OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining may not have the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall, but we do have a place that is rich in Revolutionary War era history and that tells the stories of ordinary citizens, who joined forces in the fight for our liberty and freedom.
Sparta Cemetery is a tranquil, peaceful setting. It dates back to 1764, a full decade before the fight for our independence. It is the oldest cemetery in Westchester County , and has been maintained by the Ossining Historical Society since 1984. Norman MacDonald, of the Historical Society, tells that there are '34 known Revolutionary War veterans' interred in these grounds.
The oldest legible headstone in Sparta is that of Sarah Ladew, the five year old daughter of Abraham Ladew, who died in 1764. However, the most unusual is that of Sarah's brother, Abraham, Jr., who died in 1774, at the age of 7 years. The headstone is pierced with a hole believed to have been made by a cannon ball fired from the British sloop-of-war 'Vulture' in September of 1780. The ship was sailing southbound from Croton Point. Their father, Abraham Ladew, was a Captain in Colonel James Hammond's New York Militia, and was a blacksmith and part-time local public official.
One of the officers who fired on the above-mentioned 'Vulture,' was Moses Sherwood (1761-1837). The ship was traveling southbound from Croton Point and was en route to pick up Major John Andre. As we all know, Andre's rendezvous with the 'Vulture' never took place as he was apprehended by colonial soldiers in Tarrytown.
Arnold Hunt (1723-1792) was a tenant farmer who leased land from Frederick Philipse, who was a British loyalist. At the war's conclusion, Philipse's vast land holdings were confiscated by the state, thus allowing Hunt to purchase his farm, outright, in 1785.
Another Revolutionary War era veteran interred in Sparta is Dr. Mordecai Hale (1760-1832). He tended to the sick and injured patriots during the war, and continued to serve in the military. Dr. Hale later served in the New York State legislature.
Although not a Revolutionary War patriot, Lewis Brady, an African-American, deserves mention as we look upon that era that give birth to our nation. He has the distinction of being the longest-lived person interred in these grounds, as he died at the age of 108 on October 29, 1881. Born into slavery in 1773, the year of the colonial patriots’ Boston Tea Party, Brady’s father belonged to General George Washington. He was set free at the age of 29, at the death of Martha Washington in 1802. During the War of 1812, Brady was the body servant of Colonel David J. Zabriskie of Washington , D.C. . Following the colonel’s death, Brady made his way into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and eventually into Westchester.
According to the Sparta Cemetery guide book, Brady “was industrious and frugal and bought a small sloop with which he entered into the clam and oyster trade"’ From that time forward, he was known as "Captain Lewis Brady."
Whatever your age, I encourage you to pick up a booklet at the Ossining Historical Society Museum, and read about those who came before us and helped to create a new nation. You will be inspired and have a deeper appreciation of our area and its history.
William Joseph Reynolds, longtime Ossining resident, is a recognized presidential historian, his articles have appeared in The Gazette and The North County News. He has lectured on presidential history to schools, colleges, civic organizations throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties.
William served as Editor of Here At Home magazine, which covered the circulation areas of Ossining, Cortlandt, Croton, Briarcliff Manor, Verplanck, Buchanan and Peekskill from 2002 until 2004.