Mary Ellis grave

Coordinates: 40°29′21.27″N 74°24′59.53″W / 40.4892417°N 74.4165361°W / 40.4892417; -74.4165361
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Mary Ellis family burial plots in the early 1900s.

Grave of Mary Ellis in 2003

The Mary Ellis grave is a grave located behind an AMC Theatre on U.S. Route 1 in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. The granite gravestone is located on a 7-foot (2.1 m) high stonework pyramid in the back parking lot. Seven relatives are also buried and marked on the grave itself.

Mary Ellis, a native of South Carolina, was a property owner and fierce feminist in New Brunswick, noted to even vote in city elections before the right for women to vote was passed. Living on Livingston Avenue, Ellis maintained a garden on her property until a local politician, James Schureman, took the land to build a street on it. In response, she posted a sign on the new Schureman Street calling it "Oppression Street". Historians believed that around 1813, Ellis moved from downtown New Brunswick to a secluded area known as Mount Hemlock, which overlooked the Raritan River. She lived there until her death in 1828. A niece of Ellis respected her request to be buried on the land of which she lived, overlooking the Raritan River.[1]

The choice of Mount Hemlock for Ellis' residence and later burial site is part of local legend. Ellis is believed to have met a sailor who she fell in love with, some day wanting to marry him. Once the sailor departed, she would return to the Raritan River on a knoll for a long time to keep a look out for his return, which would never occur. She continued to stand watch. However, historians have doubted the truth to this story, noting her past as a person who would not waste that kind of time.[1] The band Looking Glass, created of students at Rutgers University, wrote their 1972 song "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" with a story similar to Ellis' in terms of a bartender who finds someone she loves but the sailor preferring the sea as his true love. However, the members of the band denied there was any connection between the Ellis story and the song's lyrics.[2]

By June 1956, the gravestone had been knocked over into the grounds below, and remained in that location for several years.[1][3] John E. Burke, who had purchased the property in 1943 and then ran the Raritan Playland Amusement Park on the site, wanted to relocate the graves and gravestone, but declined once he learned that he would be required to contact and obtain written permission from all the families of those buried there before such a move would be permitted.[4]

In 1965, with the construction of the Great Eastern Department Store on the site of her former residence, the company constructed a protective wall along the burial site and the toppled gravestone.[5] This new construction created a 20-foot (6.1 m) pit in the parking lot, which soon attracted debris and littering. However, by 1980, Ray Travis and the son of Burke, operating the site as the Route 1 Flea Market since 1975, felt it was time to replace the concrete pit with dirt and move the granite gravestone to ground level. Several local historians were upset by the decision to do this as they were unaware that the move was meant to help preserve, not destroy, the graves. Travis spent more than $1,000 (1980 USD) for eleven truckloads of dirt in order to fill in the fenced grave pit and that he had also planned to landscape the area.[4]

On August 16, 1980, a float was run during the Raritan River Festival, commemorating the impact of Mary Ellis in New Brunswick history.[4] Once the Route 1 Flea Market was razed and replaced with a Loews Theatre, the parking lot was re-graded, resulting in the gravestone towering over the parking lot.[2]

Mary Ellis[edit]

Mary Ellis (1750–1828)[6] was a spinster in New Brunswick, New Jersey.[7] According to oral tradition, she was seduced by a sea captain who vowed to return to marry her. He never returned and she would come to the spot where her grave now stands, each day, to look for his ship in the Raritan River in New Brunswick.[8]

Additional deceased[edit]

  • Mildred Moody (1746–1816) who married Thomas M. Evans
  • Thomas M. Evans (1790–1820)
  • Mary Ellis (1750–1828)[6]
  • Margaret Ellis (1767–1850) who married Anthony Walton White (1750–1803), general of the United States Army[9]
  • Eliza Mary White (1792–1861) who married Thomas M. Evans
  • Elizabeth Margaret Evans (1813–1898)
  • Isabelle Johanna Evans (1815–1901)


  1. ^ a b c Talmont, Nancy (June 10, 1956). "Gravestone, Clippings Last of Romance". The Sunday Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. p. 22. Retrieved May 20, 2021 – via Open access icon
  2. ^ a b NJ, Weird (June 29, 2014). "Mary Ellis' story is one for the movies". Asbury Park Press. p. A6. Retrieved May 20, 2021 – via Open access icon
  3. ^ "Keeping Vigil". The Sunday Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. March 1, 1964. p. 13. Retrieved May 20, 2021 – via Open access icon
  4. ^ a b c Larini, Rudy (July 8, 1980). "Eight early city residents now rest in a deeper peace". The Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. p. 9. Retrieved May 20, 2021 – via Open access icon
  5. ^ King, Alvin (August 21, 1966). "Precious Privacy Hers Forever". The Sunday Home News. New Brunswick, New Jersey. p. 45. Retrieved May 20, 2021 – via Open access icon
  6. ^ a b Death date 1828 on the gravestone but Martin (2005) says 1826.
  7. ^ Martin, Antoinette (November 6, 2005). "A Sentimental Developer Saves a Grave". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 29, 2015. This story concerns real estate in the 21st century, but it starts with a long-ago romance. Sometime in the 1790s, a woman named Mary Ellis arrived in New Brunswick and fell in love with a sea captain who had been an officer in the Revolutionary War. The captain soon put out to sea again, heading down the Raritan River toward New York Harbor, but he left behind his trusty horse – and a promise to marry Mary when he returned. The graves of Mary Ellis and two others are to be moved to a site closer to the Raritan River if the Raritan Heights development is built. Every day for years after, as local legend has it, Mary rode her sweetheart's steed to the riverbanks, waiting for her beloved to reappear. In 1813, she purchased a piece of property overlooking the river from which she maintained the daily watch – until she died, her love unrequited, in 1826 [sic].
  8. ^ Sarapin, Janice Kohl (1994). Old Burial Grounds of New Jersey. Rutgers University Press. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-0-8135-2111-4. The Gravestone in the Parking Lot. ... Back in the 1790s, Mary Ellis came to New Brunswick to stay with her younger sister, Margaret, and her husband, Colonel Anthony White.
  9. ^ Ricord, Frederick W. (1889). "White, Anthony Walton". In Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John (eds.). Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. Vol. VI (1st ed.). Appleton. White, Anthony Walton, soldier, born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, 7 July 1750; died there, 10 February 1803. ...

40°29′21.27″N 74°24′59.53″W / 40.4892417°N 74.4165361°W / 40.4892417; -74.4165361