Potter's Field at Washington Square Park
Part One of Two
by Randolph Petsche
We are delighted to present Randolph Petsche’s fascinating and in-depth “understory” of one of New York City’s most celebrated, and frequented public spaces. For reasons of length we are publishing it in two parts; the second of which will appear in our summer issue. Readers too avid to wait until July, however, can write us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to send you a pdf of the full essay. Though it has not been our practice to include bibliographies, in this case we thought it amply justified.
Between 1798 and 1825, the burials of most poor and transient people in Manhattan were made at what later became Washington Square. On May 30, 1840, the N.Y. Mirror reported:
“…the last [previous] Potter’s Field… was in Washington Square, now one of the finest public grounds in the city, and in the midst of our best public buildings and most fashionable places. The university, the magnificent new church now erecting, and the most aristocratic of all the “rows” in New York – Waverly Place— fronts on this square. The stranger, looking at the lions, hardly suspects that the beautiful green grounds over which he is walking contain the bones of some fifty or one hundred thousand of the lowly dead; and yet it is a fact.” (N.Y. Mirror, XVII: 391)
Eighty years later, an historian noted: “It is the theatrical change from the Potter’s Field that first catches our fancy in the tale of Washington Square.” (Chapin, 182)
Eighty years after this, the principal historian of Washington Square observed that it “remains a palimpsest: the past has never fully been erased.” (Folpe, 3)
Reminders of the days of the potter’s field still surface. In 1965, 25 skeletons were unearthed in an underground chamber at the northeast corner of the Square, where a public utility was digging a shaft for a transformer. Two new burial vaults, replete with coffins and skeletons, were discovered under the street nearby. (Amateau, 1-9)
Between 2008 and 2017, the remains of at least 31 persons and 16 intact graves were unearthed during archaeological work in the course of park renovations, the remains eventually re-buried inside the park in March, 2021. (French, 5-6)
This essay explores the history buried beneath one of the city’s most renowned public spaces.
The Field of Blood
The term “potter’s field” is first traced to the Book of Jeremiah:
“Thus saith the Lord, Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle. . . And go unto the valley of Hinnon. . . and proclaim the words that I shall tell thee. . . I will bring evil upon this place that the ear of those who hear it will ring. Because they have forsaken me. . . and have filled this place with the blood of innocents [and other transgressions].. . . therefore, behold the days come saith the Lord, when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the Valley of Benhinnon but the Valley of Slaughter. And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all of the plagues thereof.” (Jeremiah 19: 1-11, King James Version)
A millennium later the Gospel of Saint Matthew described the aftermath of Judas Iscariot’s return of 30 pieces of silver to the high priests and elders of Jerusalem after the Crucifixion.
“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, it is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore, the field was called the field of blood, unto this day.” (Matthew 27: 5-8, King James, version)
But the apostle Peter was of the opinion that it was Judas, himself, who:
“…with a reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, burst asunder in the midst and his bowels gushed out. And it was known with all dwellers of Jerusalem; inasmuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.” (Acts of the Apostles, 1: 18-19, King James version)
Their proper tongue was Aramaic, and Aceldama (Akeldama) refers, by the same legend, to a field in the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem which once contained a clay-like soil used by local potters until it depleted. Due to the appearance of large holes and trenches the field was unfit for either cultivation or religiously sanctioned burials and fell to the interments of “strangers,” “vagrants,” and “needy adventurers.”
As the centuries progressed, the word potter acquired a second meaning in the English vocabulary. To “potter” referred to dithering or working aimlessly or casually or frittering away one’s time (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 8th ed.). To “putter” is the American equivalent. Perhaps the term potters referred to growing numbers of people who had been forced into transience by land enclosures, naval impressments, general poverty and other vagaries of an increasingly competitive commercial system, and who were in need of a final place of rest.
