A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Walking Tour of Rose Hill Cemetery, July 2011

I attended Sunday's walking tour of Rose Hill Cemetery and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Saturday's crowd was larger (93 persons), but we got the better weather, I hear. Our tour guide, Al Savolaine, the official historian for the cemetery and Matawan's commissioner for cemeteries, spent two years putting together this fine tour.

Rose Hill cemetery was founded by James Fountain in 1858. At that time, cemeteries were getting away from the churchyard variety. Instead, the Victorian era saw garden style cemeteries established on the outskirts of towns, with hills, ponds, and walkways. Cemeteries became the first public parks, where people took strolls and had picnics. Our guide encouraged us to return and stroll the cemetery on other occasions and not be put off by the no trespassing signs. "They're not meant for you," he pointed out. Check out this piece on cemetery vandalism from 1974.

A number of the grave sites on the tour related to the famous 1916 shark attack in Matawan Creek. We visited the graves of Lester Stillwell and Stanley Fischer, both victims of the shark. The tour took us by the grave of Captain Cotrell, who first saw the shark out at Brown's Point and rowed a boat up the creek warning people.  And we saw Willie Shepherd's grave; a good friend of Stanley Fischer, Shepherd rode on the train to Long Branch with Stanley that fateful day.

Then there were the train people. We heard about Richard Lowe, who escaped prison only to be hit by a train at Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. Then there was Moses Stoll and family, who were killed in a train accident near Waco, Texas. Stoll had been the station manager in Matawan and was well liked in the community. And we saw the $18,000 Little gravesite, which included Henry Stafford Little of the NJ Central Railroad. A big gun at Princeton, Little's funeral was attended by former US President Grover Cleveland and soon-to-be President Woodrow Wilson.

Civil War stories included Garret Smock Byrne, a quartermaster turned lawyer; Edwin Arrowsmith, of the USS New Ironsides; and brothers William and David Provoost, who died in different battles.

We visited the graves of prominent Matawan residents. We saw the site of Franklin Slater, minister at the Baptist church on Main Street; David Bell, publisher of the Matawan Journal; David Ryer, who owned that beautiful blue 3-story house near the Baptist church on Main Street; Andrew J Jackson, local doctor; Edwin Lambert, Matawan Fire Chief; and Henry S Terhune, nephew of Henry S Little, politician, and namesake of Terhune Park.

We heard about the murder of Fritz Gelenius, which was covered in the 14 Nov 1896 edition of The Matawan Journal; the serious injury of David Van Deventer at the Morgan plant explosion; and the deaths of the wife and daughter of Jacob Meinzer in the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918.

As to the cemetery itself, we visited the grave of the land owner, Joseph Rose, and the man who established the cemetery, James Fountain.

We were told about the haunting by Alexander H Harris and the burial of a Zombie in the cemetery. Matawan-Aberdeen Patch interviewed some locals to find out what they thought about a haunted Rose Hill Cemetery.


  1. Thank you for the update on the tour. I grew up in Matawan (Church St), but never knew about Rose Hill until about a year ago. I wanted to attend the tour but was unable to. As a paranormal investigator, I have quite an interest in visiting Rose Hill, mostly because of my ties to the town.

    I am glad Mr. Savolaine clarified the trespassing issue as I wanted to check the place out during the day to see if anything paranormal does happen there or is it just another ghost story handed down over the years

  2. I think the Walking tour was so popular and made the Society so much money that another tour will be cobbled together before too long. Mr Savolaine worked very hard on this one, he says it was two years in the making, so we can't expect another one right away. But I'm sure he or someone else in the Society could be coaxed into producing another tour, at least for the centennial of the shark attacks in 2016. There was a paranormal tour of Burrowes Mansion on Halloween last fall which you might have enjoyed. i think it is mentioned in this blog. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Genevieve Donnell, the author of the article you linked to (who's also known as the "first lady of Matawan") is also buried there.

    Thanks for the review of the tour. Sorry I missed it!