A little-known grave near Madison Square Park

Hiding between Shake Shack and Eataly just outside Madison Square Park is one of only two military grave sites in the city.

It contains the remains of William Jenkins Worth.

A celebrated general, Worth’s military career started with the War of 1812 and was cut short after the Mexican-American War, when he contracted cholera in San Antonio in 1849.

After his death, city leaders decided to honor him with a memorial in what was then an elite residential neighborhood.

While his body was temporarily interred in Green-Wood Cemetery, a 51-foot granite obelisk went up, listing names of crucial battle sites of his career.

A bronze relief of Worth on a horse fronts the obelisk, and military regalia decorate the cast-iron fence surrounding it.

It’s a grand monument—but it’s easy to miss as you cross that tricky intersection of 25th Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue (a pocket park called Worth Square).

It’s even easier to disregard the fact that Worth’s body lies under the obelisk. He was reburied here in 1857 during a processional involving 6,500 soldiers and a speech from Mayor Fernando Wood.

Where’s the other military gravesite in Manhattan? Grant’s Tomb, 100 blocks northwest. General Worth is also the namesake of Worth Street, and we have him to thank for Fort Worth, Texas, and Lake Worth, Florida.

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12 Responses to “A little-known grave near Madison Square Park”

  1. ronfwnc Says:

    Little-known, except to people who live or work in the vicinity. Actually, a lot of people think it’s just a monument to Worth and not his actual burial site. And it always struck me as strange that there’s a pumping station for drinking water at the back of the monument.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    The pumping station, yes, so bizarre! But what surprised me is that Worth is actually buried there. I’d walked through Worth Square maybe a thousand times before realizing this.

  3. BRIAN BERKE Says:

    Pumping station aside, it was 12 or so years ago that the city finally restored the monument and railing after years of neglect and used the funds the Worth decendents had given to do so. This is not just the site of a long past historical footnote but the resting spot for a family member.

  4. fivepointsguy Says:

    Worth Street was originally known as Anthony Street, one of arteries that formed Five Points. Part of the reason for the name change was that it was hoped it would improve the reputation of the area. Fat chance.

  5. Sharon Florin Says:

    I did a painting a few years back in which the Worth monument appears and it was then that I found out the history. So interesting. http://sjfnewyork.blogspot.com/2010/11/walking-tour-of-triple-play.html

  6. Ian Schoenherr Says:

    The photo you show is of Major Robert Anderson (1805-1871) of Fort Sumter fame. Worth had tousled hair and sideburns.

  7. When Fifth Avenue hosted a yearly horse parade « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] parade started at Washington Square Park, with horses and drivers marching up Fifth Avenue to Worth Square, just past 23rd […]

  8. chas Says:

    I realize it’s not a designated military burial site but Trinity Church has so many resting there that are labeled heroes as well…

  9. Jesse J. Gardner Says:

    This is a great introduction to General William Jenkins Worth! I just learned through an extensive genealogical search that I am a descendant of his. In fact, my middle name (Jenkins) was chosen for that reason, although I never knew that. I lived a few hundred feet from the monument for years at a 5th Avenue address, and passed it every day in my walks around the city, never realizing any of this.

    My great-grandmother was Margaret Worth Durlin, generation #9 (William Jenkins Worth was generation #6). In the research I have before me, we count generation #1 as John Worth, who was born in Badby, England. John Worth was a descendant of the De la Worth family who came to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066. They settled at Worth, Triverton, Devonshire, England. I have records dating back to the 1400’s for the Worths of England, who were landed gentry. Roger Worthe [sp] was Mayor of Exeter in 1482, and there were other prominent family members.

    John Worth and his wife Barbara and their five sons were prominent among the Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and we trace our American lineage to their son William Worth, who was born in England in 1640, eventually moving to Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in 1662. John and his eldest son William were killed by Royalists during the defense of Plymouth Fort. The Worths were prominent in their day; among other occupations they were master mariners, whaling ship captains, and selectmen.

    A fascinating and grim chapter in the Worth family history, is the axe murder of Thomas Worth (General Worth’s father), in “the mutiny of the Globe” (a whaler from Nantucket) on January 26, 1824, 900 miles from the Sandwich Islands. You can Google Thomas Worth and many resources on the mutiny are available.

    From the research I have, it also appears that the books William Worth wrote are still used at West Point today. He was an instructor there for 8 years, although he never attended the military academy as a student. Had he not died so young of cholera, he would likely have been a household name today, rather than a mostly forgotten war hero.

    Thank you for putting together this website, and for the opportunity to share this. Feel free to reach out to me for more info on the Worth family.

  10. The Flatiron Building rises in the rain and fog | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] wet winter day in Madison Square, with cars stacked up on the side of the park on the left and the Worth monument and Flatiron building (a mere 18 years old!) on the […]

  11. A forgotten war memorial in Madison Square Park honors the “glorious dead” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the military grave site and 51-foot obelisk memorial to General William Jenkins Worth—who died during the Mexican-American War in 1849—rises nearby at Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and […]

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