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Local Gravesite Motivates Historians

In 1662, Claes Cornelissen Van Cats sailed from his home in Schoonhoven, Holland to settle in what is now, Bushwick, New York. Van Cats, a firm believer in democracy, home rule and civil liberty, was a knickerbocker, who fought against the autocratic rule of Governor Stuyvesant. Van Cats died in 1692, but he lived on through his family, some of whom now rest in the Van Cott Cemetery of Farmingdale.

 

Vicki Gruber, a corporate and securities attorney, came to the Farmingdale Public Library on Feb. 9, for a discussion on the history of the Van Cott Cemetery as part of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historic Society’s “winter program series” at the Farmingdale Public Library. Gruber has been studying the Van Cott Cemetery in order to preserve the rich history behind the plot of land, and is proposing a marker be erected to bring attention to its purpose and denote the history of the site. 

 

“It’s about preserving the history behind the cemetery,” said Gruber. “There’s nothing to commemorate how they got here and what their story is.”

 

According to Gruber, the headstones dates back 165 years and are severely cracked. In addition, they are virtually unnoticeable because they were laid down parallel to the ground to make it easier for landscapers to tend to the area. Gruber proposed that a sign be built on a boulder in front of the Van Cott Cemetery, on the corner of Richard and Rose Street in Farmingdale, in order to indicate the purpose of the small plot of land and serve as a historical marker for the Van Cott family. 

 

The Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society was optimistic about helping to fund the project. 

 

“It’s going to be an historic marker and motivate the community to take care of its history,” said Eric Goldschrafe, president of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society. “We want to promote and preserve the rich history of Farmingdale and Bethpage.”

 

The Van Cott Cemetery is the final resting spot of 16 souls. Eight of the people buried in the cemetery are decedents of the Van Cats family, who later changed their surname to Van Cott. The deaths and burials of the people at the Van Cott Cemetery occurred from 1849 to 1891, spanning 42 years. Many of the deaths occurred in 1864, during the Civil War period. About half of the deaths occurred before the age of 14 and only five of the people buried made it past the age of 50.

 

“I never knew there we had so much history buried in the center of Farmingdale.” Dr. Benjamin Giminaro, 93, a lifelong resident of Farmingdale.