The Growing Crisis in New York Burials
The first known burial ground for Europeans in New York was located at about 27-39 Broadway, extending west to Church Street; its existence first noted in 1628. (Amanik, 20) The Old Graveyard on Heere Straat (formerly Morris Street, now Battery Park) does not seem to have been held in high esteem, strewn with weeds, with wild dogs and pigs rooting about, and an inebriated grave digger who sometimes harassed processions of mourners by demanding additional fees. By 1656, Governor General Stuyvesant described the graveyard as “wholly in ruins,” and attempted unsuccessfully to sell the land for development. (Records of New Amsterdam II: 24-25); (Minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam II, 77-78, 80-81) In 1677 the British authorities divided the graveyard into four 25 by 100-foot parcels for sale at public auction. (MCC, 1675-1776 I: 47)
In 1856, David T. Valentine, foremost city historian of his era, took a more visionary note of the burials than the Dutch, Calvinist founders of the city:
“Some years ago, while the workmen were excavating the cellars of buildings on the west side of Broadway, now occupied by those elegant freestone stores, a few blocks above Morris Street [now in Battery Park], there was thrown up by the spade, a great many skulls and other relics of humanity, obviously of the European type, which occasioned not a little excitement among our wonder-loving citizens, who were unable to account for so strange a circumstance, unless upon some mysterious surmise, respecting dark deeds done in the time of our Revolution.” (Valentine, 1856, 444)
Continuing his tribute to the Dutch masters, Valentine wrote:
“What emotions are inspired by the thought of a buried and long-forgotten race, the founders of our mighty city, whose bones, being tossed up by the laborer’s mattock, and knocked about by the bystanders in wonder, at such mysterious tenants of the dust. . . But the remains themselves, having been long since carted away among the refuse soil to fill up slips.” (ibid.)
During the colonial era burials were made in churchyards; in land near the Almshouse (“poorhouse”); the Bridewell (city jail); the public gallows; and the African Burial Ground. Customarily, the north part of a churchyard was considered unconsecrated ground, reserved for indigents, criminals and the religiously unaffiliated. (Swan, 416) With the growth in population and maritime transport a crisis in burial space grew as well.
Trinity Churchyard was a forerunner of the potter’s fields. In 1703, it was awarded additional land by the city for the purpose of making low-cost burial plots available to the general public, additional land was granted in 1751. (MCC, 1675-176, II:232); V: 328) The first grant was part of a larger pattern of the “anglicization” of New York, which had only a fraction of English colonists at the time, the majority being Dutch. Due to grants such as these, Trinity’s holdings on the west side of the city were to expand as far as Christopher Street. (Burrows and Wallace, 115)
A report to the City Council in 1822 stated:
“This church [Trinity] was built in 1698 and has been receiving the dead from that time to the present, a period of 124 years. More persons are probably interred in its precincts than any burying-ground in the city, and it is said to contain the remains of human beings almost equal in number to the present population (about 123,000).” (Allen and Akerly, 7-8)
Provision of low-cost burial space did not endear itself to Trinity’s neighbors. Upon noting the liberal burial policy, a petition of ten nearby residents to the City Council in 1822 concluded:
“…under these regulations, the yard was undoubtedly designed to receive more interments than any other ground in the city: and with the following certificates before us, believe with every unprejudiced person, that its inhabitants have now become too numerous for the health and safety of those who live in the vicinity. But while the poison of Trinity church-yard exceeds in quantity, it does not exceed in the nature of its virulence that of every burying ground in the city.” (ibid.)
These complaints extended to the other church-yards, noted a previous report to the City Council in 1806:
“A vast mass of decaying animal matter produced by the superstition of interring dead bodies near the churches, and, which has been accumulating for a long lapse in time, is now deep sited in many of the most populous parts of the city.” (Cheetham, 93-94; also Allen and Akerly, 20)
In 1808, an English traveler wrote:
“The church-yards are also situate in the heart of the town and crowded with the dead. If they are not prejudicial to the health of the people they are at least very unsightly exhibitions. One would think there was a scarcity of land in America, by seeing such large pieces of ground in one of the finest streets in New York occupied by the dead.” ( Lambert, 858)
In 1766, the Dutch Reformed Church had petitioned the City Council for grants of adjacent parcels to accommodate its overflowing graveyard. The burial ground of the Old Dutch Church being so full, its petition claimed it was “hardly possible to open up a grave without digging up some of the corpses there interred, a circumstance very disagreeable and indecent.” Expansion of the churchyard “into the Commons, contiguous to Mr. Cuyler’s Sugar-house” was necessary, the petition claimed, to increase room for burials. (MCC,1675-1776,VII:1) 28 lots were transferred by the city at a low rental in 1768, the church eventually purchasing the land.
