The discovery of what could be an African burial ground is creating a buzz in New Milford in Bergen County.
Reports indicate that the discovery was made by Hedy Grant who said she found an old iron in her backyard from the 1800s. An ax was also found in the backyard and Grant recently found a deed dating back to 1883 that said “old colored burial ground.”
Historians from the New Milford Trust For Historic Preservation said that the area where Grant’s home is on was part of a five-acre farm owned by New Milford and Bergen County founder David Demarest. Historians say the area was a bustling farming community where Africans were enslaved.
“The burying ground is something that I think would be of tremendous historic significance in the history of slavery in the United States. Particularly in New Jersey, particularly in Bergen County and in New Milford,” Grant said in an interview. “I think if it is found, if graves are able to be excavated, it might provide history of how slaves lived.”
Officials from Rutgers University will be brought once the area is determined. Penetrating radar equipment will then be used to find out if there are graves.
Slavery in New Jersey began in the early 17th century with Bergen County developing as the largest slaveholding county in the state. The New Jersey state legislature was the last in the North to abolish slavery, passing a law in 1804 for its gradual abolition.