New York is quite spoiled when it comes to tiny graveyards.
The Second Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue is a peculiarly small cemetery on a triangular plot of land secreted behind a brick wall on West 11th. Out on Staten Island there is a small overgrown and forgotten roadside cemetery near the abandoned ship graveyard at Arthur Kills. But hidden away in Bay Ridge is perhaps the city’s smallest cemetery of all.
On the corner of Narrows Avenue and Mackay Place, and tucked amongst the gabled mock Tudor family homes that stretch down to the Verazanno Narrows, is a small cemetery about the size of a front yard. Immaculately maintained and hardly, if ever noticed, it is the last resting place of two soldiers from the Revolutionary War, Simon Cortelyou and Harmans Barkaloo.
Sons of Dutch immigrants, they fought in the New York militia against the British during the Battle of Brooklyn. The tiny cemetery itself dates to 1725 and was designed as the family plot for the Barkaloo family. Whilst not much is known of the Barkaloos, the Cortelyous were a prominent family in New York history. Jacques Cortelyou came to America in 1652 and held the post of Surveyor General of the Colony of New Amsterdam. Working closely with Peter Stuyvesant, Cortelyou drew the first ever map of New York City, and laid the foundations of a wall to protect the colony against Native Americans, on what is now the modern day Wall Street.
Founding the city of New Utrecht in Brooklyn, today the neighborhood of Bensonhurst, the name Cortelyou lives on in street names and a subway station. And also upon a forgotten grave hidden away in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn’s smallest cemetery.
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