At Historic Jersey City Harisimus Cemetery, you’re more likely to see a gentle goat chewing on weeds than a spooky specter.
The cemetary is located at 435 Newark Avenue. Easily walkable from dowtown, The McGinley Square and Journal Square neighborhoods.
The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery is a National Treasure. Prior to the creation of the Cemetery in 1829, it’s historical significance dates back to the 1700’s as the site of Revolutionary War skirmishes, and an active Ammunition Bunker during the War of 1812 that still stands proudly on its grounds. Now the sacred eternal resting place of thousands of soldiers from the Revolutionary & Civil Wars, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, WWI and II, forward, as well as home to our earliest Jersey City founders, leaders, residents and legends. With its 200 year old English Ivy adorning many of the towering trees, and the monumental works of art, this 6-acre sanctuary of peace and unique history is one of the most beautiful natural settings in Jersey City.
The Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery is now being saved and preserved by the dedicated efforts of a newly formed volunteer Board of Trustees, a hard-working group of volunteers, and a supportive Community who are committed to the restoration of the historic cemetery grounds, caretaker house, and historic monuments.
“With undivided loyalty, we will protect and preserve, with honor, our ancestors and veterans in memoriam, while promoting the early American historical events that took place on these sacred grounds.”, according the the cemetary’s website.
The volunteers include veterans like John, who served in Grenada, and Tommy, who was a POW during the Vietnam War. Former roommates in a rooming house in downtown Jersey City, they were left homeless after their landlord upped the rent. Now the two tend to the cemetery and live rent free in the caretaker’s residence. They welcome visitors seven days a week from 8:30 am until sundown.
Volunteer gardeners meticulously care for the cemetery’s grounds, which are home to more than 65 species of plants and bushes and host a menagerie of visiting wildlife, including deer, cats, groundhogs, foxes, hawks, falcons, turtles and one directionally challenged rooster.
The newest flock of creatures to inhabit the grounds is perhaps the most useful. For the second year running, a group of goats from a farm in upstate New York arrived this spring to live and work at the cemetery. “They eat up invasive weeds like poison ivy and Japanese knotwood,” says Markenstein. “We don’t use chemicals because this is such a sanctuary for wildlife and Eco culture. And, of course, they are such a big hit with visitors.”
With no regular funding, the cemetery (435 Newark Avenue) depends on volunteers, donations and fundraisers. It also presents plays, concerts and an annual Earth Day celebration. Master gardeners from Rutgers University work with volunteers to run an urban farming workshop for city youth. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, gatherers pay tribute to the nation’s veterans. In time, the board hopes to achieve National Historic Landmark Preservation status.