The small cemetery on a hill next to a Quick Chek along Washington Avenue in Carlstadt may be well hidden, but not enough to deter the bad luck the cemetery has endured for the past few decades.
The Outwater cemetery is located in an industrial area in the NJ Meadowlands with a wooden flight of steps leading up from the Quick Chek parking lot. The cemetery dates back to the 18th-century, with the first of the 26 interments within the family cemetery dating back to 1752, and the last in 1892. Just beyond the family cemetery is the final resting place of 18 Hessian soldiers who died fighting for the British during the American Revolution. They now rest in unmarked graves.
The graves have a history of being disturbed in the past, starting when Captain John Outwater's grave was dug up and his skull stolen. Mayor Will Roseman found the bones scattered amongst the site and took them home and stored them until a casket was donated so they could be reinterred. The skull was never recovered.
John Outwater was born on September 17, 1746, just as the Great Awakening began to affect the Bergen County area.15 The American roots of his family extend back to Franz Jacobsen who had emigrated sometime prior to 1657 from Oudewater, Holland to settle in Albany, New York. In Albany, Franz had raised two sons: Thys Franz Outwater and Thomas Franz Outwater. In 1686, Thys left Albany and settled in Tappan, New York where his descendants can be found today. Thys' grandson, Dr. Thomas Outwater, was a noted surgeon in the Revolutionary army.16 Franz's other son, Thomas Franz Outwater, bought a third share of a stretch of land called Moonachie Island between Berry's creek, Indian Path, Losing Creek, and the Hackensack River by 1680.17 Thomas had seven children: Jacob, Thomas, John, Peter, Elizabeth, Jnnneke and Annajie.18 John Outwater, the son of Jacob, was born at Moonachie in 1746.19 The Jacob Outwater family differed little from other Bergen County Dutch families. Their moderate wealth was derived mostly from the sale of farm products in Hackensack and New York. Jacob Outwater served as a Bergen County Judge in Hackensack between 1755 and 1758.20 The Outwater's were also active members of the Reformed Church at Hackensack........
.....Captain John Outwater's Company of the Bergen County Militia Regiment was one of twenty-five companies raised by Act of the New Jersey Assembly in 1776. However, due to the demoralizing retreat of the Continental Army across New Jersey after the Fall of New York and the surrounding American positions, it seems the Company did not actually form until early 1777. When the Company was assembled in Hackensack, the Company elected its Company Commanders: John Outwater as Captain; Adam Boyd, Lieutenant, and Abraham Allen, Ensign. Outwater's Company one of several companies in the Bergen County Militia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Theunis Dey. The Company was composed of Jersey Dutch farmers and tradesmen who attempted to protect their property from British foraging parties. Because of the proximity to the British in New York City and the large Tory or Loyalist population, Bergen County was dangerous for those in rebellion. Unlike other militia, it was often unsafe for these men to return to their homes. Because of this, the men of the Outwater's Company were often on constant duty, much different from the men of New England. Raids into the area from New York City and British held Paulus Hook (now Jersey City) were frequent and often directed towards capturing militia men at home. The militia tried to guard the roads amd rivers as much as possible. When not repelling raiders or invasions, the company concentrated on interdicting Loyalist trade with the British in New York. Goods for the British were often sent down the Hackensack River and the goods and transporters would be seized by Outwater's men. The Justice of the Peace would then award the goods to the captors. Sometimes Outwater's militia guarded prisoners for the Sheriff. In December 1780, the State legislature commissioned the company Outwater's Company, New Jersey State Troops. State Troops were considered a cut above militia; the comparative stability of their long-term enlistment allowed them to be assigned more important and intensive duties. They served as State Troops through 1781.
In 2005, local boy scouts took on an Eagle Scout project to renovate the cemetery, clearing a front path, pruning, weeding, restoring cement pillars, repainting the rails and driving sonar stakes into the ground to deter groundhogs. But luck didn't last long, the solar stakes were vandalized and a bronze cross that was placed at the front entrance was stolen.
Last summer, sound tests were conducted on the property to locates the graves of the 18 soldiers as the county is planning on infrastructure improvements to the highway and sidewalks surrounding the area. They found that the project would not affect the final rest of the graves and could go forward.
As of now, the souls of those on the hill overlooking the traffic zooming by will continue to rest as the city around them continues to grow.
All images © 2012-2016 Laura Gonzalez
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.