On March 30, 2007 my family and I drove up to New Haven Connecticut to see the "Video Games Live" concert. On the way there, we made a pilgrimage to Sleepy Hollow, New York, to visit "The Old Dutch Church" which is featured prominently in Washington Irving's short story,
When we pulled into the church parking lot, we spotted a very distinct looking man, with a long white beard, peering down at us from the doorway of the cemetery storage shed, which was on the hillside behind the church. The kids became a little wary that maybe we would get in trouble for being in the cemetery. I knew that Church welcomes respectful guests.
We walked up to the front of the church and were met by the man, who was carrying a paper bag full of twigs and branches he was picking up from the church yard.
"Would you folks like to see the inside of the church?" We've visited the church many times, but we never had the chance to go inside, so we said "Sure!".
The 300 year old church is one of the oldest standing churches in the state of New York. The church was built in the 1680"s by the local land baron, Vredryck Flypse (Frederick Phillipse), and to this day you can still see his initials on the copper flag that is on top of the back end of the church.
The yard has been a burial ground since about 1640.
Sleepy Hollow and The Old Dutch Church are just a mile north of the town of Tarrytown, New York. In the opening paragraphs of Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", Mr. Irving begins the tale with a description of Tarrytown and the surrounding countryside.
"In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators "The Tappan Zee", and where they always prudently shortened sail, and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town."
Washington Irving claimed that the name "Tarrytown" was a name given "by the good housewives of the adjacent county, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days."
Mr Lent explained to us that the Dutch word "Tarwe" is wheat and "dorp" is town. So the town was originally called "Tarwen dorp," meaning "wheat town".
Mr Lent showed us an area of the churchyard which was strangely devoid of head stones.
According to Mr Lent, this is the site of the original Sleepy Hollow bridge where Ichabod Crane tried crossing the Potantico Creek, in order to try to escape the Headless Horseman.
The Old Dutch burial ground, and the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is the resting place of many prominent people including Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller, and it is also the place Washington Irving chose to rest his bones.
Washington Irving ("The author of "Legend of Sleepy Hollow") loved this part of the country and he made his home just down the road from Sleepy Hollow, in a beautiful Dutch-style estate called "Sunnyside". In a letter to the editor of "Knickerbocker Magazine", Mr. Irving speaks about the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
My Dear Clark:
I beg you to correct this oversight, should you, as I trust you will, notice this sepulchral enterprise.
I hope as the spring opens you will accompany me in one of my brief visits to Sunnyside, when we will make another trip to Sleepy Hollow, and (thunder and lightning permitting) have a colloquy among the tombs.
Yours, very truly,
Here is the Irving family plot.
I would like to thank Bill Lent for his wonderful, personal tour!