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  • Karen Edmond

Why the Rock Family Volunteer Historic Cemetery Care Project Has Been Stymied By NAD & Ruffin Family

St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church representative told the Rock Family to stop providing resources and care to historic Pine Brook/Shadow Rest Cemetery. Primarily because of property disputes per Trustee Carl Bowles of St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church of Pine Brook. Bowles shared that representatives of the Naval Weapons Station of Earle - (NAD: Naval Ammunition Depot) and the Ruffin family have requested that all care and or maintenance be halted at historic Pine Brook/Shadow Rest Cemetery Grounds. The Pine Brook/Shadow Rest Cemetery Grounds are located at Ruffin Court in Tinton Falls, N.J. The project's mission was to raise funding within the family to provide maintenance care to historic Pine Brook Burial Grounds. The Rock family launched a volunteer care project after a meeting of the minds occurred at a Rock Family Gathering on August 27, 2017, in Lincroft, NJ. At that time, family members agreed upon three primary concerns.

Those primary concerns were:

  1. To have consistent annual family gatherings.

  2. Care for historic graveyards of Pine Brook and to

  3. Relaunch historic family newspaper The Echo est. 1904

(Pictured below is where William Rock's Sumnersett Publishing Company outlined in red) location in Red Bank NJ. Office supply shop was located on Beech Street now called Drs Parker Ave In RB)

Norris Branham of "Turtle Gang Edutainment" and Rock family historian brought everyone up to date on the state of the historic cemetery. Many family members had no idea of the condition that burial grounds were in and did not know where cemetery was located. The family's volunteer coordinator, designated to inquire and work with St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church of Pine Brook, was non-other than Ms. Karen Brittingham-Edmond. As the Rock Family Volunteer Cemetery Care Liaison, I volunteered to draft a letter of inquiry to offer assistance regarding cemetery grounds maintenance to St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church of Pine Brook. Said notification was approved by family members and sent to the attention of St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church Pastor Lester Baylor and trustee board.

(Pictured below Norris Branham Rock Family Historian)

Once authorized by church leadership, Trustee Carl Bowles was designated as the go-to person so that the Rock Family Volunteer Cemetery Care Project could begin caring for cemetery grounds under his supervision. Consistent care was provided to the entire cemetery grounds on a seasonal basis starting November 2018. B & K Grounds Maintenance of Lincroft was the contracting business that provided consistent grounds care to the historic landmark. Over the years, the Rock Family Historic Cemetery Care Project obtained one-time funding from the Monmouth Ocean County Pan-Hellenic Council thanks to the advocacy of Councilman Kevin McMillan of Neptune, NJ. Plus, volunteer assistance from the New Jersey Youth Corps of Middlesex County Program Coordinator and Underground Rail Road enthusiast Ms. Ushindi Lewis.

(Pictured below are William Rock's Publisher of The Echo Great-great-great children (L) Shamer Scott & Dylan Clay-Edmond to the right Brian of B & K Maintenance of Lincroft & Great grand child of William Rock Trustee Carl Bowles of St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Pine Brook August 2020.)

(Pictured below (L) Trustee Carl Bowles, (Ctr) Kevin McMillan,

(R) Karen Brittingham-Edmond 2019)

Rock family volunteer coordinator Karen Brittingham-Edmond drafted a memorandum of agreement on behalf of St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church and N.J. Youth Corps of Middlesex County. Witnessed by NJ Youth Corps of Middlesex Crew Leader Kevin Fassett. Assisting with the partnering of the historic church and Youth Corps of Middlesex NJ was my honor. Because my Great Grandmother Cat Richardson helped to found the Pine Brook Fire Station and attended Pine Brook Church. Plus, my Great Grandfather William Rock and his siblings grew up on Squankum Road in Pine Brook and attended historic Pine Brook A.M.E.Zion Church as children. This was the least I could do.

(Before pictures At historic cemetery grounds.)

The church provided lunch for youth volunteers plus historical enrichment information that made the volunteer program both a fun, informative, and worthy effort thanks to the donations provided by the Rock Family & Pan-Hellenic Council. The Rock Family Volunteer Coordinator also reached out to the T.Thomas Fortune Cultural Center to promote an effort to build awareness and empathy regarding preserving historic African American institutions and history in Monmouth County called "The Monmouth County Freedom Story." Wherewith the T. Thomas Fortune Historical Department so graciously supported the family's effort by producing two narrative mini-documentaries.

(After maintenance of site pictures of historic cemetery grounds. With William Elijah Rock's Great Great Great Grandchildren saying a pray of thanks for their ancestors.

