Good morning, all!
Today’s stop ended up being a little more adventurous than I intended. Thankfully, fate intervened this morning and told me to wear my new mint green Converse and NOT my traditional summer flip flops.
This post is about MARY ELLIS’ GRAVE- 17 U.S. Highway 1, New Brunswick, NJ.
I know, I know… “ANOTHER CEMETERY?!”
Not at all. Actually, I went to a Loews Cineplex movie theatre for this.
Here’s the story… or, at least, the story that is told today. The truth is so easy to muddle when it happened long enough ago that no living participants exist…. but the story is that Mary Ellis was visiting her sister in New Brunswick in the 1790s and fell in love with a sea captain. He had to go out on a voyage and Mary would look for his returning ship every day out on the nearby Raritan River. She soon bought this property (now known as the Loews Cineplex parking lot) so she could keep her vigil permanently. Before the captain ever returned (if he ever actually intended to), she died in 1828 and was buried on her land. Eventually, other family members passed on and were buried with her.
Since then, the land was re-zone into commercial property, but the grave was left undisturbed and a fence was put around it.
It’s RUMORED (they deny it, but the rumor persists) that this story is a basis of Looking Glass’ 1972 hit song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” If you listen to the lyrics, there are certain throwbacks to this story. It’s worth noting that Looking Glass was formed at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where the grave is located.
Just admit it, guys. Even if it’s not true, saying so makes the song so much classier and clever.
Now, fast forward to today… I fully expected to find a small fence around a grave, jump out of the car, snap a few pictures, and drive on my merry way.
Instead, after driving around the whole building for a minute, I find this in the back parking lot.
… that… really?
Apparently, in the re-zoning and construction of different businesses through the years, the ground around it was leveled down and the grave left untouched. That brick walling is about six feet high with no built access. That overgrowth surrounds the entirety of whatever lies beneath.
However, you may notice that the wall is not perfectly flat.
Remember those mint green Converse? Yes, that eight-year-old climber in me came back and scaled that wall (after scanning the parking lot, making sure that cop driving through was gone).
Now I know this is it. You can kind of see it through the brush.
I bet most of the locals don’t even realize that this obstacle in the middle of the parking lot is actually a grave. It’s a shame they don’t take more pride and keep the foliage trimmed so people can appreciate it more.
One thing I didn’t think of when I climbed up was how I intended to get down.
It ended up being easier than I thought.
After squirming past vines and bushes, scaling down and up that wall several times… that was when I spotted it.
A partially opened gate! I thought there had to be SOMETHING, but with all the plant life it was hard to see. I scrambled over to that side, forced the gate open more and went through the fence, feeling like I was entering the dog park in Welcome to Nightvale.
A car came through the back parking lot. I dropped to the ground inside the fence until it drove off. That’s one good thing about all of the foliage, it was easier to hide. In that moment, I could not help but think that this would be an awesome place to sleep as a homeless person or hide from the parents and drink as teenager. It was actually surprising to not find litter or other evidence that this had ever happened. In fact, with the overgrowth, I can almost guarantee that very few if any people had been up inside that fence for a long time.
Other side of the gravestone. Hard to get to with the fence and the vines.
Unlike the dog park, I did make it out, but not before clearing away some of the branches and vines so one on top of the wall could see the gravestone better. I did as much as I could with no tools. Think writing a letter to someone will get that done?
So that is my story of the sea captain’s girl’s gravestone. Ummmm was what I did illegal? Is that gravesite private property? Perhaps. Do I encourage illegal activity? I don’t like to, but this was definitely interesting to explore. Perhaps someday there will be more awareness and appreciation for this site, and therefore more efforts to create better accessibility to this snippet of unknown history.
Until next time, dahlings…