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Lawsuit pulled in cemetery dispute

January 5, 2019

GREENWICH — A lawsuit over an old cemetery in Byram has formally been withdrawn.

The official withdrawal of the suit filed by Jeffrey and Andrea Stewart against the town of Greenwich was entered late last month in Superior Court, ending extensive litigation.

Now the town, the Stewarts and the descendants of the people buried in the cemetery will work to enact an agreement that was reached between the parties, one that will mark and memorialize a burial ground believed to contain the remains of early black and Native American residents of Greenwich.

There will be additional signs and landscaping at a small section of the burial ground, known historically as the Colored Cemetery, below the larger Byram Cemetery.

The lawsuit arose when the town declared in 2017 its intention to take over the Byram Cemetery and declare the small part of land near the Stewarts’ house as part of the larger cemetery, under public ownership. The Stewarts sued the town over the move, citing concerns that substantial changes to the access by car to their property that could have followed. A group of descendants was later allowed by a judge to take part in the legal discussions.

According to the stipulation that the parties agreed to in the fall, the town will be officially recognized as the owner of the cemetery property. The Stewarts are allowed to maintain a driveway on their property, and it will be marked off with a low stone wall.

“A plaque paid for by the town commemorating the Byram African American cemetery will be placed on the stone wall or a boulder located on the Byram African American cemetery property,” according to the stipulation.

A descendant of the Lyon family whose members were interred there, Teresa Vega, said she was looking forward to having the site commemorated.

“With this settlement, our extended Lyon-Green-Merritt family now looks forward to telling the hidden history of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in Greenwich, Westchester, New York City and New Jersey as well as paying tribute to the men and women who are buried in all parts of the Byram Cemetery, including the Colored Cemetery section,” she wrote in an email.

The cemetery at Byram Shore Road had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Town officials said public ownership will help ensure proper maintenance.

The Byram Cemetery is one of the oldest in the area. Members of one of the first European families to settle in Greenwich, the Lyon family, were interred there, along with Revolutionary War soldiers. The interment of slaves associated with the Lyon family also took place in the 1700’s.

Edward Marcus, a lawyer for the Stewart family, characterized the deal as “a good deal.”

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com

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