There are numerous historic sites in Wantagh, New York with unforgettable stories and history. That’s the case with the St. John of Jerusalem Cemetery on Wantagh Avenue. The building is very aged, but stands with great pride. The rock foundation and large windows of the cathedral really invites you in, even though it’s borded up.
In the mid-1800’s, German immigrants came to Jerusalem (before it was called Wantagh) from New York City. They were led by Johann D. Bulling and were all members of the German Methodist Church of America. Once they settled in the area, the need for a German preacher was granted and Rev. George Able was assigned in 1854.
Up until 1856, services were held in people’s homes. Once the community gave them one acre of land, a church and cemetery was built. The church itself took years to build because of insufficient finances and the Civil War, but by 1862, the cemetery had 40 lots of eight graves, each sold for $5. The first person to be buried was 48-year old Frederick Doscher on September of that year. By 1872, the prices of plots doubled.
Throughout the years they added different features to the religious ceremonies. For example, they offered to ring the church bell during a burial for an additional 25 cents. Members of the church also agreed that people who were not members needed to show a birth certificate signed by a doctor in order to be buried.
The newer generations of the church did not want German to be the main language of its services and records. Because of this the mission grew smaller. Its last record was on Aug. 1, 1912 and until 1926 it sat vacant. Soon after, the Lutherans used the building for their services with Pastor Miller of Freeport leading the way. The mission church held its first service on Thanksgiving Day that year.
For 14 years services were held in the church. In 1940, they moved to another location on Hyland Road. Not until 1949 was the church used again, this time by the United Christian Group, who held services there for 20 years.
Today the church sits quiet next to the cemetery, which was fenced in during the late 1930’s. Most of the men who are buried there were soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Civil War and Vietnam War.