and initiating the process of securing landmark recognition by the town, state and federal governments. Landmark status was granted and National Register status achieved in 2010 for the ten town-owned cemeteries, burying grounds and marked gravesites.
Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was contacted in 2006 to undertake a conditions assessment of the ten town-owned cemeteries. Included in this project was a photograph of each monument, its inscription, condition and exact location. Interactive, digitized maps were created for each site as well, and educational workshops were provided for the general public to demonstrate the survey process and techniques of stone repair and stabilization. A final report was submitted in 2007 with recommendations for future conservation treatments.
After the UPenn report was filed, efforts were undertaken to reach out to various community groups so that future maintenance and preservation of cemeteries could be initiated on a local level. The Hampton Bays Historical & Preservation Society, with three of the ten town-owned cemeteries located within its hamlet, was enlisted by the Town to serve as a model for other hamlets to emulate. Recognizing that the cemeteries were of hamlet-wide concern and interest, the society canvassed civic organizations for volunteers and formed a Cemetery Task Force in 2007. Roger Tollefsen, a task force member and now administrator of the Cemetery Project, promoted the conversion of the UPenn survey into a user-friendly database that became the nucleus of this website. Sundy A. Schermeyer, Town Clerk, provided the financial support that enabled the project to proceed.
In 2011, the Southampton Town Burying Ground Committee was formed to fulfill the objective of expanding the purposes of the original Cemetery Project to encompass all of the hamlets of the town. Zachary N. Studenroth, now Southampton Town Historian, serves on this committee with six other members along with Sundy A. Schermeyer, Town Clerk, and Bridget Fleming, Councilwoman, who serve ex officio. A stewardship agreement formed between the town and the Southampton Historical Museum for the care and protection of the North Sea Burying Ground was adopted by the committee as a model of “best practices” and the East Quogue Historical Society has since entered into a comparable agreement for the care of the East Quogue Methodist Church Cemetery. Other activities of the committee have included changes to the Town Code that enhance protection of the burying grounds, workshops that demonstrate techniques of conservation and repair, and restoration of historic iron fencing. This website, which includes a searchable database encompassing not only the headstones surveyed by the original UPenn survey but also inscriptions from earlier published surveys, death records and other vital statistics of interest to researchers, is the latest achievement of the Southampton Town Burying Ground Committee. We invite your comments and suggestions.
Zachary N. Studenroth, Southampton Town Historian