Two local Hopewell Valley residents, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck, are formally working on a local history Stoutsburg Cemetery book project with Princeton New Jersey-based consulting and publishing company, Wild River Books, announced the publishing company yesterday.
Funded in part by the Bunbury Company, the book spans over three centuries of untold stories, contributions, and legacies of countless African Americans in the region, since the Colonial Period. Co-authors, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck, are both Trustees of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association and descendants of those buried there.
The most common response Mills and Buck hear after their frequent presentations about African Americans in the Central Jersey region is, “I never knew there was slavery in New Jersey.”
It is not widely known that New Jersey, as one of the original thirteen colonies, was not only a slave-holding state but was also one of the last northern states to abolish slavery through legislation in 1821.
“We are met with stares of utter amazement from Whites, but more sadly, Blacks, because this side of history has not been talked about or, more importantly, taught in our schools,” said co-author Beverly Mills, who will be receiving this year’s Pennington Historical Preservation Award for her commitment to preserving the unique heritage in the region.
The Stoutsburg Cemetery is located at the foot of the Sourland Mountains, exactly halfway between New York City and Philadelphia. The Cemetery, now led by president John B. Buck, was originally purchased in 1858 by three men for the exclusive use as a burial ground for people of color who could not be buried with Whites. It is believed that the land bordered a pre-exiting cemetery when purchased.
“I grew up hearing about the Stoutburg Cemetery and community all my life,” explained Mills. “As the oldest granddaughter, I was the first to hear about what life was like on the mountain. Imagine my shock to learn that enslaved people were instrumental in building this region and contributed to their communities in every respect — they built churches and neighborhoods, served in wars dating back to the Revolution, and excelled in education, music, and the arts. We want to put faces with the stories because there are many.”
Co-author Elaine Buck added, “We want the public to know how and why the land was purchased. Blacks were separated even in death. The land was purchased so that Blacks would have a place to be buried with dignity. Our ancestors left their footprints in Hopewell Valley, Pennington, Princeton, Stoutsburg, Rocky Hill, Blawenburg, Trenton, Lambertville, Mercer, Hunterdon and Somerset, Monmouth Counties, and surrounding areas. History books are missing this untold story, which impacts Black lives to the present day.”
“We are honored to be publishing the history of the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association project, which lines up directly with our mission as a company,” said Joy E. Stocke, Co-Founder of Wild River Books. “Wild River seeks to elevate difficult conversations—and bring fresh perspectives and important stories to new audiences in print and digital formats. The history of slavery in the United States remains a hot-button issue that is too often missing full historical context.”
About Wild River Books and Wild River Consulting & Publishing: With over thirty years of publishing, editing, design, and marketing experience, Wild River Books upholds the top standards of the industry. Through editorial consultation, marketing, publicity expertise, and crafted packaging, Wild River Books helps authors tell and promote stories that make a difference in the world. Through Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC, Wild River Books also runs the international online literary and arts magazine, Wild River Review (www.wildriverreview.com), with loyal readers from every corner of the world.