By Dan Hust
BURLINGHAM A significant local archeological find ended up involving the County Legislature.
On Thursday, legislators unanimously agreed to sell four foreclosed acres in the Town of Mamakating to Abdelilah Belghiti for $17,500.
The property was part of this past June’s tax auction, but the original purchaser never completed the sale, said County Treasurer Ira Cohen.
“So we retained title to it,” he explained.
Last month, a team of locals including Charles and Helene Goetschius of the Mamakating Historical Society gained access to the acreage, assisting Catherine Cavallo of Totowa, NJ in locating the grave of one of her ancestors.
Using the dowsing technique for which Charles has become mildly famous, they uncovered a nearly 200-year-old cemetery on the slopes of the Shawangunk Ridge, not far from Fort Roosa, the oldest still-standing structure in the county.
“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for five years,” an emotional Cavallo exclaimed on a video shot for the society by Teddy Brebbia, edited by Tom Walker, and displayed to legislators Thursday.
The remains of the ancestor for whom Cavallo had long searched Revolutionary War Private James Ivory were marked by a weathered tombstone buried under leaves.
He and his brother William served during the war, but only James made it home; William dying on a British prison ship in New York Harbor, said the Goetschiuses.
James himself suffered wounds in the mouth and hand, but he lived until 1842, running a gristmill at the site of a present-day, well-known Burlingham restaurant called the Gristmill.
Cavallo could not make Thursday’s meeting, but in the video, she gently decorates her ancestor’s grave with a flag.
“James, I’m here,” she says, joyful tears evident in her eyes. “Told ya I was coming!”
Legislators applauded and then were stunned to learn that 13 more gravesites were found around Ivory’s, including that of another Revolutionary War soldier.
Helene Goetschius said brass plaques have been ordered to better mark the soldiers’ final resting spots.
The cemetery is not open to the public, but the right-of-way to it has been recorded in the deed, and the Mamakating Historical Society maintains a right of access.