Volunteers and donations are needed to assist in the planting of one thousand daffodil bulbs and 1,000 multi-colored tulip bulbs at the Marine Hospital Quarantine Cemetery on Staten Island.
On October 15 at 11am, Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, Inc. (FAC) will gather with helpers to plant the spring-time flowers in tribute to the thousands buried in the cemetery, among them many famine Irish who died on US soil following their nightmarish journey across the Atlantic.
FAC received a donation of 1,000 daffodil bulbs from New Yorkers for Parks and is now assembling a team of a dozen volunteers to help with the planting. FAC is also seeking further donations to add a thousand tulip bulbs.
“We will beautify the restored cemetery which is the final resting place for thousands of Irish immigrants who never realized their dream of a new life,” said Lynn Rogers, Executive Director of Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries. “They perished either at the New York Quarantine Hospital or on ship during the Great Irish Hunger 1845-1852.”
During the years of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1858) tens of thousands of Irish Immigrants came to New York Harbor, many of whom were found with disease and perished. The Marine Hospital and Quarantine Station operated on Staten Island from 1799 until 1858, checking all those who came into New York harbor for signs of disease before being let ashore.
The hospital saw many casualties among the Irish who braved the perilous voyage across the Atlantic in search of safer shores and the medical center came to operate two cemeteries to cope with the mass of deaths among starving and weak Irish immigrants.
For those who were buried on Staten Island, no death certificates were issued, no cemetery log kept and gradually the burial sites disappeared from all further records.
Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries have been working hard to change this, however, holding commemorative events and placing markers in memory of these victims, and now wish to brighten up the restored Staten Island cemetery.
“The cemetery needs some TLC,” Rogers continued. “I thought perhaps some of the [Irish] groups or individuals would be inclined to buy a bag or a few bags of tulip bulbs, bring their own trowels and volunteers to plant on behalf of their groups in memory of the Irish ancestors.”
In the past few years, Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries have worked with the Committee for Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims (C.C.I.F.V.)--an Irish community activist group that successfully petitioned for an Irish National Famine Memorial Day in 2008--to make Staten Island the first US city to place grave markers at unmarked graves in memory of the thousands of Irish victims of the Great Hunger in late 2015.
The first marker is placed in Richmond Terrace to remember the many Irish buried in an unmarked, multiple burial site at the back of the cemetery. During the time of the famine, many fleeing hunger and poverty lived at the Irish Shanty town that had developed in the direct area of this cemetery. The shanty was constructed as a result of Irish immigrant families that were confined on Staten Island due to the quarantine station.
The second Staten Island cemetery exists on the grounds of Silver Lake Golf Course. The Silver Lake Cemetery was the larger of the two cemeteries established by the Staten Island Hospital and Quarantine Station, a place where it is estimated that over 10,000 people were buried during the famine years.
Located just a 5-minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry, the journey to the planting at Marine Hospital Quarantine Station Cemetery, 26 Central Avenue, will take the same course as the path the immigrants took when their ships were docked at Staten Island, Rogers states.
“The multi-colored tulip bulbs would represent the multitude of Irish who were forgotten at this site for 170 years until recently.”
Anyone interested in assisting with the planting can register with Lynn Rogers - Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, SICemetery@gmail.com, or call 917-545-3309.
Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries can certify community service credit if needed, offering a great opportunity for students or for Confirmation Community Service requirements.
The planting will take place at the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station Cemetery, 26 Central Avenue, Staten Island, 10301, at 11am on October 15.
Read more: First Great Hunger grave markers for New York unmarked graves