BY ANGELA MATUA
Maple Grove Cemetery had a historic weekend marking three milestones affecting the Kew Gardens burial grounds.
The cemetery commemorated the sesquicentennials of both the end of the Civil War and the formation of the New York U.S. Colored Troops (NY USCT), the first regiment of color, as well as the 140th anniversary of Maple Grove’s foundation.
Queens residents were treated to a concert on Saturday featuring 12 musicians who performed classical pieces, marches, ballads, lullabies and jazz. Each piece that was performed honored a musician who was buried at the cemetery.
“Requiem for a Soldier” was also performed to honor veterans buried in Maple Grove such as Joseph Teagle, a Civil War veteran who moved to Jamaica after his service.
The 150th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War was celebrated on Sunday with the help of the USCT reenactors. The group provides educational enrichment programs, demonstrations, talks at living history events, classrooms and battle reenactments. Artifacts were also on display, including furniture and photographs from the Civil War era.
According to Friends of Maple Grove President Carl Ballenas, the event was a success. “We had crowds coming in nonstop,” he said.
The reenactors guided patrons to several sites in the cemetery where people connected to the Civil War are interred. They included Henry Heath, who was captured in battle and was one of the first people to be involved in a prisoner exchange during the war; and Millie Tunnel, a slave who moved to Jamaica when she was freed.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Rory Lancman attended the event to help lay a wreath at the site of the Shiloh Church monument. It was recently discovered that 300 congregants of the Shiloh Church, the first African-American church in Manhattan founded in 1822, were moved to the Maple Grove Cemetery in 1877. The church was often visited by Frederick Douglas, a famous abolitionist and writer.
“People expressed delight and joy at such an important event in Queens and how extraordinary it was for both young and old,” Ballenas said.