The burials crisis grew worse during the Revolutionary War by the liquidation of hundreds of American prisoners of war by the British army. The British possession of the city on September 15, 1776, yielded about 4,000 prisoners and led to the seizure of all public buildings and churches, except Trinity, for jails and military administration. The infamous Captain William Cunningham, Provost Marshal (head jailer) of the British occupation of New York, administered unspeakable violence against American prisoners of war, creating a major increase in the number of bodies to be disposed of by the expeditionary forces. One chronicler lamented, “It makes the blood curdle to read of the sufferings of those who fell under the sway of that monster, so devilish in all his ways.” (Dawson, 473-74)
As one contemporary observer pointed out:
“For many weeks (in 1777) the dead-cart visited (the jail) every morning into which eight to twelve corpses were flung and piled up like dead sticks of wood and dumped into ditches in the outskirts of the city.” (Onderdonk, 373)
African Burials in New York
The closing of the African Burial Ground also added to the shortage of burial space. Beginning at some time in the seventeenth century until 1794, most interments of black people were made at the “Negroes burial ground,” which covered about 6.5 acres beneath two square blocks loosely bordered by Broadway, Center, Duane and Chambers Streets. Excavations for the Ted Weiss Federal Building in 1992 brought hundreds of skeletons to the surface, many of black people, leading to consternation in the African American community and the eventual removal of 419 skeletons to Howard University for forensic analysis. The analysis also included inventories of characteristic African ceremonial objects placed in a number of the coffins. (Frohne 109-173)
In 1697, the year after its cemetery opened, Trinity Church banned the burial of black people in its churchyard, holding that “no person or Negro whatsoever, do presume (after four weeks) . . . to break up any ground for the burying of his Negro, as they will answer it at their peril. . . .” (Stokes IV, 403, quoting Trinity Minutes MS) All other established churches followed this policy. In 1790, under the new republic, the church repeated its prohibition of African American burials in Trinity Churchyard, although it permitted the burial of black communicants at St. Paul’s Churchyard. (Stokes V, 1265, quoting Trinity Minutes MS)
During the first century of the colonial era most black inhabitants had been born and enslaved in Africa or the West Indies, where traditional ethnic religious practices predominated.
African burial practices conflicted sharply with those of both Dutch Calvinism and the Anglican Church. “Due to ministerial and slaveholder inattention, enslaved Africans in New York, as elsewhere in the western hemisphere, were free to attend to their dying and dead without interference.” (Seeman, 205-6)
And so traditional African religious practices continued in New York. Burial rituals played a major role in African religious practice, but during the colonial era they continued to frighten and appall whites. Colonial laws limited the number of black people congregating in groups and prohibited them from even walking on the streets at night, when most African burials occurred. Breaches of the law sometimes led to whippings.
In 1713 the Anglican minister, John Sharpe, complained “there is no notice given of their being sick that they may be visited by the clergy.” Once they were dead ministerial inattention continued. People of African descent were:
“. . . . buried in the Common by those of their Country and complexion without the Office [the Anglican burial liturgy]. On the contrary heathenish rites are performed at a grave by their countrymen.” (Quoted in Seeman, 205-6)
The situation did not change rapidly. In reviewing the longstanding burial practices David Humphreys, an Anglican minister active in the London-based Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, wrote in 1730:
“. . . the Negroes were much discouraged from embracing the Christian religion . . Their marriages were performed by mutual consent only, without the blessing s of the Church; they were buried by those of their own country or complexion in the common field, without any Christian office; perhaps some ridiculous heathen rites were performed at the Grave by some of their own people. No notice was given of their being sick, that they might be visited, on the contrary were made in conversation that they had no souls and perished as the Beasts.” (Humphreys, David, Account of the Endeavors of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, quoted in Hodges, 238-39)
The African Burial Ground was not a modern cemetery; there were no guarantees of property rights to the deceased, their survivors, or to the owner of the cemetery. The burial yard existed in an entirely informal manner, almost as a commons or publicly owned area, with little restriction as to its use until 1768, when a pretender to title fenced it off and built a house on it. British soldiers later ripped down the house and fence and used is as a burial place for American prisoners. (Stokes III: 927)
The undesirable location of the African Burial Ground, the policy against burials of black people in church cemeteries and the traditional burial rituals of Africans, led to the burials of thousands of black people there until its closing in 1794. Title finally passed to a group of investors, including Aaron Burr, that broke down the land into lots and shares for future development. (Stokes IV, 394, citing transaction dated January 6, 1795 in Liber Deeds, CCXCV, 405-20, New York)
In 1753 a number of citizens attempted to exchange their “rights” in “the negro ground” for “some lands belonging to this corporation.” (MCC, 1675-1776, V: 416). No action was taken but in 1755, for the first time, the words “Negroes Burial Ground” appeared on a city map. (Frohne, 54) Andrea Frohne, a recent historian of the African Burial Ground, has written: “Ironically, documented recognition of the burial ground increased with mapping. While knowledge about the site is limited in many ways, a plethora of information exists concerning ownership and conflict over the space.” (Frohne, 76) The name “Negroes Burial Ground” gained legal identity as litigation and negotiation dragged on.
