Three “Slaves” Get Formal Burial

May 27, 2009 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

Finally at peaceAfter spending three decades in a New Jersey museum, the 200-year-old remains of three Black slaves were interred at a small African-American cemetery last week. In the 1970s, a bulldozer driver stumbled on the remains of Tom, Dan and John when land owned by Henry Simpson, Sr. in Sussex County was being developed. He wasn’t quite sure what he had found and turned it over to Fred Space, owner of Space Farms Zoo and Museum, where it has been stored for the past for 30 years, reports. With a light rain falling, a couple dozen people, including members of the Sussex County (N.J.) Historical Society, gathered to pay homage to the dead. “The guy doing the digging didn’t know what to do with them,” Parker Space, Fred’s son, told “He thought of the Spaces because of their dealings with artifacts.” The Spaces brought the remains to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to be studied. Experts there confirmed that the remains were those of three slaves from around 1800. The museum preserved the bones and sent them back to Space Farms. Bob Simpson, a retired United Methodist minister, found the will of his ancestor, Henry Simpson, Sr.  What he found was astonishing. “It was very complex,” said Simpson of the will, which detailed every piece of property Henry Simpson Sr. owned. It included cattle and crops – and a list of seven slaves, five males and two females. A little more research and Simpson discovered about the digging up of the graves and how the remains were sent to Space Farms. “I often thought that I was going to bury them in our cemetery,” said Fred Space. Simpson believed it was his family’s responsibility to bury the men, said Louis Ruggiero, president of Iliff-Ruggiero Funeral Home in Newton. “We believe everyone deserves a proper burial,” said Ruggiero of his funeral home, which was established in 1900. “In all our years, we have buried those who have fallen between the cracks.”

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