Did you know that one of the very first African-American landowners in Westchester County lived on Spring Valley Road?
And that he was born a slave in Scarsdale in 1751?
And that he and his descendents are buried in a cemetery located on what was once their family farm?
I had no idea, and I think it’s fitting that this is my first blog post, because this story was the first one that made me aware of the depth and breadth of the history that lines the roads along my runs.
Lazarus Heady was one of seven illegitimate children of Thomas Hadden of Scarsdale, and his slave, Rose. According to “The African Presence in Scarsdale, NY” by Phyllis C. Murray “Thomas Hadden (1691-1761) was a resident of Scarsdale. His holdings in Scarsdale included two houses, a barn, cider mill, out buildings and a 150-acre farm that extended from the Post Road to the Bronx River. The bequests in his will suggest that at his death, Thomas Hadden had fathered a mulatto family by one of his female slaves. All but the last few sentences of his will are dedicated to providing for his female servants and his seven mulatto children, ensuring their well-being after his death: ‘All my Negroes [shall] be Exempted from Slavery, and Wench Rose shall be given a house on the north side of my farm.’”
Exactly how Lazarus Heady came to live and own a farm on Spring Valley Road is still a mystery to me, but he did, and he had a very long life, dying at the age of 99 in 1850. He also seemed to have had a very large, extended family as evidenced by the size of the cemetery itself.
Though many of the headstones have aged to point where their inscriptions are illegible today, you can click on this link and find a list of headstones and epitaphs as they appeared in the 1960’s. Copied down for posterity by a lovely lady named Irene Scase Summerville, she clearly shared my obsession with history.
I run by here all the time and never knew the cemetery even existed until some major landscaping was done a few years ago and I saw the uncovered headstones a little way off the road. I asked around and discovered that there is an often-ignored law that mandates that the upkeep for an abandoned cemetery falls to the town in which the cemetery is located. Thanks to the efforts of Gray Williams, former Town Historian for New Castle, the cemetery was cleared of weeds and headstones were repaired and righted.