The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 1st, 2011

first, Calvary

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Woe to that New Yorker who achieves our common societal goal, which is being always at the head of a long queue- first in line.

There isn’t much I can tell you about Esther Ennis, an Irish immigrant, other than she was the very first person buried in Calvary Cemetery in 1848. Intonations and rumors of a broken heart followed her to the grave, which seem to allude to a love affair gone wrong and conjure lurid fantasies of the port city of New York in the 1840’s. Unfortunately, no primary sources have emerged that discuss the young (for our modern era) woman.


On August 4, 1848, the new cemetery called Calvary Cemetery received its first interment, one Esther ENNIS. The purchase of this parcel of land and the acquisition over the years of over two hundred additional acres, enabled Calvary Cemetery to support the needs of most Catholics in the Archdiocese, especially in the New York City area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quite obviously, this isn’t the original grave marker, its style and typography betray a 20th century vintage, and your humble narrator would wager that it was carved sometime in the 1920-1970 time period based on style and material. A half remembered and impossible to locate report from some forgotten publication once revealed that an Irish organization like the Hibernians (or was it a Catholic Charity of some stripe?) made it their business to place this marker on the presumed gravesite in Section 1 in First Calvary, but it doesn’t seem to have made it online so I may not supply a link to you- lords and ladies.

Regardless, this is one of Calvary Cemetery’s proverbial “needles in a haystack locations“, and is one easily bypassed by casual visitors to the great polyandrion.

from, an article from 1884 about Calvary’s first grave digger, John McCann

“Thirty-six years ago yesterday the first body was interred in Calvary Cemetery,” said John McCann, gatekeeper at the main entrance to the cemetery yesterday afternoon. “Yes, Sir, I remember it well. It was the body of Esther Ennis, a handsome looking Irish girl, who …

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Manhattan address demarcated on the stone is 139 Clinton Street, which, presuming that the addresses on Clinton Street conform to the same logic as they did in 1848, should be here.

The following is one of the stitched panorama images which always present themselves awkwardly due to their odd shape. It’s an attempt to display the absolute magnitude of this spot, and the explosive growth of Calvary Cemetery from this exact location.

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