An abandoned cemetery on a slender rise in Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs, has many names. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission called it the Sleight Family Graveyard when it designated the parcel a landmark in 1968.
The earliest gravestone is for Jacob Sleight, who died on June 20, 1751, which may explain the nomenclature. Other early settlers of the island and their descendants are interred here—the Seguine family makes up around half of the graves—and the burial ground has been referred to by other family names.
The most popular name is the Blazing Star Cemetery. The area was once known as Blazing Star, taking its name from a tavern. The neighborhood is now called Rossville, for Colonel William E. Ross, who built a replica of Windsor Castle on a nearby bluff. Rossville Burial Ground is yet another name for the small cemetery.
The graveyard is maintained by the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island. Some markers have fallen or are weathered, but others stand solidly upright with inscriptions that are crisply legible. Several are engraved with epitaphs made more quaint for using the “long s” that looks like an “f.” On the headstone for John Seguine, who died in 1795 at the age of 65, is a couplet that was popular at the time:
The sweet Remembrance of the Just
Shall flourish when they sleep in Dust.
Remembrance may have once flourished, not just for John Seguine but for the others buried here in 15 rows. The cemetery was long abandoned and were it not for landmark designation and the care of a nonprofit, it might have been lost altogether.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery can be reached by public transportation by taking the Staten Island Ferry to the St. George Ferry Terminal and transferring to the S74 bus. The westbound bus stops approximately 500 feet past the cemetery. The eastbound bus stops on Rossville Avenue, at Veterans Road East, south of the West Shore Expressway.
A path from the graveyard to a salt meadow on the Arthur Kill provides a view of the Tugboat Graveyard.