Yorktown is dotted with historic cemeteries. Rather than places to be shunned, they are a gateway to the past and a stroll through any of them reminds one of the bonds that tie us simultaneously to the past and the present.
One of the earliest and most distinctive tombstones on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown is that of “Deacon David Knapp” who began the house at 3372 Old Crompond Road across from the Staples Shopping Center on Route 202 sometime after he bought the land in 1765. A farmer by profession, his service during Revolutionary War in Drake’s 3rd Westchester regiment is recognized by the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution. But as the wording on his tombstone indicates, his main wish to be remembered as a deacon of the Presbyterian Church during a time of increasing internal discord. Unfortunately, the homestead he started over two hundred years ago is about to demolished.
The pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in the late 18th century was Silas Constant. Born in Waterbury CT in 1750 to French colonel and an American mother, he was ordained in 1783 and served in two other towns before coming to Yorktown. Pastor Constant keep a diary that was edited and published in 1903 by his descendant, Emily Warren Roebling. This book remains a great source of information on the early families of Yorktown. Best known for her instrumental work in completing the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband developed caisson disease, this Cold Spring native was an extraordinary woman who obtained a law degree from New York University after the bridge was completed.
Entries in the diary indicate that Silas Constant was a frequent visitor to the Knapp House and that many church meetings and services took place at this household. However, the diary only hints at the internal divisions over church governance and religious views that would result in a split of the congregation in 1806, two years after David Knapp’s death. At that time, Pastor Constant and part of his flock left the main church on Crompond Road (route 202) and established a Congregational Church to the east. Although that church no longer stands, its graveyard still exists on Granite Springs Road--The Historic East-Yard Cemetary.
It appears that David Knapp and his descendants, many of whom lived in the house he started and were buried nearby, sided with the more traditional faction that remained with the First Presbyterian Church. Although the doctrinal divisions of that time may seem quaint to us today, there were probably as important to early Yorktown residents as the debates over religion in our country today. In fact, the rift between the these two congregations continued until 1865.
The Yorktown Historical Society has been trying to save the early post and beam frame and surviving original details of the Knapp House for use as a heritage center at another location as the Knapps played a central role in the creation of our town. At this point the prospects look very dim. If you support "Progress with Preservation" please let our town board and county representatives know as soon as possible. While we recognize the need for reasonable development, we also need to work with developers to preserve as much as we can of our past. Yorktown has already lost too that would add value to our town though careless destruction.