By Marfy Goodspeed

OLD SCHOOL BAPTIST CEMETERY

Dedication of the DAR plaque for Richard Heath

Recently, descendants of a Revolutionary War veteran, Richard Heath, installed a DAR Patriot marker at his gravesite in the old Baptist Cemetery located next to the Locktown Stone Church. The photographs below show the Heath descendants at the dedication ceremony. Here is a short history of this very ancient cemetery.

Long before the village of Locktown acquired its name, a small Baptist Church was established there, near the Wickecheoke Creek and the border of Kingwood and Amwell Townships in Hunterdon County. This was probably done to accommodate the first burial, which was for none other than the church’s first minister, Rev. Thomas Curtis, who died on May 11, 1749. Rev. Curtis had begun his ministry at the Hopewell Baptist Church and moved to Baptistown in the early 1740s. In fact, the church at Locktown, which was organized in 1745, was known as the Lower Branch of the Kingwood Baptist Church.

Rev. Curtis wife was Alice/Else Merrill, who was active in supporting the new congregation. Undoubtedly, she is also buried here as she also died in 1749, but the marker for her grave has been lost. The grave marker for her son Benjamin Curtis, who died on May 12, 1778, age 58, has been found.

Identifying all of the people buried here is impossible; there are over 50 unmarked graves. Fortunately, Hunterdon historian Hiram Deats made an inventory of the marked graves in 1940, and a local eagle scout project in 1985 produced an updated inventory. Since then, wear and tear has destroyed some of the grave markers, especially those dating to the 18th century.

The earliest known 19th century burial was for Jane McCauley (1746-1821), wife of Benjamin Curtis. That same year, Benjamin Rittenhouse (1746-1821) was buried here. He was the son of the founders of the Rittenhouse family in Hunterdon County, William Rittenhouse and Rebecca Harned. The location of his first wife’s grave is not known, but his second wife Cathrina Johnson is here; she died in 1834, age 81.

Another very early family was the Heaths, who owned a large farm nearby. The gravestones of Andrew Heath (c.1721-1777) and wife Magdalena (1724-1816) have not been located, but two of their sons, who both fought in the Revolutionary War, are here: Capt. John Heath (c.1749-1827) and Pvt. Richard Heath (1759-1849) along with some of their families.

Clearly, this early graveyard is a valuable historic site for Hunterdon County.

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