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Shelter Island history revealed for all to see

In observance of Independence Day, The Shelter Island Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have reclaimed the headstone of Anna Havens Fosdick (1729-1782), a Revolutionary wife, mother and daughter.

Anna’s headstone was sunk deep into the ground of the Presbyterian Church historic burying ground.

Anna was the wife of Patriot and surgeons’ mate, Captain Thomas Updike Fosdick of the 6th Connecticut Regiment (1725-1776). Her headstone was only partially readable, until June 3, when preservationists Joel Snodgrass and Zachary Studenroth dug a trench around Anna’s headstone, using a metal tripod. They then gingerly pulled on a metal chain to hoist up the large, beautifully-carved brownstone.

Anna’s is now the tallest headstone in the oldest section of the burying ground.

The daughter of Jonathan Havens and Catherine Nicoll Havens, Anna bore 11 children in 19 years. She suffered all the indignities and challenges that Islanders endured during the British occupation of Shelter Island, dying at the early age of 53.

Anna’s father, Jonathan Havens II, was the grandson of early settler George Havens and Eleanor Terry Thurston Havens. He inherited the family’s thousand acres.

In 1742, Jonathan donated a half-acre of land to be used for the first church and burying ground. A year later, in association with other founding Island fathers, the first house of worship was built under the supervision of Brinley Sylvester. The Presbyterian church today occupies the same historic site.

Anna’s Mother, Catherine Nicoll, was the daughter of William Nicoll and Anna Van Rensselaer. Her father William was a well-known lawyer, attorney general for the Province of New York and the Patentee of Islip Grange.

Her grandfather, Matthias Nicoll, was mayor and secretary of the New York province. Her mother Anna was the daughter of Jeremias Van Rensselaer and Maria Van Cortland, and widow of Kilian Van Rensselaer, her cousin.

Due to the generosity of the Shelter Island chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, more than 100 historic headstones and monuments in the Presbyterian burying ground have been lovingly cleaned and restored over the past 10 years.

Anyone wishing a guided tour of this historic site to learn more about the lives of our Island founding families and Revolutionary Patriots can contact DAR Honorary Regent Joy Bausman at 631-749-1203 or Chapter Historian Karen Kiaer at 917-912-4748.