Below to the (R) Shamer Scott (R-front) Dylan Clay-Edmond)

Some of the family members who gave monetary funding consistently for grounds care at historic Pine Brook Cemetery from 2018 - 2020 were:

  • Mr. Aaron Rock

  • Ms. Karen Brittingham-Edmond

  • Mr. Joshua & Mrs. Brittany Edmond

  • Dr. Seth & Mrs. Jordan Edmond- Egu

  • Mr. Jason Hughes

  • Miss. Ariel Edmond

  • Mr. Darryl Hughes

  • Mr. Kai Shomo

  • Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Carol Rock

  • Mr. Judah & Mrs. Shauna Edmond

  • Ms. Jinni Rock-Bailey

  • Mr. William Brittingham

  • Mr. Pauly Rock (deceased)

  • Mr. Kala Ligon

(After maintenance pictures)

Cemetery grounds are located at Ruffin Court in now what is called Tinton Falls, N.J. The site consists of three individual churchyards under the umbrella of one primary location. Pine Brook is the translated name of what 1st nation tribes called the area in the first place. The land is located on an N.J. Commission of Indian Affairs recognized American Indian Burial Ground. "This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."

When entering the site from Ruffin Court to your right, you will see Shadow Rest Cemetery. This area is primarily made up of Civil War Soldiers such as Rev James Palmer and Richard P Revey of the Color Troop Infantry. Shadow Rest Cemetery is a large portion of land adjacent to the historic 1st Nation burial ground. As you go deeper down the old dirt road, you will come across to your left to the Pine Brook Churchyard plus Ruffin Cemetery burial grounds. This area comprises primarily but not only Rocks, Reeveys, Berrys, Foxes, Reeves, Thompsons, Richards, Whites, Ruffins, and Schencks. The Cemetery was established in 1852. But regarding the land - being a 1st Nation burial ground - that could go back for thousands of years. We know that the oldest grave stone at the site is of Abraham Rock, a slave dating back to the 1700s.

(Reference from Author Julian Rock Esq Book "Less We Forget" Rock History.)

The land and the people buried there are the direct descendants of Lenni Lenape tribesmen & women and the people who participated in the Pine Brook Slave Rebellion of the early 1800's that forced their slaveholders to emancipate them as a whole by 1823. It is a place where the publisher of the Echo, NJ's oldest Black-owned newspaper, was born and raised as a child. His Great Grandfather Peter Rock was given land to him by his Grandfather Joseph Fleming of Shrewsbury NJ. The Fleming's were known for their Indian Plantations. Several sites bearing the Fleming name in N.J. are directly associated with the enslavement of N.J. tribes. Those sites are Fleming Indian Plantation of Raritan Twp & Flemming NJ.

Once receiving his manumission document, the land secured by Peter Rock would later become an instrumental part of the Antebellum Underground Railroad. The Rock farm was used as a station for the underground railroad. The location provided those participating in the Monmouth County Pine Brook Slave & Indentured Servant Rebellion found a place of refuge plus protection provided by Peter Rock and his Lenni Lenape tribesmen kin whose presence was still evident at the time in the area.

(Depiction of being paddled with nails in the Antebellum South was known for their extreme disregard to human life and child abuse.)

Per elder narratives, Lenni Lenape Tribal Warriors would congregate and march up Squankum Road per their procession dressed in their traditional attire. Their mere presence struck fear in White settlers in the area because of their command in presence. Many of the old African American families with ancestry link back to the early and late 1700's located in Monmouth County, NJ, are directly related to this Lenni Lenape tribespeople who resided in Pine Brook N.J. They would later be joined by their Cherokee cousins who were experiencing land encroachment issues in North Carolina. Those families linked directly to Cherokee ancestry are The Richardsons, Garland, Berry, Bowles, and Hebrons of Monmouth County, N.J.

(Below are the Great grandchildren of the original Cherokee tribe that fled from Georgia because of land encroachment) - Correction provided by the jtgroup provided 8/14/2021

Land encroachment issues arose because individual tribe leaders would attend meetings and sign treaties with colonists. They did not have the authority to do so because of the Native American Confederacy Act of 1812. The Confederacy was made up of various 1st nation tribes, including Lenape that made it known throughout the land that no land delegation could be authorized without the united native tribal confederacy permission here on the East Coast. Hence any individual tribal leaders lured into any agreement of relinquishing land in North America on the East Coast was technically null and void. Because they did not have permission to do such action unless the Native American Confederacy as a whole permitted to do so plus witnessed event. On a side note the Native American Confederacy was made up of approx 40 tribes here on the East Coast and was growing exponentially between 1800's to 1812. Shawnee leader Tecumseh gained renown for organizing confederacy to oppose American expansion in Native American lands.

(Pictured below an depiction of Chief Tecumseh from 1818)

Unfortunately, a backlash occurred out of fear of the possibility that Africans and North American Tribes' people might unite and take back-country, especially since so many African people were developing relationships with 1st nation tribesmen & women. Hence the two groups were becoming one. Outside of the five civilized tribes were loads of 1st Nation tribes voicing their anger to the government regarding the institution of chattel slavery, broken or illegal treaties, and colonist treatment of children. Not to mention N.J.'s stand in regards to the non-emancipation of people of color. In short, N.J. had no intentions of complying with the anti-slavery efforts of the north. Which further agitated en-captured

  • Africans

  • North American 1st Nation Tribes on the East Coast plus

  • Quaker, Dutch, and Scottish abolitionist.

