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The grave markers of the General and his wives, Hannah and Johanna have been the subject of both mystery and tragedy. One stone took a three hundred mile voyage, only to be installed in the wrong location. Another was discarded behind a barn and became buried for the next eighty years. The third stone marks the resting place of someone too young to pass on. Despite it’s broken and weathered condition, this marker stands as a reminder of the sacrifice of those involved in the American Revolution.

The General’s Gravestone (above)
General William Floyd died August 24, 1821at his home in Westernville. He was buried in the cemetery behind the Westernville Presbyterian Church. The original stone is rectangular in shape and made to rest horizontally on four stone supports, giving the marker a tomb-like appearance. The General’s second wife, Johanna, has a similar marker and was buried next to the General. Traditionally, these horizontal markers suffer from weather deterioration much more than stones in the vertical alignment. Apparently this reality, together with a desire for a more stately marker motivated family members a few friends to place a single , more grand stone where the two stones had been. According to a 1955 letter written from descendants in Upstate to those in Downstate New York, the monument was placed in 1904. A July 3, 1897 article in The Saturday Globe, a local newspaper, would appear to dispute this date. The article talks about a pilgrimage taken to Westernville to view the stone and the acknowledgement that the new stone was in place. The article also reveals that a local resident remembered that the General’s original stone lay “for several years in a blacksmith shop before it was taken down to Long Island.” A book entitled “The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut” by Frederic Gregory Mather states “With his wife Johanna, General Floyd is buried near his later home, at Westernville. The tombstones, shown herewith, were at Westernville until 1895, when they were removed to Mastic (site of his original estate).”
It seems, however, that Mr. Mather was only half right. The fate of Johanna’s stone is revealed in Johanna’s Stone which follows. The General’s stone did make the long trip from Westernville to the William Floyd Estate at Mastic Beach, Long Island. Who negotiated its procurement and how it was transferred is not known. Jackie and I first visited the Long Island estate in 1978, the first summer we owned the General William Floyd House. At that time, we had just begun our research of our new purchase and we were unaware of the “stone story.” We were both surprised and concerned when we found the General’s original stone in the Floyd family cemetery on the grounds of the estate. It lies horizontal, unsupported by pedestal stones, slightly buried in the ground. Since the National Park Service was planning a self guided visitor experience of the estate grounds, we expressed our concerns that the presence of the stone might lead one to believe that the General was actually buried there. The Park Service agreed and in their visitor brochure has the following explanation: “William Floyd’s original gravestone is the one lying flat at ground level. It was moved here when a new monument was erected at his actual gravesite in Westernville, New York, to which he moved in 1803.

Johanna’s Stone (above)
In 1979, the 175th anniversary of the General William Floyd House, my dad and I were busy clearing a large quantity of debris and overgrown brush behind the barn, near the house. My dad’s rake hit something very solid under about three or four inches of dirt. At first we thought this solid object was a foundation stone. The object measured 3’ wide, 4-1/2’ long and 2-1/2” inches thick. When we flipped the stone over, we realized that we had stumbled on the gravestone of Johanna Floyd. The General’s second wife had passed away November 24, 1826 at the age of 79. The inscription was well preserved having been covered for over eighty years. It read: “Sacred to the memory of Joanna Floyd, widow of Gen. William Floyd, who departed this life on the 24th day of November, 1826, aged 79years.” After determining that Johanna was indeed buried in the Westernville Cemetery with her husband, the newly discovered stone was moved to the future General William Floyd Center, where it will be on display.

Hannah’s Stone (above)
After the battle of Long Island, the British became an occupying force. It was not a safe place to be if you were sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. It would have been an especially dangerous place if your husband had just signed the Declaration of Independence. Hannah and her three young children fled to Middletown, Connecticut. It is not known to me, where she and children lived while in exile. Hannah enrolled her son and two daughters in school in Middletown. The General would visit whenever he could be excused from his duties in Philadelphia. Hannah would never see her Long Island home again. She died on May 16,1781 and was buried in Middletown. Unfortunately, this is were recorded history leaves poor Hannah. She would die while separated from both her home and her husband and become a relatively obscure casualty of the Revolution. This injustice had always bothered us and we vowed to find her gravestone someday.

Someday would come on February 28, 2003 in a rather bizarre set of circumstances. We were final stages of the restoration of the drawing room (see Restoration). The fireplace was in need of a fire back that would match the other three fireplaces on the first floor. We decided to visit a blacksmith shop in Woodbury, Connecticut that has created other ironwork for us, including many hand-swaged square headed nails. At about 6:00AM as we were walking out the door, I decided to check our e-mail (something that I rarely do at that hour). But alas, there was a message from a Bill Maune from Middletown, Connecticut. He said that he had been reading a book “The Signers of the Declaration of Independence” and learned of Hannah’s fate. He contacted the Middlesex County Historical Society and a non profit organization dedicated to upgrade historic grave sites. They directed him to Mortimer Cemetery and after an extensive search found Hannah’s stone.

We decided to visit Middletown after leaving Woodbury. We were unable to get in contact with Mr. Maune that morning, but we decided to check with the information desk at the local library. She not only gave us directions to the Mortimer cemetery, she called ahead to the fire station where the keys were kept to make sure they would be ready for us. We signed out the keys and the adventure continued – at least until we reached the gate. Unfortunately, the gate was frozen into the remnants of a freak Connecticut storm that came through the week before. At this point I began feeling a bit like Clark Griswald in National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation. I didn’t come all this to be denied this close to end of the quest. I took out my pocketknife and began to hack away at the glacier holding the gate. It would have been faster waiting until the spring thaw. My wife said I had that look in my eye and she told me she would be waiting in the car. I convinced her to go back the fire station with me. There our luck began to turn. Ironically, the fire chief turned out to be the son of a physician who practiced for a number of years in Rome, New York, a short eight miles south of the General William Floyd House. The chief took pity on the man with the crazed look and sent one of his new recruits out with us to free the gate. At last we were in! Following an extensive search, through snow over our ill-prepared feet and with darkness closing in, we literally stumbled onto Hannah’s stone. There before us lay the object of our quest. Instead of euphoria, we felt only sadness. Laying before us was a small, austere, weather worn stone that had broken in two. The footstone had three words on it: “Mrs. Hannah Floyd.”

General William Floyd House Signer of the Declaration of Independence
© 2006 General William Floyd House
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