Mass burials of Americans by the British, the proximity of the land to the jail, the gallows, the poorhouse and the Commons, and the sheer number of deaths in the city, converted the African Burial Ground into a potter’s field by 1777 as the British atrocities reached their height.
With the closing of the first African Burial Ground, segregated burials began at the second African Burial Ground in 1795 at what is now 195-97 Chrystie Street, with the city’s permission. (MCC, 1784-1831, II: 112, 136, 159) Burials began at the newly formed Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church at Leonard and Church Streets in 1801.
The Yellow Fever Years
Between 1791 and 1822, New York experienced a series of yellow fever epidemics, fatal to thousands, paralyzing commerce and leading to mass exodus from the city during periods of infection. (Duffy, 333-364) Without the crisis in yellow fever, the potter’s field would probably not have been located at Washington Square and the future course of Greenwich Village would have been different. Yellow fever has been described as: “mysterious in its causation, spectacular in its symptoms, dramatic in its termination… It was characterized by a sudden onset, pains, temperature that remitted after the second or third day, jaundice, black vomit. It usually ran its course in about a week. The mortality rate varied from ten to twenty-five per cent.” (Robbins, 36, citing Winslow)
Yellow fever “struck rapidly, was quickly fatal and seemed to strike its victims indiscriminately. Its sudden appearance and mysterious etiology added a new dimension of terror wrought by the high case mortality.” (Duffy, 334) The adjective yellow describes the skin color of many of its victims.
The causes of yellow fever were hotly debated during the time of the epidemics, the medical profession being fractured in a number of directions. The predominant opinion was that the “state of the atmosphere” was the root of the problem, with the disease somehow generated from local sources, such as: decaying animal matter, putrid sewers, rancid beef, damaged coffee, “so offensive to the smell that the neighbors had to shut their windows, especially while eating,” bilge water from ships, uncleaned streets, stagnant water in confined places, the filling in of slips by docks with garbage, street manure and offal, swine rooting about the streets, decayed hides and cotton shipped from the West Indies, shallow burials and putrid exhalations from graveyards, consumption of strong malt liquors, wines and distilled spirits, etc. (For example, letter of Dr. S. L. Mitchill to Noah Webster in September, 1798, Stokes V, 1156).
The state of medical knowledge at the time was accurately described by James Hardie, a local scholar and student of the plague:
“An opinion generally prevailed that the progress of the disease varied according to the state of the atmosphere, but from my observations on this subject, in the years 1798, 1799, 1800, 1803, 1805 and also in the present year , I am inclined to doubt the accuracy. The pestilence walketh in darkness, and the wisest men know very little of the nature of the progress.” (Hardie, 6)
After an absence of nearly fifty years yellow fever returned to New York in 1791, when infections appeared from August through October, In 1793 an epidemic ravaged Philadelphia, the nation’s capital and second largest city. It killed more than a tenth of the population, leaving a trail of orphans, and causing several of our founding fathers to rusticate in the country. Unnerved, the civic leaders of New York began to take steps to deal with the mysterious ailment. Entry to the city from Philadelphia was banned. (Stokes V, 1300)
The next epidemic began in New York in the late summer of 1795. At least 20,000 people evacuated the east side of Manhattan, with an estimated death total of 792. (Robbins, 35-36) Philadelphia closed commerce from New York. Further cases were reported in 1796 and 1797.
