A major project of the historical society has been the restoration and preservation of seven New Castle historic graveyards. Two of them, the Quaker graveyard and Fair Ridge Cemetery, are communal, and the sites of historical society tours. The other five are former family graveyards, still technically owned by the families but long abandoned. All are New Castle Landmarks.
About 1747, pioneer John Reynolds donated two acres of land to the recently formed “Shapequa” friends’ meeting, to serve as a badly needed burying ground and the site of a future meetinghouse. Like the meetinghouse, it has remained in use ever since. Although burials largely ceased in the 2oth century, a memory wall continues to commemorate deceased meeting members.
Founded shortly after the Civil War, in 1867, this nonsectarian, nonprofit association cemetery has continued to serve the community ever since. Its first president was Horace Greeley. It supplemented or replaced the churchyards and family graveyards in the area, and it contains the family plots and individual graves of generations of local citizens.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Brady family owned large tracts of land on both sides of northern Quaker Road, and owned an inn and tavern where several early New Castle town meetings were held. The family graveyard continued in use for decades after the Bradys moved away, and several of the later graves are those of the in-law Orser family.
This old graveyard at the far West End of town was founded by Lazarus Heady, born of a white father and an enslaved Black woman about 1752. He was freed and bequeathed money in his father’s will, and used his inheritance to acquire the land. Here he and his descendants lived and buried their dead until at least 1873, when his son, Lazarus Jr. died.
The Sarles and Archer families owned large farms near each other’s along Armonk Road. Solomon Sarles established the family graveyard some time in the 18th century – its early markers are unmarked fieldstones – and it remained on Sarles property until the early 1900s. Solomon’s son Robert married Phebe Archer, and thereafter more Archers than Sarleses were buried here. The last grave was that of William S. Archer, who died in 1909.
Nathaniel Tompkins settled in this area of western New Castle about the middle of the 18th century. The Tompkins homestead was located on Pines Bridge Road, and the family graveyard was established at some distance in the interior. Its earliest markers are blank, undated fieldstones, and the first inscribed gravestone is dated 1797. Tompkins family members, in-laws, neighbors, and friends were buried here until 1898.
The Wright pioneer family owned large tracts of land along Bedford Road from about Whippoorwill Road to Cowdin Lane. Their family graveyard, now surrounded by the grounds of Horace Greeley High School, extends west from Bedford Road. It has two sections, separated by a steep hillside. At the top of the hill are early Wright graves; at the bottom are the graves of Phebe Wright Barnum and her kin from 1870 to 1943.