At the close of the American Revolution, a young American came back to Mamaroneck to build a house on the site of his grandfather’s mansion on Heathcote Hill.
John Peter De Lancey was the grandson of Caleb Heathcote who purchased (most of) Mamaroneck from John Richbell’s widow, Anne Richbell, to build the Manor of Scarsdale.
He was a microcosm of what was going on in America at that time; a person who embodied all the traits of a people trying to understand what it meant to be an American.
His daughter, Susan Augusta, married the writer James Fenimore Cooper in 1811.
His son, William Heathcote, was the first minister at St. Thomas’s (which was founded by JP) and later went on to be come the Bishop of Western New York.
His grandson Edward Floyd De Lancey, was a famous Mamaroneck and Westchester County historian.
JP was a powerful guiding hand on the Town Board. He served as Supervisor at a time when Mamaroneck was still recovering from being pillaged during the Revolution.
He was a School Trustee when New York State decided that communities should fund local education.
He was also, like too many other Mamaroneck residents, a slave owner at a time when we began to understand that the institution was just so wrong…immoral.
Tragically, in 1806, JP and Elizabeth’s young daughter, Maria Frances, died in an accident at 13 years old.
Not far from the house, “…there rose a beautiful wood, the remains of the ancient forest; within its shade there was an open enclosure, the family burying-ground, surrounded by a low stone wall.”
That is where she is laid to rest.
As time passed, JP and other members of his family joined her. The burying ground was in use until 1907.
The headstones are still there, some damaged, some lying on the ground.
The wall is long gone.
The De Lancey Family Burying Action Group has a vision for the future of this 100′ x 100′ piece of history.
This is probably one of the most easy-to-visit burying grounds in Mamaroneck so it deserves our attention.
You can find it on Palmer Avenue at Delancey behind the bus shelter and bench, up on a grassy knoll.
Now, there’s only so much we can do as amateurs and volunteers, to preserve and restore this site.
We have located a brilliant burying grounds preservationist, Zach Studenroth. His company BGPG has made a detailed proposal for the restoration.
We’ve also located a source of Mamaroneck stone which we will use to rebuild the “low stone wall,” separating the smaller sacred area around the graves from the rest of the land.
Our research suggests that the De Lancey family visited the the enclosed area from an opening in the stone wall on the far wall. That was the path from the De Lancey House when it was on Heathcote Hill.
We will leave another opening closer to Palmer to make the enclosure more accessible to visitors.