In 1849 "Dr. John S. Rock of Salem, a leading Afro-American New Jerseyan, shared that N.J. and southern states are the same." Archives documents further state that Dr. Rock said, "When it was proposed to the legislature that N.J. secede from the Union, Dr. Rock considered the idea hypocritical. Because slavery still existed in N.J." Dr. John S Rock then stated in 1849 "that She (N.J.) has always been an ardent supporter of the peculiar institution [slavery] - the watchdog for the Southern plantations; and unless she shows her faith by her works, we will not believe in her." (Afro Americans in New Jersey Introduction pg 13)

(Pictured below is the second Rock Family Gathering at Historic Thompson Park once called the Wither's Plantation where Great Great Grandmother Emma Schenck was an indentured Lenape servant. Great Grandmother Schenck spoke 12 dialects of Lenape. She is the publisher William Elijah Rock of The Echo Newspaper mother. Her Lenape name meant Echo)

Despite Monmouth County's history of bias, those enslaved and indentured folks would rise out of slavery, establish businesses, build churches, produce newspapers, and fight in the Civil War to abolish slavery. Plus, obtain freedom for everyone as a whole. So the historical burial ground has a lot of factual evidence plus sentiment regarding the area from the direct descendants who still reside in Monmouth County, NJ, plus attend and support historic African American Churches. It is linked to a point and time of when and where Black people fought and took back their freedom in Monmouth County, NJ. Burial ground provides evidence of who their descendants are and what they accomplished in their life time.

(Below picture of Pine Brook Cemetery to the back left are approximately 40 tiny white grave markers we noticed at sight per our last visit and maintenance of site in November 2020)

And it was a noble and a good thing for the Rock family of Pine Brook to seek to bring burial grounds up to snub. Out of respect for our ancestors. But to the Rock family and St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church Trustee Carl Bowles surprise. People began to bury local citizens at the historic sites without churches or Ruffin family permission. When we started in 2018 to clear leaves, cut weeds, lawns, and manicure plots in 2018, two or three fresh graves appeared at the churchyard. By 2020 there are approximately 40 people buried at the site, primarily on the Berry portion of land. Trustee Carl Bowles let us know that Rock Family Volunteer Grounds Care can resume once the city, Ruffin Family, and the church can determine why funeral homes have restarted utilizing historic burial grounds without the church's permission.

Another twist to the story is that the Stavolla Old Bridge Asphalt Company somehow managed to cross the tracks and purchase land on historic cemetery grounds. Without the permission of the whole group of stakeholders of land. Which includes,

  • St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion of Pine Brook

  • Ruffin Family

  • NJ Indian Commission,

  • Plus, direct descendants of the said churchyard.

Preponderantly the Rock family had little to no relationships with the Stavolla's because of a bad business incident in the past. Here's the scoop.

(Pictured below is Grandfather Leroy Rock electrician by trade)

Mr. William Elijah Rock's son, had an electrician business. His name was Leroy Rock. There was a great storm in Sea Bright, and he was to be the primary electrical contracting company hired to repair the site after the flood. But Monmouth County purposely snubbed him and gave the business opportunity to the newly established immigrant company Stavolla.This opportunity prospered them and left my Grandfather Leroy Rock, a certified and seasoned electrician plus veteran robbed, broken in spirit, and prosperity.Many people were angry about the incident and talk of it up until this day.

Because this outright discrimination tactic has never been addressed, said tactic is still used today on Black business owners. Racist White leadership purposely gives contract opportunities to anybody but the Black native population. This injustice ultimately spiraled my Grandfather into alcoholism. That eventually killed him. From 1910 to 1970, the KKK had organized to block Black businesses from the Horse racing industry here in Monmouth County, N.J. Including trying to bar Black horse merchants from raising fine thoroughbred horses that made the county rich in the first place and or feeding Black horsemen thoroughbreds registered to race - glass so that they were unable to win. Hence systematically pushing Black native population out of the industry so that they could give opportunity to others.

With the

  • Hiking of taxes

  • Redlining of territory

  • Illegally taking of homesteads

  • Plus, outright systematic racism

Monmouth County racist leadership has damn near stole everything from most Black American families in the area. Except for their historic churches and burial grounds and now systematic racism under the guise of legal actions, pop culture, and land procurement is trying to steal or destroy those historic sites as well. Just to erase the history and make believe that certain people never existed in area.

In closing, we can hope that this is not another setup by White nonprofits to block said project from advancing. White nonprofits in Monmouth County tend to be the middleman who positions themselves to take credit for Black organized projects. On the most part, White nonprofits tend to position themselves to obtain the grants that may be in the works for historic African American sites or what should be shared equally with Black citizenship. With the intention to keeping said monetary resources to themselves & giving them to others because well "they think Black people have had enough." (Remember what Dr. John Rock noted.) Please enjoy The Winans' "Break up that fallow ground. & AWB Pick up the pieces" Peace

(Pictured above Cousin Norris Branham of Turtle Gang Edutainment with fellow 1st nation descendant of N.J.)

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