Old Burying Ground
While planning our recent day trip to the North Fork of Long Island, I found the vineyard we were planning to visit on Google Maps and searched for cemeteries nearby. Anytime I'm traveling somewhere new, I try to search for nearby diners and cemeteries to maximize my time and ensure that I'm not missing out on something.
I was excited when I discovered a cemetery .3 miles from the train station (when I told my friends that I had found a cemetery for us to explore on our way to the vineyard, one replied "of course you did"). I was even more thrilled to find out after a few minutes of research, that the old buying ground in the First Presbyterian Church cemetery is the oldest surviving colonial-era cemetery in New York State.
The OBG was established in 1640 by the Puritan settlers of Southold, and it's full of stones cut with Puritan memento mori images and motifs—winged skulls, chubby cherubs and even a few crossbones. According to the (very helpful) brochure we picked up upon entering the cemetery, "the Old Burying Ground showcases gravestones carved by the best of the early stonecutters, most from New England, the widest range of any Long Island cemetery."
It's rare in this country to come across burial grounds that pre-date the formation of the United States, and the OBG has 20 gravesites that date back to the 1600s. The OBG is home to the oldest grave (the 1671 box tomb of Southold founding father William Wells) and the second oldest gravestone on Long Island (Abigail Moore, 1682).
Like any old cemetery, some of the stones have sustained a lot of damage while others look as if they were just carved yesterday. The church has been making a costly and extensive effort to preserve the OBG, giving the stones a cleaning, piecing some back together and adding a protective bed of gravel at their base. We didn't explore the grounds beyond the Old Burying Ground, but the cemetery is huge and very well-maintained—I could have easily spent hours there, if only they served Rosé.