The city’s initial response to the yellow fever outbreaks was to open its first potter’s field at Madison Square in August, 1794. But shortly after that, possession of much of the land at Madison Square was “ceded” by the city to New York State for construction of a “necessary building for military stores,” to secure munitions from acts of terrorism. (MCC II, p. 365) The State did not build the necessary building and ten years later the land was given to the federal government, which did, in time for the War of 1812.
Though protection from terrorism was the official explanation for the transfer, other opinions have been expressed. Several commentators have stated that the Madison Square burial ground was already full, less than three years after it opened, and that an additional potter’s field was required. (Folpe, 56)
However, the most likely occurrence, according to the noted regional historian, Thomas A. Janvier, was that the carriage ride from the city to Madison Square, traversed a number of splendid country roads and was used extensively by well to do residents of downtown Manhattan on their Sunday outings to the country. The potter’s field was removed due to “the reasonable exception” to the “intrusion of pauper funerals upon the fashionable drive.” (Janvier, 123) The sight of the city hearse bearing coffins was particularly unpleasant.
A second local historian, David T. Valentine, relates:
“…the place was abandoned as a public burial place, on account of the opposition made to the public exhibition of funerals on the much-frequented roads, leading to the spot, and it was resolved to purchase a more secluded locality leading to the Potters field.” (Valentine, 1865, 465)
Although burials at Madison Square ceased in 1797, there were longer term implications. In 1808 the newspaper L’Oracle wrote:
“The Corporation are respectfully informed that the persons employed in digging the foundations of the Magazine (powder house) in the old Potter’s Field (Madison Square), daily dig up corpses and dead bodies which are disposed of in the most indecent manner. Those who have friends who are interred there sensibly feel the indignity and suggest they may be buried in a more suitable way.” (Stokes V, 1494, quoting, L’Oracle, July 25, 1808)
It was in this environment of pestilence, fear, ignorance, class and racial divisions, conspicuous consumption and land speculation, that the city opened its potter’s field at Washington Square.
Rise of the Potter’s Field at Washington Square
Washington Square, which is about 9.75 acres, is constructed on land that ran directly south of a range of hills (“uplands”), between 50 and 100 feet high that were called the Zantberg by the Dutch and renamed the Sand Hill by the English. The land has generally been described as wet, marshy and swamp-like. Although the presence of the stream and waterfowl were likely desirable to pre-colonial inhabitants, no indigenous remains have been recovered. (Geismar, 2005, 4-5)
The Minetta Waters flowed from the northeast side of the Park, near the present Arch south toward Macdougal Street and thence into the Hudson River, unevenly bisecting the future Washington Square. (Geismar, 4-5; Folpe 14-16) Present-day Minetta and Downing Streets follow the path of the old stream.
The location of the Minetta Waters led to separate ownership of its east and west sides, dating to the earliest land patents. When opened by the city in 1798 the potter’s field covered only the western two thirds of today’s Washington Square with the eastern side owned by Thomas Ludlow, a wealthy merchant in the city. (Geismar, 2005, 4-5)
The first non-indigenous occupants of Greenwich Village were enslaved African and West Indian natives and a few “free Negroes,” who had “agreed” with William Kieft, third Governor General of New Netherlands, to clear and cultivate lands in Greenwich Village that the former Governor General, Wouter van Twiller, had deeded to himself. The circumstances leading to this are described in the Historical Atlas of New York City. Warfare having broken out between the Dutch and the Algonquins in February 1643:
“Kieft seized this opportunity to deal once and for all with the Algonquins. …What followed was a wild hunt throughout the city for (native) survivors, who were unceremoniously slaughtered. In response, the Algonquin tribes collectively set about destroying the Dutch settlement. Outlying farms and villages were burned out and the settlers who had not fled to New Amsterdam for protection were killed. A peace treaty was signed in March, 1643, but the colony was little more than a smoking ruin.” (Homburger, 23)
Van Twiller’s “extravagant” land grants were revoked by the Dutch West India Company after he was recalled to Amsterdam and cultivation began under Kieft and his successor, with about a dozen black people deeded lots and partial “freedom” under stringent conditions while the remaining Dutch population huddled at the base of Manhattan. The land patents, totaling about 100 acres, surrounded Washington Square and were known collectively as “the Negro grants.” They were akin to sharecropping, with “freedom” granted to those not yet classified as “free negroes” by the Dutch West India Company. The Company retained “ownership” of their wives and children. Failure to meet the Company’s quotas for agricultural produce could revoke freedom. (Folpe, 52-3) Despite this arrangement, all of the land was eventually restored to Dutch and English ownership under the more active promotion of slavery through British law.
