Tucked between an industrial stretch of Arthur Kill Road and the Staten Island boat graveyard on a narrow elevated strip is an abandoned (but landmarked) cemetery, with gravestones dating back to 1751. Some of Staten Island‘s most notable names are here: the Seguine, Decker, Perine, Winant, and Sleight families. The Winant family was one of the first European settlers of Staten Island, the Seguines still have the mansion named after their name, the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House is one of the oldest remaining buildings in the borough and Decker Farm exists within Old Richmond Town.
The name Blazing Star comes from the original name of the area, before it was known as Rossville, derived from the name of a tavern that stood here from before the American Revolution. This was an important transportation crossroads, home to the Blazing Star Ferry that went to New Jersey that connected stagecoach routes from New York to Philadelphia. But if you Google Blazing Star Cemetery, nothing comes up — it’s listed on maps as the Sleight Family Graveyard. The cemetery is now maintained by Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island (FACSI), a non-profit founded in 1981 which cares for 11 cemeteries on the borough and archive the funerary records of those buried.
Supposedly the most well-known person buried in Blazing Star Cemetery is Colonel William E. Ross, who built a replica of Windsor Castle, known as “Ross Castle,” on a hill near here. Peter Winant, also buried here, was the son of Pieterse Wynant Sr., and he had a house just a few hundred feet from the cemetery. The cemetery was landmarked in 1968, and at the time, there was no sign to even denote its presence. The five concrete steps that lead up to the cemetery, which is enclosed within a concrete embankment, still exist today.
View of the Staten Island boat graveyard from Blazing Star Cemetery
According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report, the cemetery is “one of the first community burial grounds on Staten Island.” Today, a fairly recent sign installed by FACSI shows the name of the cemetery and notes that the beautification was made possible through donations from the Richmond County Savings Bank.
Some of the gravestones have fallen, others are hard to read, but you can still see how family names had many variant spellings during this time period. You will also find the gravestones of young children and teens who died.
Next, check out the 11 oldest buildings on Staten Island.