Gravesend Cemetery, located in Brooklyn at Gravesend Neck Road at McDonald Avenue, dating back to the 1650s, was designated a landmark on March 23, 1976.
It is a small cemetery of 1.6 acres. Many of the oldest gravestones have been lost.
The neighborhood of Gravesend lies between Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay and is bounded to the north by Avenue P, to the east by Ocean Parkway, to the south by Avenue Z, and to the west by Bay Parkway.
It was one of the six original towns of Kings County, settled in 1643 by a group of English religious dissenters led by Lady Deborah Moody, a cultured and tough-fibered Englishwoman. Historians believe this to be the only American colony founded by a woman.
With the consent of the Dutch, she bought the property from the Canarsie Indians for one blanket, one kettle, some wampum, three guns and three pounds of gunpowder. Her colony included Coney Island, which the Indians called Narrioch.
Born in England, Lady Moody had left her homeland because she had been denied freedom of conscience. She moved to New England, where she encountered further intolerance, and then made her way to the more liberal New Netherland. Lady Moody was an Anabaptist, which meant she didn’t believe in the baptism of children and rather thought it was a ceremony that should wait until adulthood.
Until her death in 1659, she was an active leader in her community. Even the authoritarian Dutch Director-General of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, sought her opinion from time to time. Lady Moody is believed to be buried in Gravesend Cemetery.
Lady Moody put forward a four-square plan centered at what is now the intersection of McDonald Avenue and Gravesend Neck Road. The town was named for an English city at the mouth of the River Thames and was covered by farmland until the late 1800s, when three racetracks and the resort of Coney Island were developed nearby.