About the Cemetery
An Important New York State Cemetery
The Cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Southold is among the most important in New York State. There is much to honor and respect in this cemetery, located in the heart of historic and picturesque Southold. Founded in 1640, 375 years ago, the Cemetery is still serving the people of Southold. It has expanded now to eight acres, largely from the bequests of local citizens. By formal agreement from the 1840s, any resident of the Town has the right to be interred in the Cemetery.
The Cemetery today consists of four sections: 1) The Memorial Garden, for those who choose cremation; 2) the Memorial Section, where gravestones lie flat on the ground and where burial plots are available for purchase; 3) the Monument Section, the largest section, with upright gravestones (it is sold out), and 4) the Old Burying Ground, the original one-acre historic section.
Visitors are invited to stroll the Cemetery’s paths and feel its restfulness and absorb its history. They will leave behind our hectic and demanding world as they retreat into a place of contemplation and consecration. They will appreciate how much our historic Cemetery is a fitting tribute for those for whom it has become a final resting place. Some may find the Cemetery an inviting place for prayer and reflection.
The Memorial Garden.
The newest section of the Cemetery, the Memorial Garden lies just west of the Cemetery entrance road. Those who choose cremation can purchase niches in the Garden’s columbaria. Each columbarium is faced in black granite, a material chosen that mirrors, and thus brings together, the traditional Monument and Memorial sections and the new Memorial Garden.
The Memorial Section.
Just to the east of the Memorial Garden, on the opposite side of the Cemetery entrance road, is the small Memorial Section that marks its graves with inscribed stones lying flat on the ground. This meadow-like section of the Cemetery is the only section that now has burial plots available for purchase.
The Monument Section.
The Cemetery’s largest section, the Monument Section, lies to the west of the Memorial Garden. It is a section of burial plots that was developed after the original one-acre burying ground was filled. It has an impressive collection of upright monuments or gravestones, mostly made of granite. It is sold out -- there are no burial plots remaining for sale.
The Old Burying Ground.
The original acre of land set aside as a cemetery by the Puritans who settled Southold is called the Old Burying Ground, a term used for burial grounds of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is located in the Cemetery’s northwest corner; its northern border lies next to the picket fence along Main Road.
Not only is the Old Burying Ground the oldest surviving colonial cemetery in New York State. It is also the one that cemetery historians consider the richest for scholarship. The burial ground’s inscribed gravestones have much to teach us about Southold’s history. It has twenty graves dating from the 17th century, an extraordinary number. They include the oldest grave on Long Island: the box tomb of William Wells, a founder of Southold, which dates from 1671. Wells’s box tomb is one of nine such tombs (or false crypts). Only the rich could afford such tombs, and they are rare on Long Island. The burial ground showcases gravestones carved by the best of the early stonecutters, the widest range of any Long Island cemetery.