Vandals strike historic Dover, NJ cemetery, damaging centuries-old gravestones
DOVER — Nearly a dozen headstones have been vandalized at a cemetery where some of the headstones date back to 1851.
The Orchard Street Cemetery was founded in 1851 and holds the remains of five War of 1812 veterans, 55 Civil War veterans, along with numerous other veterans from the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II and Vietnam, according to Paul Wood, vice president of the Dover Cemetery Association which maintains the cemetery.
Wood said between 10 and 12 headstones were knocked over sometime Sunday night or early Monday. The damage was discovered Monday around 11 a.m.
"I would say that the light gravestone that was knocked over was about 500 pounds. The rest were up to about 1,200 pounds, give or take," Wood told New Jersey 101.5. "Most of them are granite stones. There was one marble obelisk that dates to about 1875."
"To go in there and see these old markers and monuments toppled over is heartbreaking."
The cemetery is a throwback and has no electrical service or video surveillance. The Association has been completely volunteer since its inception and has very little money but set up a GoFundMe page to raise the funds needed to make proper repairs, which are being assessed.
"We're going to have to contract with a monument company. These stones are between 500 and 1,000 pounds. We don't want to do something improperly or have a volunteer who doesn't really know what they're doing do it," Wood said.
Orchard Street Cemetery in Dover Township, NJ
Wood said Mayor Carolyn Blackman and state Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, toured the damage and were surprised to learn some of its history.
"As you go through there you recognize there was a 15-year-old drummer boy from the Civil War. There was an African American man who served. It says right on the tombstone, 'colored troop.' You think about the history that is in that cemetery, it's incredible," Bucco told New Jersey 101.5.
The lawmaker said he would work with the association to get it funds for repairs and for future maintenance.
"To go in there and see these old markers and monuments toppled over is heartbreaking," Bucco said.
This is the first time the cemetery has been vandalized in Woods' six years with the association or to the recollection of other members.
"We have damaged stones due to the fact they've been sitting here since 1851. That's one of the sad realities. We have enough damage to deal with without somebody coming in and doing that," Wood said.