A city land map of 1916 imposes the original grants issued for the property over the contemporary block and lot system. (Geismar, 6; Berlin and Harris, 44) This shows the area east of the Minetta Stream first owned by two formerly enslaved persons of African origin, Anthony Portuguese and Manuel Trompeter. Given its marsh-like terrain it is not known whether the land was cultivated. (Geismar, 2005, 5-6 )
Nearly a century after the Africans cleared Greenwich Village, the land west of the Minetta Waters passed into the estate of the legendary Admiral Sir Peter Warren, a dashing British officer with privateering privileges. In describing his triumphs in the Caribbean, merchants auctioning the prizes he had seized were moved to verse in their advertising brochure:
The sails are spread; see the bold warrior comes
To chase the French and interloping Dons.
(New York Post Boy, June 30, 1744, quoted in Janvier, 100)
Warren’s seizures of French and Spanish merchant ships were so prolific that he was able to invest in an estate of several hundred acres in the western part of Greenwich Village, as well as other land holdings in the British Empire. According to Burrows and Wallace, authors of the standard history of the city, Warren was considered “a trendsetter” to the downtown gentry in setting up his “country seat” at the outskirts of the city, preferring leisure to agricultural pursuit when not engaged in legalized piracy (Burrows and Wallace, 178; Janvier 96-114)
Several years later, Warren was called to membership in Parliament. Unable to return to his New York holdings by an untimely death in his native Ireland, this property passed to his three daughters and their spouses. In honor of his commercial accomplishments on behalf of the Crown and his heroism in the Old French War a monument to his memory was erected at Westminster Abbey. (Janvier 100, 103-4)
The east side of the Minetta Waters fell into the ownership of Elbert Herring (also Haring) in 1755, having been sold to him by a member of the Brevoorts, another Dutch landholding family. After Herring’s death in 1773 his land holdings passed to ten heirs, several of whom sold the Washington Square property to a William Sebor, who in 1795, sold it to yet another colorful individual, Colonel William S. Smith, formerly of the Continental Army and a confidant of General Washington (Folpe 57)
The British and their leading supporters having finally quit the city, Smith became involved in Manhattan real estate, first obtaining title to the Washington Square property, then defaulting on the loan he got from a third party, William Burrows. The city obtained title at public auction from Burrows, who had also defaulted on a loan from the aforementioned Sebor. (Folpe 57-8, citing New York City Municipal Archives, Real Estate Records, TR 392 and 600, P222, April 10, 1797)
The proposed relocation of the potter’s field to Washington Square was greeted by a storm of indignation. On April 24, 1797, some 57 “proprietors of ground in the Seventh Ward” issued a Memorial to the City Council denouncing the proposed relocation of the “public burying ground” to their neighborhood. The 57 included Alexander Hamilton, Archibald Gracie, Leonard Bleecker, Charles and Thomas Ludlow, and John Wilkes. The field, they said:
“…lies in the neighborhood of a number of Citizens who have at great expense erected dwellings on the adjacent lots for the health and accommodation of their families during the summer season, and who, if the above design be carried into execution, must either abandon their seats or submit to the disagreeable sensations arising from an unavoidable view and close situation to a burial place of this description destined for the victims of contagion.” (MCC, 1784-1831, II: 339)
The 57 proposed a different burial ground and offered to offset much of the cost to the city. A committee of the City Council investigated and reported that the alternative location was:
“…well calculated for the purpose so far as that it is removed a convenient Distance from the Greenwich and Albany Roads, that the Soil is sandy and covered with Brush which will hide the Graves and yet not interfere with digging them; but the Committee are obliged to remark that to get to this ground the Hearse, the great subject of Complaint must travel either of the Roads above mentioned.” (Ibid., II: 348-49)
With yellow fever outbreaks staring him in the face, the mayor cast the tie-breaking vote at the City Council, denying the application to re-locate the potter’s field and opening it at the future Washington Square in 1798. (Ibid.)
End of Part I.
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