December 14, 2022
Photos and story by: Tom Robbins
UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Barely visible among the leaves lies an American flag in front of a tombstone with the inscription that reads: “William Thomas Co. C. 29th. Reg. N.J. Vol. Born Oct. 3., 1820 Died Apr. 7, 1904.” The flag seems new, but the tombstone looks neglected and old. Decorating graves with flags became popular after the Civil War, when General John A. Logan who led an organization for Civil War Veterans called for a nationwide Remembrance Day to honor those who died defending our country. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies lie in almost every city, village, hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. Known initially as Decoration Day, today, it is known as Memorial Day. Memorial Day, is set aside to honor those who lost their lives during war, while Veterans Day is a day to celebrate all who have served.
In 1931, Lieutenant Soden, who had been recording the names of veterans in New Jersey cemeteries, and County Superintendent of Soldiers’ Graves, Robert Miler, took on the task of planting flags on all soldier’s graves not just those who died in service to this country. They visited various Monmouth County cemeteries including Covell Hill (aka Ye Olde Robbins Burial Place).
The Civil War veterans buried in the Ye Olde Robbins Burial Place include Thomas and three others: Samuel Rose, Enoch Giberson and Mathias Barcalow Estel. William Thomas was the son of William Thomas, Sr., and Mary Holman. He married Margert Perrine and had eight daughters. He served as a Private in the 29th Regiment from August 25, 1862 to June 30, 1863.
Enoch Giberson, Jr. also served in the 29th Regiment of the NJ Volunteers as a Private from August 25, 1862 to June 30, 1863. He was the son of Enoch Giberson, Sr., and Phebe Anderson. His grandfather, James Giberson, served in the militia during the Revolutionary War. He never married and lived in Millstone near the burial ground.
Samuel Rose, born on June 20, 1838 to Witron and Rebecca Rose, served in Company E, 11th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers from September 27, 1864 to June 28, 1865. He also lived in the vicinity of the Robbins Burial Ground at the time of his death on December 22, 1912. He married Elizabeth Estel whose brother Mathias Barcalow Estel served in the Civil War.
Mathias Estel lived near Red Valley and was married to Jane Smires in 1851 who died in 1895. He served in the 10th Regiment of the New Jersey Volunteers from September 19, 1864 to June 22, 1865.
Four Civil War veterans lie peacefully on top of Covell Hill marking time till judgement day.
However, a fifth veteran, a Revolutionary War one interred here, is Randal Robbins who was born May 27, 1739 and died April 19, 1798. He served in Captain Robert Rhea’s Monmouth County Militia.
Randal lived on the farm of his grandfather, Aaron Robins, south of the I-195 and York Road interchange where the Reed Sod Farm is located. Randal had nine children with his first wife Abigail Rogers and five children with second wife Rebecca Rogers, Abigail’s sister, who married Randal after Abigail’s death in 1785. His descendants became trustees to the Ye Olde Robbins Burial Place handing down the deed of trust to the West, Flock, Rue and Field descendants. In 2020, Mr. Thomas Robbins, a descendant of Randal, discovered that the New Jersey Department of Environment Green Acres program did not acquire the burial ground when they formed the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.
The burial ground, overgrown with weeds, needs a long overdue cleanup. The Allentown Village Initiative (TAVI) is interested in organizing a cleanup next spring and volunteers are welcome to participate. Details will be forthcoming early next year.
Story excerpted from Mr. Robbins’ book “A Mystery in the Woods – Ye Olde Robbins Burial Place. To purchase a copy, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.