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Livingston's Ely Cemetery to Open for Veterans Day

Livingston Historical Society Trustee Eleanor Pichat gives a tour of the cemetery to Caroline Martorana and Jon Brecka will open the historic Ely Cemetery for tours on Veterans Day from 2 pm to 4 pm Credits: Livingston Historical Society

LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Livingston Historical Society will open the historic Ely Cemetery, located on Hillside Avenue for public tours on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

The cemetery was established by Captain William Ely, a veteran of the French and Indian War, on a rood (quarter acre) of his land in 1777 when his daughter Elizabeth Ely Jones and her second husband, Frederick Jones, and their infant son, Benonni, all died within two weeks of each other. The plot was enlarged to its present size in 1864 by Ambrose Ely. The stone wall that surrounds the cemetery is made of rocks quarried from Riker Hill, which was part of the Ely Family’s property.

It is the private burial ground of generations of Ely’s and other prominent families with whom they intermarried such as the Vanderpoel, Dow, Goddard and Halsey families. Notable internments include the monuments of Smith Ely, Jr. who served as mayor of New York City in 1877-1878, as well as two terms as a US Congressman; Edwin A. Ely, author of Personal Memoirs of Edwin E. Ely and generous benefactor of the Livingston Library and Julia Smylie Dow, widow of Major Charles A. Smylie a New York Socialite.

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The cemetery also contains several examples of antique sandstone slabs, granite headstones and marble tablets, some with typical New England cherub carvings while others are almost illegible due to age.

The last person interred in the cemetery was Janet Halsey Olstead, an eighth generation descendent of Captain Ely, who died in 1978.

The cemetery was abandoned for many years until 1983, when trusteeship was granted to the Livingston Historical Society by order of the New Jersey Superior Court. Since that time, volunteers have cleaned up the overgrowth of brush and repaired many plots. 

The public is invited to informal tours free of charge. Donations to help with the upkeep of this historical landmark are gratefully accepted. 

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