The Heady Family Cemetery

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.

13 thoughts on “The Heady Family Cemetery

  1. Thanks so much for your blog about Lazarus Heady. Thomas Hadden is my 7th great-grand father. Lazarus and John Hadden, my 6th great-grand father, were half-brothers. It’s wonderful to get so much information about an ancestor.


  2. Okay, so now I’m thinking that what I thought was a church cemetery was likely the Heady Family cemetery. I am extremely intrigued by your postings, as the turkey farm was my home for 20 years. Thanks for being the bard of Spring Valley Road!


    1. i think we spoke once? one of the executor’s of Thomas Hadden’s estate had a farm on Rt 133 and apprenticed the 4 son’s: Lazarus, Amos, Turk & (name eludes me) who are listed in the 1795 census,
      who subsequently squatted, further north, on the land on Spring Valley Rd, before the Revolutionary War, with the help of their father. I have a copy of the will somewhere, from which you quote. The executor’s name is there.


  3. about Irene Summerville
    Three Sinners At Cross Purposes
    I first met Irene S…. in the mid 1980s. A car was stopped in front of my gates, an elderly woman was peering over a stone wall bordering the swamp across the street. A doyenne of the DAR, she was high falutin, and over tea, told me of her searching for the the Heady cemetery, which she had studied years earlier . Mrs S… called me “silly boy!” over my own historical naiveté, She lived over the south ridge, in the next valley, on her ancestral tract, which adjoined the Hudson Hills Golf Club.

    A legendary ineffable scourge, she confronted with scatter gun in hand, any duffers on retrieval missions, encroaching on her homestead. The impish designer of those links had twisted them so that her home lay at the outside corner of a devilish dogleg.

    “Better to loose one ball than two” was elaborately stenciled on a small placard she nailed to a tree facing out on the seventh hole. Or so she boasted, as I coaxed her out of a depressed reverie, when i next saw her a score of years hence in my office, at the end of a full century of her singularly defiant life.

    Stunned to see her still alive, I dragged my senior partner away from his patient to meet such a notorious local persona, and made a stentorian introduction to snap her, if only for a few minutes, into our comparatively dull reality.

    Hearing the commotion, a large man, who had been waiting patiently for a doctor, appeared in our doorway grinning broadly. He addressed her and recounted a most amazing story.

    The Engineers Tale:

    Although he was no stranger to the Hudson Valley Bone & Joint Surgeons, I first knew him at the local bar, years ago: a handsome dashing young railroad engineer. He was later involved in a horrible car accident before the state erected the divider on Rt 9A to stop the drag racing that led to crashes with uninvolved motorists like himself. My partner had labored mightily one long night to put him back together. In the decades which followed, the aftermath: of arthritic knees, hips and spine, befell and made him mine.

    Filling the doorway, he reminisced, that as a high school senior, he caddied at Hudson Hills. Recalling the seventh hole a narrow labyrinth that stole many a stray shot in the forbidden forrest of a crazy and dangerous old witch he recounted, “But if you wanted a good tip though, you might venture in, a short distance, to retrieve a prized ball”. Thus it was one spring day: the ball in plain sight less than a dozen yards off the edge of the rough. Approaching light footed and warily bending slowly, he froze at the words “I wouldn’t pick that one up up sonny, if I were you”.

    The former caddy stood at the threshold of a room, a moment (40 years gone), and a woman. She was now a listless relic, lying separated from him by me. I felt his fear surge past as it must have once before, when he had turned his head, and saw her standing behind a large tree”. “You had on a blue dress, an apron, and a large brimmed straw hat, with a shotgun leveled to the side, at your waist. One slow pass of the barrel towards the brightness of the fairway told me what to do and where i should go without hesitation”, he added. From the depths of her present decrepitude she lifted her head and the sunken face cracked into an abrupt smile. What followed was stranger still!

    Graduation Ossining High, 1968:


    Suddenly energized and awake, Irene S… stared straight at my patient. Like Mrs DuBois, Harper Lee’s curmudgeon might have, had she seen Jem Finch, all grown up and successful, (despite having trodden down her camelias) and attributed some part of his success to her once forcing his reading of Ivanhoe, my ancient patient inflated palpably.

    “If that didn’t beat all, Mrs S…..” , the engineer went on, a few months later I ran into you again. It was my graduation, and I was called to the podium to receive the school’s American history medal and a fifty dollar check from the Daughter’s of the American Revolution, presented by one of their most distinguished members: you!” Her pale cheeks, long unaccustomed, flushed momentarily but nonetheless. “Your dress was again blue but of elegant chiffon. You smiled as you handed me the envelope and shook my trembling hand.”


    1. I just thoroughly enjoyed reading through your compendium of fascinating, well written and sedulously researched pieces. Had fun tacking on a few vignettes as once sublimely disinterested in history, but contracted a deepening ardor when we moved onto Lazarus Heady’s homesite in late 1971. That infatuation overtook me as I began to meet & treat elderly survivors of the bygone, when I started practicing orthopedics locally in 1983 . Thank you for your compliments, i have savored the last 12 hrs and am thrilled to hear my ponderous prose caught your attention. Both my parents were well know journalists in their time, and if for no other reason than the torture i endured grammatically, while trying to dine peacefully with them, as a boy, any thought of joining the fourth estate, succumbed and shriveled to a scintilla, when the prospect of joining the staff of their successful newspaper was broached, when I was a wild 18. I fled fortuitously to a job i have ever considered an awesome privilege.
      My own historical dabblings locally, were completely distracted as I diverted into genealogy, particularly regarding my great grandfather, NYS Senator Jacob Seebacher, 6th district, 1880. So i’d be happy to pass on a few worthy inchoate projects; some c some reference materials assembled re:
      1/ Mons & Alexander Grinager who lived just to the east of the Headdy cemetary; both nationally famous.
      2/ of Grant’s Corners, as told me by ancient Elsworth Grant, who as a young fop and neighbor socialized with Margaret & Major as well as Holbrook, at their various homes and the playhouse on Allapartus.
      btw Are you familiar with the rare manuscript “Tales From the Crawbucky”?
      If you wish more, give me a call one evening; my number is in the book.


  4. Irene Summerville was an incredible soul. Spent much time with my parents, Harvey and Catherine Sniffen. Had many dinners with her at what’s now D. D’s Diner. Hated that she had to move from her homestead and into town. Her property abutted Ruth Bosley’s who also had to give up her Honestead. At least my dad and I were able to spread her ashes ON her property after it was purchased by IBM.


  5. Here I am in 2019 commenting on your original blog post from 2016. I have read several of them in searching for this one and you have quite a talent! Dennis Heady was my 5th Great Grandfather, brother of Lazarus Heady. I live up in Dutchess County and would like to take a drive down to see and photograph this cemetery when the weather warms up. Is it in a place that I can access without dealing with the property owners or do you know who they are should I need permission beforehand? If I do not hear back from you, and I hope that I do, I will check in at Wayside Cottage. If you have no luck corresponding with me through the internet and the site doesn’t give you my information can you leave me a note at Wayside Cottage? I had also read that there was a school project done at the middle school a few years ago about The African Presence In Scarsdale but I haven’t been able to find any cumulative results of their research online. Strange somewhat old fashioned request but sometimes the old ways are the best as I don’t want to put my personal information in a comment anymore than I already have. Looking forward to my sleuthing genealogy trip this summer!


    1. Hi Sara — As far as I know, it is acceptable to enter from Spring Valley Road through the small gate at the front of the driveway and cross the property to access this cemetery.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s