Grave delight at Oakwood Cemetery

Over 300 participate in tour with leaders dressed in period costumes


Summoning the spirits through vivid costume and expansive, albeit intricate, historical presentations, the Bay Shore Historical Society and Historical Society of Islip Hamlet teamed up to present a tour of Oakwood Cemetery’s famous (and infamous) residents.

With over 300 registrants, the tour had to be broken up into four separate groups to allow everyone to view the gravestones.

Group leaders were dressed in period costumes from the Revolutionary War to early 20th-century Czechoslovakian immigrants.

Oakwood Cemetery superintendent Joe Nolan spoke of the history of the cemetery, as well as the recent activity due to the pandemic. At the peak of COVID-19 deaths, Oakwood was “doing 12 to 15 funerals a week,” said Nolan.

The cemetery was developed after the Civil War, when, after the advent of the Long Island Rail Road, there was need for a central location for a cemetery in the hamlets of Islip and Bay Shore.

When it opened in 1880, plots could be purchased for $30 to $60 (an individual plot today costs $1,830) and grave-diggers charged between $7 to $10 (or $2 for babies).

With the opening of Oakwood, many local churches, burial grounds, and family cemeteries were eventually closed, and the headstones/graves were moved to the new central location.

Over 17,000 people have been buried in Oakwood Cemetery since its inception 141 years ago, with approximately 200 plots still available.

Tour guides brought groups of 50 around the cemetery to visit the following graves:

Mortimer Ruggles

Alleged accomplice of John Wilkes Booth during his escape following the April 14, 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Carrie B. Cherveny

Czechoslovakian immigrant who came to the United States in 1895 and settled in Islip, having 13 children, many who became successful in local trades.

George Hanford Burr

Killed by the last man to be executed in New York State for piracy.

Henry Leonard Crum

Volunteered as a minuteman in 1782 in the Bergen County Militia.

Dunbar Burchell Adams

Served in World War I as part of the U.S. Army’s 77th division. Remains were stolen from the family mausoleum on Memorial Day weekend in 2009.

Mamie Streeter Holmes

The latest addition to the cemetery on the tour, Holmes was buried in 2019. She died at 104 years old. Learned Braille after suffering from glaucoma and blindness.

Anning Moubray

Queen Anne granted his father a patent in 1708 for land that is now Bay Shore. Appointed ensign after Congress granted permission to form the Islip Militia Company on Feb. 9, 1776.

Cynthia Hawkins

Member of the prominent Islip family, the Clocks, who married into the Hawkins family, another prominent Islip clan. Shot and beaten to death by her first son, Asbury, whose engagement to a German servant girl had angered her.

Abraham Thompson

Grandfather was a renowned Islip judge, Isaac Thompson, whom President George Washington visited at Sagtikos Manor in 1790 to show his gratitude for his service to his spy ring. Developed the Islip Town seal: a rebus, or puzzle that combines pictures and words.

Phoebe and Frederick Wright

Civil War sweethearts. The Wright family happened to be on the 2019 tour and donated 97 original letters between the couple to the historical society.

Leander A. Jeffrey

Another member of the Clock family who set the world record of 14 days, eight hours to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Sandy Hook to Ireland.

Many tour-goers left with a sustained pride in the far-reaching historical significance of Town of Islip that has been preserved and celebrated by local civic groups.

Please note a correction from last week’s article: The description given was accidentally included from the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, N.Y.