The Princeton Cemetery
Of the Nassau Presbyterian Church
Cemetery Established 1757
OPEN DAILY DAWN TO DUSK
Douglas G. Sutphen, Superintendent
29 Greenview Avenue
Princeton, NJ 08542-3316
Telephone: (609) 924-1369
FAX: (609) 252-9551
THE PRINCETON CEMETERY is owned by the Nassau (formerly First) Presbyterian Church of Princeton, NJ located opposite Pa1mer Square in the center of town. The Square was named after Edgar Pa1mer (#44), a benefactor of both the University and the community. The Cemetery was established in 1757, and the oldest grave is that of Aaron Burr, Sr., located in the University Presidents' Plot. The cosmopolitan character of the Cemetery continues, and interment has never been restricted to Church members and their families.
The Cemetery has been called the "Westminster Abbey of the United States" by John Frelinghuysen Hageman in his 1878 history of the town because so many prominent citizens are buried here, and it has been designated by the Delaware River Planning Commission as a historical site "well worth preservation." The development of the Cemetery is deeply rooted in the Church, the University, and the larger community which had been settled as Stony Brook in 1681, renamed Princeton in 1724, and incorporated by the state in 1813.
Except for some private plots on several pre-Revolutionary family farms, the oldest burial ground in Princeton is at the Quaker Meeting House. Some early settlers – including the Clarke, Olden, Hornor, and Worth families – used only the Quaker Cemetery from about 1724, and the Stocktons were buried there for over a hundred years. Unfortunately, many historical names and dates have been lost because it was the custom of the Quakers not to place identifying grave markers until about 1800. Nevertheless, Richard Stockton, Sr., a signer of the Declaration of
Independence and member of the Continental Congress, is known to have been buried in the Quaker Cemetery in 1781. However, the graves of both his son (#55) and grandson (#56) are to be found here in the Princeton Cemetery.
The oldest part of the Princeton Cemetery, formerly known as the Old Graveyard, lies at the intersection of Wiggins and Witherspoon streets and includes the University Presidents' Plot. Here one can see some of the earliest European family names in the area: Bayard, Berrien, Leonard, Mershon, Skillman, Stockton, and Terhune. This original one-acre parcel of land had been acquired by the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, in 1757 from Judge Thomas Leonard, a member of the Provincial Council, a year after the College with its seventy students had been moved from Newark to Princeton upon completion of Nassau Hall, still the University's main building.
The predecessor of the Nassau Presbyterian Church was established in 1762 and completed in 1764 with a grant of land as well as substantial financial assistance from the College. The Church property included an old burial ground that was later returned to the College in exchange for the Cemetery that had been established by the College in 1757. The remains of thirty-two members of the FitzRandolph family who had been buried in unmarked Quaker graves on the returned property just west of the Church were finally exhumed in 1909 and placed in separate vaults beneath the eastern archway of Holder Hall then being built on the site. A memorial plaque placed in that archway can be seen today.