Kingsbridge Burial Grounds
This area was used as a burial ground by two early colonial families that settled in today’s park in the 17th century–the Tippett and Betts families. Here, a quarter acre of land was legally declared as a burial ground by George Tippett in 1717 for the use of those families and their descendants. But this legal declaration stated that the land had already been in use as a burial ground for “a great many years.” When George Tippett sold the surrounding land to Jacobus Van Cortlandt in 1732, he reserved this land from the deal, expanding its area to a half-acre.
Descendants of the original Tippett and Betts families lived in the neighborhood through the 20th century. There are no surviving interment records, but local historians noted headstone inscriptions indicating burials in the early 1800s.
When the City acquired the Van Cortlandt’s estate, the nearby Parade Ground was initially set aside as a National Guard training site. The National Guard used the field for drills, mock battles, and polo matches until World War I (1914-1918), when the Army used the entire park as a training facility, which regularly drew spectators. During this time, the Kingsbridge Burial Ground sustained significant damage before being enclosed by a fence for its protection.
The headstones of Dorcas Berrian (d.1794), daughter of George Tippett, and her husband Samuel Berrian (d.1795) stood in the plot until the 1970s when the stones were removed due to their poor condition. Samuel and Dorcas Berrian were farmers sympathetic to patriots during the American Revolution. The Revolution created a rift in the Tippett family between the patriots and the loyalists. During the war, Samuel and Dorcas’s farm in Spuyten Duyvil was confiscated by the British Governor and granted to their neighbor, Gilbert Tippett, Dorcas’ loyalist nephew. After the British defeat, Gilbert fled to Canada with the other loyalist family members. Samuel and Dorcas Berrian stayed and inherited all of the land in Spuyten Duyvil that had belonged to their fleeing family members. For years thereafter, Spuyten Duyvil would be known as “Berrian’s Neck.”
A careful inspection of the burial ground reveals some headstone fragments are still visible–such as a red sandstone fragment that is barely protruding from the surface. In 2019, soil scientists from the US Department of Agriculture used ground penetrating radar equipment to examine a portion of the burial ground area. It revealed soil disturbances that are consistent with the presence of burial sites below.
On June 19, 2021 at a Juneteenth Ceremony, in honor of the African burial ground, located within the previously named Kingsbridge Burial Ground, a new sign bearing the words ‘Enslaved African and Kingsbridge Burial Grounds’ was unveiled.