Historic Howell cemetery has fresh look following cleanup in wake of storm

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HOWELL – The Abner Thorp Cemetery at 300 Southard Ave. is looking better these days   after it was cleared of debris following a violent summer storm. Several graves at the cemetery date from the Revolutionary War era.

A wind and rain storm during the early evening hours of July 22 came up fast, hit hard and left almost 19,000 Howell residences and businesses without power. The cemetery was damaged by trees that were brought down by the storm.

The cemetery is near a trail at the Manasquan Reservoir and the Monmouth County Park System is tasked with maintaining the reservoir and the cemetery.

Tom Fobes, director of operations for the Monmouth County Park System, said a lot of damage was done during the storm.

“The area where Peskin Road and Southard Avenue come together really had a lot of damage and that is right where the graveyard is. Large trees came down” at the site, he said.

Fobes said park system rangers initially attempted to clear the trees, but quickly realized the trees were too large and heavy.

“We were afraid that if we continued that (work), we would do more damage than good. (Trees) were resting on top of a lot of the grave stones,” he said.

The park system has a contracted tree service and Fobes said a decision was made to call in professionals to undertake the cleanup.

“We had to get on (the company’s) schedule since the job was going to require a large crane .. With all of the other work that was being done, it took a bit of time to get them in. We were finally able to get them (to the cemetery) at the beginning of September with a crane to lift some of the very large heavy stuff up and off the gravestones.

“We were able to clean up the cemetery with our contractor and come back in with park rangers (to finish) the cleanup and make it look nice. The New Jersey Water Supply Authority put up a new fence around the graveyard to replace what was destroyed. Any gravestones that were damaged were put back into place,” Fobes said.

The cleanup was completed in mid-October.

Ann Julian of the Howell Heritage and Historical Society said Thorp (1731-1812) was part of the revolution and a friend to George Washington.

“It was not unusual to have family burial close by the family residence and a lot of times close to the church to which the family belonged. All that being said, Abner Thorp from what I understand was a friend of George Washington and was probably something like a bookkeeper for Washington,” Julian said.

Thorp is buried at the small cemetery.

“About 30 to 35 years ago the original headstone had deteriorated. One of the members of (a previous) historical society petitioned Washington, D.C., and veterans groups and had a new headstone placed at the Thorp grounds,” Julian said.