The graves of New York City’s founding families

The city’s oldest cemeteries are home to the tombstones of early bigwig early New Yorkers.

The first Riker (of Rikers Island fame, of course) arrived in New Amsterdam from Holland in 1638.

His descendent, John Lafayette Riker, was a Civil War colonel in a Union Army volunteer regiment called the Anderson Zouaves.

Riker was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 and buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.

William Drayton Blackwell was a member of the Blackwell family, New Yorkers since 1776.

The Blackwells originally owned their namesake island in the East River, which eventually became Roosevelt Island in 1973.

This Blackwell, a slovenly “rich eccentric” according to a Brooklyn genealogy website, now lies in The New York City Marble Cemetery, at Second Street between Second and and First Avenues.

St. Marks in the Bouwerie Church, on Second Avenue and Tenth Street in the East Village, also contains the tombs of prominent 18th and 19th century families. 

The Samuel C. Ellis, MD buried here is probably the same Samuel Ellis who lived at One Greenwich Street and sold Little Oyster Island—eventually Ellis Island—to the federal government around 1800.

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