by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections
October 31, 2023
When Green-Wood Cemetery opened in Brooklyn, it was a desirable place to visit even before one was deceased. Pre-dating New York City’s most famed public parks, it attracted thousands of visitors each year with its picturesque landscape. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, when a young Augustus Crane and his brother John Josiah were in the market for family burial plots in 1844, they chose two side by side in newly opened Green-Wood.
Their parents, who they lost as teenagers, had been buried in the churchyard of Manhattan’s Middle Dutch Church. Perhaps not coincidentally, the church ceased services in 1844 and began transformation into a post office. John Josiah purchased lots 568 and 569 in the Ocean Hill section of the cemetery on April 12. At the time, Green-Wood was considered a rural cemetery “sufficiently remote to be beyond the range of city improvements.” Augustus soon added to his library Green-Wood Illustrated, a beautifully bound volume with plates of its many lovely vistas. The book, which profiles each of the romantically name sections, describes how “its numerous avenues and paths furnish a long and delightful drive, presenting continually, scenes of varied beauty.” Today a National Historic Landmark, its 478 acres is still heralded as “peaceful oasis.”
In 1847, a young nephew became the first recorded burial in the brothers’ plots. A few years later, he was joined by his mother, Augustus’s only sister, Elsey. Other family members, thankfully of a more advanced age, would follow, and in 1856, their parents were reinterred there. Ultimately, almost every family member who ever lived at Acorn Hall was buried in Augustus’s plot, which John Josiah officially transferred to him in 1852. Decades later, the two brothers were buried there upon their deaths in 1887 and 1906. Now surrounded by many of their children, and even some of their grandchildren, they remain as close in death as records indicate they were in life.