Somerset County News

Somerville: New Cemetery Reschedules Saturday’s 150th Anniversary Commemoration

Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ  - A wind-whipped Nor’easter predicted to drench New Jersey with several inches of rain has forced the postponement of Saturday’s ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of The New Cemetery on South Bridge Street.

The event has been rescheduled for Oct. 14th.

The New Cemetery of Somerville was founded in 1867 through the cooperative efforts of six local churches because Somerville had outgrown the space available in the old Raritan Cemetery across the road.  It was designed as a Victorian garden cemetery with rustic roadways winding among a random profusion of grave markers and majestic trees.

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 At the time, the founding members, desiring the finest burial grounds possible, secured the design services of Ernest L. Meyer of Elizabeth, a recognized expert in rural garden cemetery planning which was then gaining popularity. 

 Garden cemeteries, in contrast to older cemeteries where tombstones stand in solemn rows, are laid out as landscaped parks with groves of trees and other plantings that invite calm and peaceful contemplation, according to Art Adair, community relations coordinator.

Its original design remains essentially unchanged and has matured into a handsome example of a Victorian cemetery with rustic roadways winding among a random profusion of grave markers and majestic trees, including dozens of mature pink dogwoods.

The 24-acre non-sectarian cemetery is the final resting place for over 20,000 people, including 2,000 war veterans; of those, 193 fought in the Civil War.

U.S. Sen. Clifford Case is buried there, along with his cousin, Clarence, who was the prosecutor in the notorious Halls-Mills murder trial.

Others include Mary Steele, the first female lawyer in New Jersey and Mary E. Gaston, the first female doctor in New Jersey; New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Bergen; James Leo Greenleaf, a landscape architect who designed several mansions in the Peacpack- Gladstone area and later, the Lincoln Memorial and the WWI American burial grounds in France and Belgium and world-class athlete Clifford Moore, who helped to integrate Somerville High School and New Cemetery.

The proximity of the old Raritan Cemetery on the other side of South Bridge Street led Somerville residents in the 19th century to refer to the “New Cemetery,” a name reflected in many documents in that era. The New Cemetery of Somerville became its official name in 2008 when the Trustees reorganized it as a 501 (©)(13) non-profit corporation eligible to accept tax  deductible donations. 

Today it is administered by a volunteer board of dedicated citizens, whose hope is to see it continue as a final resting place for cherished loved ones, according to Adair.

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