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).