A Walk Around Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Overview

Continuing with posts featuring Fall colors we come to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY. This cemetery is near to our house in Briarcliff Manor, NY so I’ve been there many times. I often go in Winter because they reliably clear they snow and I can walk the dog there when other trails are snow covered.

However, I can’t ever recall being there in Fall.

Above – This statue is part of the impressive Delavan memorial. There are at least four more statues around the base of the column.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

A visit to Kingston – Old Dutch Church

Formally organized in 1659, Kingston’s Old Dutch Church is one of the oldest continuously existing congregations in the country. Its current building, the fifth, dates back to 1852. The surrounding churchyard contains gravestones dating back to 1710. Approx. 70 Revolutionary War soldiers are buried there. This elaborate monument marks the burial place of George Clinton, New York’s first governor, and vice president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Across the street is the site of the original courthouse where the Constitution of New York State was written and adopted on April 20, 1777. New York’s first elected governor, George Clinton took the oath of office there, and the first State Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice, John Jay convened there.

The site is now occupied by the current Ulster County Courthouse built in 1818. Here Sojourner Truth, the famous abolitionist won her son’s freedom from slavery in Alabama.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

A visit to Fishkill – Rombout Rural Cemetery

“In 1747, a church was built on an acre of land donated by Jacobus Terbos, ‘on condition that the church be organized with the order of the Kirk of Scotland.’ Three decades later, during the American Revolution the church and the nearby, “First Academy” were used by the Continental Army as a hospital for those who had contracted small pox at the Fishkill Encampment. It was noted that the soldiers who stayed at the church during the wintertime ripped the siding from it to burn for heat. Following the wars end, the church was rebuilt out of sand and limestone. In 1866 the rebuilt church burned and was never reconstructed. ” (Rombout Rural Cemetery).

This is what we came to see: the Marquis de Lafayette monument. Note that this is not a grave. Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette is buried next to his wife at Paris’ Picpus Cemetery. To carry out his wish to be buried in both American and French soil, his son covered his coffin with dirt taken from Bunker Hill. .

Another “winged head” (See: A visit to Fishkill – First Reformed Church of Fishkill – Winged Heads), this one more elaborate than most.

I have so far not been able to find any additional information on General Van Wyck.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

A visit to Fishkill – First Reformed Church of Fishkill – Winged Heads

I’ve come across these “winged heads” in other cemeteries, but never so many in one place. According to Angels and Ghosts:

On the East coast of the United States, skilled artisans were hired by people in the 1600 and 1700s, often before their deaths, to create elaborate gravestone carvings. New England cemeteries, consequently, are reknowned for having an abundance of burial sites with winged cherubs and souls adorning the markers of the deceased.

Prior to winged souls and flying cherubs decorating graveyards, however, morbid ideas of death were carved into markers for about 60 years. These ‘death heads’ were just as significant as the ‘soul effigies’ and ‘winged cherubs’ that would eventually follow; for all of these types of stone carvings reveal a shift in American culture away from dogmatic religious beliefs to more of a free spirit mindset. This change in gravestone carvings began around 1630 and continued through the 18th century. People were moving away from condemning Puritan beliefs that focused more on frightening ideas of eternal suffering, namely Hell. The populous was preferring a non-condemning take on the afterlife, something more spiritual, let’s say.

Early Winged Gravestone Art

The first carvings that were made were not the pleasant winged cherub or human faces. Preceding the lighter, angelic facial expressions were carvings of skulls or even skulls with crossbones. These skull motifs are known as ‘death’s heads’ – non-religious symbols found on the markers that sometimes bore wings. Skulls were prominent on gravestones between 1630-1690. The messages of the skeletal iconography seem to suggest that whatever happens to the soul after death was not known, as far as its journey or fate; but death had come calling for its victim – that was certain. The wings, when used, however, also might have conveyed the hope of rescuing the dead from the earth plane, or even hell, taking them up into the heavens and a higher estate.

Winged Cherubs on Cemetery Stones

Cherubs eventually began to replace the skulls, beginning in the 1690s, as a way to indicate a childlike innocence, a higher wisdom about life, and, of course, the hope of a resurrection and an afterlife. Cherubs with wings, essentially angels, were much more soothing than skulls and bones to say the least. And the new, positive outlook on the afterlife began to show in headstone epitaphs, too. Positive sayings began replacing grim warnings used in the past.

These ‘winged effigies’ might look like angels, but they often were artist depictions of either cherubs or, possibly, the human soul. When we look at the faces between the wings, we might catch the artist imagining the person’s soul (think human face here instead of a chubby little angel face) being lifted upward to the heavens. Along with the carving of the soul, at times, the shape of the stone or the carving itself indicated an archway, or entrance path, into the afterworld.

Taken with a Sony RX-100