After the parade on Memorial Day Monday, before the back yard barbecue, or perhaps in the evening before the sunsets, it might be a nice idea to take a stroll through Bay View Cemetery and think about those more than 300 souls buried there who joined whatever forces were helping defend the United States at that time in their lives. Perhaps it’s time to give special recognition to names that are still familiar to us, like Stryker and Cassone, Luke and Swan, as well as those not so familiar, like Rekzregel or Sory, or Hay.
Hay. That’s Fred Stewart Hay, aka, as his tombstone says, Frederick H. Schwabe. That’s his small, plain white stone just beneath the American flag as you enter the cemetery.
By either name, Fred or Frederick is a hero. Our hero. More than that, he is a Medal of Honor recipient, one of 3400 or so in the nation since it first honored heroism and bravery in the Civil War, one of only 426 who earned the honor during the Indian Wars, that series of conflicts that lasted from King Phillips’ War at the start of the 19th century for almost the next 100 years.
According to Medal of Honor records, Fred was born in 1850 in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and entered the US Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. At some point after his enlistment, Fred was in a small cavalry unit escorting a supply train to Battle Creek where they were to meet up with General Nelson Mile’s forces camped there. Miles, who himself also received a Medal of Honor for earlier action in the Civil War, was in desperate need of supplies and anxiously awaiting the train at Battle Creek. On Sept. 9, 1874, as the train came out of a canyon on the Upper Washita River in what is now Oklahoma, it was attacked by a large war party of Kiowa and Comanche warriors. Heavily outnumbered, according to reports, the American soldiers fought valiantly for an entire day and the train successfully moved towards its destination. Hay, who was a sergeant, was one of six soldiers cited for their gallantry that day. The battle continued for another two days, and in addition to Hay and the other five who earned honors on the first day, another seven soldiers were also cited for their continuing efforts before the train finally reached the 650-man force and General Miles. Sometimes, it’s too easy for us to forget the tremendous loss of life on both sides during our Civil War.
Sgt. Hay died Jan. 14, 1914 at age 64, though it is unknown how or when he came to Monmouth County, or why his family chose this serene, locally significant cemetery for his final resting place.
Although it is not specifically known where in the cemetery Sgt, Hay’s remains rest, the Association thought it important to be sure every visitor to Bay View knew about the Medal of Honor recipient and placed his stone at the entrance. The tall American flag that waves behind it is tended by the Atlantic Highlands American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
Capt. George Porter is also buried at Bay View Cemetery. Capt. Porter fought at the Battle of Mobile under Admiral Farragut during the Civil War and had began his career in the Navy as a signal boy, a title considered so important that it is engraved on his tombstone, along with his rank of Captain, as “the only signal boy in the US Navy.”
William Sory is probably not the only Confederate soldier buried at Bay View Cemetery. Born in Virginia, Sory was a private in the CSA, CO. G, part of the Virginia Infantry. One wonders what brought a Confederate to the North to finish out the rest of his life after battling those who live here. Manager Walter Curry said it is believed there are some other Confederate military members who fought for the South also interred at Bay View.
The list goes on, and each veteran’s story is important, whether known or committed to the ages.
The cemetery itself has a fascinating history, a well cared for, beloved resting place for generations of families from the Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, Leonardo, Navesink, Belford, and Chapel Hill areas. It started, according to Thomas Leonard, in his ancestor’s law office in 1889 when a group of residents saw the need for a burial ground and formed a company to purchase the land. Attorney Leonard became the secretary of the first company y, with former Judge Sickles the chairman of the new Bay View Land Improvement Company, LTD. The cemetery association was organized and 52 Acres of land carved from R.A. Leonard’s farm were purchased for $13, 300. Each of the partners agreed to purchase a lot in the cemetery, and that was the first money put towards maintain and improving the land.
Visit the cemetery. Think about the men and women buried there, not only the veterans but everyone. Take a good look at the names on the gravestones, names that still resonate throughout the Bayshore. Think of the late Mayor Everett Curry who tended this cemetery for so many years and seemed to be on a first name basis with all who are buried there. The former Mayor lovingly tended the graves for 20 years, until 1994. Thank his son and former Councilman Walter Curry, who also worked at the cemetery part time since 1978 and now full time since 2000.
Remember all who died for the nation on this Memorial Day. And remember all those from the Bayshore in a special way for the contributions they and their families have made for generations.