Just in time for Halloween, here’s a letter from Washington Irving — author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — about the founding of a cemetery in Tarrytown, New York. Organizers planned to build the new resting place near the Old Dutch Church because its small burial ground was too full (even if its most famous denizen, the legendary headless horseman who pursued Ichabod Crane, was so often up and about).
Alas, it was still called Tarrytown when Irving was buried there, but six years after his death, the town renamed it the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
In 1996, the small village of North Tarrytown actually changed their town name to Sleepy Hollow.
Here’s what Irving wrote to Gaylord Clark, editor of the Knickerbocker Magazine:
My Dear Clark:
I send you herewith a plan of a rural cemetery projected by some of the worthies of Tarrytown, on the woody hills adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Church. I have no pecuniary interest in it, yet I hope it may succeed, as it will keep that beautiful and umbrageous neighborhood sacred from the anti-poetical and all-leveling axe. Besides, I trust that I shall one day lay my bones there. The projectors are plain matter-of-fact men, but are already, I believe, aware of the blunder which they have committed in naming it the “Tarrytown,” instead of the “Sleepy Hollow” Cemetery. The latter name would have been enough of itself to secure the patronage of all desirous of sleeping quietly in their graves.
I hope as the spring opens you will accompany me in one of my brief visits to Sunnyside, when we will make another trip to Sleepy Hollow, and (thunder and lightning permitting) have a colloquy among the tombs.
Yours, very truly,
New York, April 27, 1849″
And a Happy Halloween to one and all.