This cemetery has different names: French Huguenot Demarest Cemetery, French Burying Ground, French Cemetery, or French Huguenot Cemetery. Whichever name you prefer to call it, it is always locked. According to a tiny article in the local paper, The Twin Boro, the cemetery is only open to the public once a year. I had gone on Easter Sunday, not knowing this and saw a chain and lock on the gate, went back to my car with my head down, and drove home. A month later, a friend of mine took a picture of the said article and sent it to me. It stated the cemetery will be open to the public on May 21st of this year. Naturally, I put it on my calendar and eagerly awaited the day.
The New Milford Public Events Committee and the New Milford Historic Preservation Commission joined forces for this presentation. Unfortunately, it was a bit loud because it is near ball fields and baseball season is booming. It was a little hard to hear the speakers, but we were informed there are a lot of French and Dutch settlers buried here, as well as some Germans. I found it incredibly respectful and moving that they were also placing brand new American flags at all veterans’ graves; these are Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers. It is important to remember and honor those who sacrificed so much for our country, especially when our country was in its infancy. Without these brave men, we could be living a very different life in New Jersey. Everyone was free to roam around and take photos (I checked with a volunteer that this was okay. Just not a grave rubbing, which I would never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, cut my fingers off do. I suggest you never do either- deal?).
The cemetery was first in use around 1677 (I don’t recall seeing any headstones from that date though). One of the speakers explained there was a church on the premises as well, near where the bank is on the corner. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) placed the Historical Marker in 1955. se with the location of the cemetery. Many of the last names of those buried here will sound familiar: Demarest, Bogert, and Zabriskie. One of the volunteers stated the last burial was in 1949. However, I heard 2 conflicting stories regard that one. 1) Bertha Reetz was buried near one of the trees, where it very well may be that the roots went through her coffin. 2) The DPW found her headstone nearby and flung it over the fence, not knowing if there is body buried at all. Hmm..interesting! Another volunteer explained they found headstones down the hill (past the fence) near the brook. Makes you wonder how many people exactly are buried here. A lot of the headstones were illegible or broken. Some even have initials on a piece of stone, so you wonder who is really buried beneath.
If I heard correctly, an Eagle Scout or Boy Scout is working on a kiosk with brochures explaining who is buried in the cemetery and its history. Kudos to him! Well, keep your eyes peeled for the open cemetery event next year!