For a long time in East Hampton, people have been hearing tales of the grave site of Ned.
Known only by his first name, the inscription on his 1817 gravestone had once read “Ned, Faithful Negro Manservant to Captain Jeremiah Osborn.”
But the stone, which was in Springs, has not been seen in years, and when East Hampton Town’s nature preserve committee set out about five years ago to catalogue the town’s small abandoned family grave plots, they also set out in search of Ned.
This month, they believe, they may have found his resting place. But the stone is long gone.
Nature preserve committee co-chairman Richard Whalen told the East Hampton Town Board on Dec. 3 that he had seen the grave in the early 1980s somewhere in the then-new subdivision of Morris Park Estates.
He said a 1988 survey on file in the building department shows the location of the grave, but the spot now is part of someone’s backyard, with a barbecue pit and landscaping surrounding a site that was once marked off with the town’s white rail fences which are used to denote old grave sites.
“It’s a half-acre lot in a suburban part of the town, in someone’s backyard behind their house,” he said. “When I [first] saw it, it had a white post fence and the lawn was mowed.”
Nature preserve committee member Russ Calemmo surmised that, at some point when the property changed hands, a prior owner had gotten rid of any external sign of the grave’s existence in preparation for the sale. He asked town board members to propose to the current owner that Ned be disinterred and reinterred in one of the town’s other small burying grounds.
“This is not something we’ve ever done before,” said Mr. Whelan. “Ned was respected by the people who buried him 200 years ago. He should have the respect of having his burial venerated.”
Mr. Whalen said, however, that his group has no recommendation for where Ned should now be buried.
“We would convey a quick claim deed to the owner to make sure his deed is clean,” he said.
Town board member Theresa Quigley suggested the new burial site be made open to the public, possibly at the town’s Lester-Labrozzi farm museum property at the intersection of Cedar Street and North Main Street.
“I think it’s wonderful, important, terrific you guys did this work,” said Ms. Quigley. “I suggest the remains be put someplace very public. Having it squished between two houses makes it awkward for the public.”
But Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was concerned that if Ned had any family, they would want a say in where he’s buried.
“I just want to treat this with reverence,” he said.
“We don’t know who his family is,” said Mr. Whalen.