George Washington Bridge to Schuylerville 2021

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Road Warriors

Throughout my life, beginning with trips between Long Island and Tucson, Arizona for college…throughout young and mature adulthood to return to the family home for celebrations…in my 40’s, 50’s and 60’s caring for aging parents and now, in retirement, researching genealogy I have travelled this route over the George Washington Bridge, over Manhattan, through the Bronx, then over the Throgs Neck Bridge to Queens County, Long Island and always as the driver. This is the first time being able to document the route with a quality camera. Driving here requires the total attention of the driver, the traffic, reading unfamiliar signs…..what a treat to sit and snap. Here goes.

On Interstate 80 then 95 moving through Bergen County and Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Over the George Washington Bridge, upper level.

Into the Bronx via the imfamous Cross Bronx Expressway…..trucks from across the continent funnel through here.

Glorious fall foliage on a perfect autumn morning.

Bronx Autumn 2021

I captured these during a trip through the Bronx, returning on a perfect fall afternoon from our outing to find Grandfather Wills’ resting place: Bronx River Parkway, Moushulu Parkway, Henry Hudson Parkway then over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. The trees were in their glory.

I had a session using a tripod for longer exposure shots and neglected to revise the camera settings for shooting on the run from an auto…so the photographs are not as sharp as they could be.

New Jersey from the Transcontinental Interstate Route 80 connecting New York City to San Francisco and all point in between.

Pinelands Connections X

Finding Grandfather’s Final Resting Place

When I was a young adult Mom told me Grandfather Wills was buried in the Bronx. James Edward Wills died when my father was very young and they were poor, living in tenements on the upper West Side of Manhattan April 1916.. Looking through Dad’s papers after both he and Mom were gone, I found the grave receipt: “Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Westchester, New York.” James Wills, born April 1877, the youngest of six children of George Wills and Margaret McCambridge, who were 43 and 38, their place of residence two years later cited in the 1880 Federal Census as Shamong, New Jersey. Today, Shamong Township is part of New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Atsion, the Iron Furnace town where James’ Grandmother Ann McCambridge (nee Milley) worked as a cook, is in Shamong Township.

Finding and researching the grave receipt is what began my adventures in genealogy. What was, in 1916, Westchester is now the Schuylerville section of Bronx county, a borough of New York City. Saint Raymond’s Parish, still going strong, acquired more consecrated land for burials with now an “Old” and “New” cemetery separated by the confluence of interstates 95, 295, 678 including the approaches to the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges, the superstructures of which are visible from the “Old” cemetery.

Having sorted out these details, I approach my cousin Mary at the October 2021 engagement party of my niece where we made arrangements to find Grandfather Wills’ final resting place the following month. On Wednesday, November 10th, Mary’s husband Peter drove us over the George Washington Bridge, through the incredible traffic of the Cross Bronx Expressway (a funny name for this moving parking lot, bumper to bumper trucks), to Schuylerville. We navigated to the “Google Maps” push pin I placed next to Section 7. Google Maps even has street views of the cemetery, in retrospect the view of Section 7, Ranges 35 – 51, includes grandfather’s grave.

We worked together, walking the rows, reading headstone inscriptions, on the expectation of finding Grandfather’s name without success. Peter and I took to counting the rows to find number 41, with success. With less success counting the headstones and spaces (unmarked graves) to find number 82. At the same time, Pam and Mary searched. I used the “Find A Grave” website to look up headstones in section 7, row 41 and found the only location provided was “Section 7.” I also called the cemetery office where they were most helpful. There is NO record of James Wills.

Then, Pam noticed some headstones inscribed with the exact location, Section, Range (Row) and Grave.  This was the key.  Here are the headstone references that pinpointed Grandfather Wills’ final, unmarked, resting place.  

In the following photograph I am on the right with wife Pam. Cousin Mary next to her husband Peter on the right, Mary is standing on grave 82.

James Edward Wills unmarked grave, Section 7, Range (Row) 41, Grave 82, Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Balcom Avenue, Schuylerville, Bronx, New York. Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Here we are facing south / southeast into Section 7, James Wills’ unmarked grave is to the left and just behind Nevins headstone (Row 40, Grave 83).

American Irish Historical Society

Here is the press release text: “The American Irish Historical Society is placing its present headquarters at 991 Fifth Avenue on the market. The building, which has been the society’s headquarters since 1940, was designed by James R. Turner and William G. Killian in 1901 as a private residence and has had three previous owners. Before moving to 991 Fifth Avenue, the Society was based first at the old Manhattan Hotel, then the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and then at 132 East 16th Street. 

The AIHS is a cultural and scholarly organization devoted to making better known the history of the Irish in the United States as well as celebrating the riches of Irish culture globally.  The decision to place the building on the market has been made in order to best enable the society to pursue its cultural and scholarly mission in a sustainable manner. The society has selected the firm of Brown Harris Stevens (broker, Paula Del Nunzio) to represent the sale of the property.”

My son and I attended the 2002 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, taking a station outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here are some shots of 991 Fifth Avenue. The building is 25 feet wide with an elegant facade and interior. The VIPs on the balcony made a huge contribution for the honor according to the Society’s web page. There is a virtual tour of the interior as well.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved