Port Chester Troop 6 Boy Scout Daniel Vitagliano earned his new title of Eagle Scout in a unique way this November. Vitagliano spent months researching public records and recording information from Rye Town African American cemetery to develop an interactive online map of the cemetery.
Vitagliano’s map can be found on the Town of Rye website here.
On Saturday, Nov. 24, Rye Town veterans held a ceremony honoring veterans interred at the site. They also took the time to celebrate Vitagliano for his diligent work creating the interactive map, which helps to record an important piece of local history.
The cemetery includes the remains of about a dozen individuals who served in the Colored Troops of the US Army in the Civil War, and there are a total of about 20 veterans interred there.
“As Rev. Washington said at an earlier ceremony, these are folks that fought for values and principles it would take 100 years for them to enjoy,” Vitagliano's father Aldo pointed out.
January 1, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and May, 2013 is the 150th anniversary for when African American troop regiments were formed, which makes the timing of Vitagliano’s project more significant.
At the ceremony, Frank P. Trotta Jr. from The Lincoln Institute, presented Vitagliano with a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Read Daniel Vitagliano’s speech (courtesy of Dave Thomas) given at the Nov. 24 ceremony below:
We are gathered here today to honor the contributions that African Americans made to the Rye town community and our country.
I personally find it quite remarkable that during the years it took to complete my project, and today as I speak to you now, our country reflects upon the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and the freeing of the slaves. It marked a pivotal step forward for the progress African Americans made, and rights they wouldn’t gain for about another hundred years.
Many of the people interred here, made great contributions to our country and our Rye Town community many of us now live in today.
For example, Charles Francis Jr. who died December 12th of 1932, was a veteran of World War I, and a member of St. Francis A. M. E. Zion, and the esteemed lecturing knight of H. Adolph Howell Lodge in Port Chester.
Also interred here is Reverend Eugene Rodgers, who died on March 19th of 1950. He as well was a veteran of World War I, and was an assistant pastor of St Francis A. M. E. Zion Church.
As well as. Mrs. Laura Griffin, who died at 57 years old, who in the obituary was known as “One of the oldest and most highly respected colored residents of Port Chester
I would like to give a special thanks to the members of the African American Cemetery Committee, including Mr. David Thomas, and Mr. Tom Kissner, who enabled me to partake in this project, here at the cemetery.
I would also like to thank Mr. Vincent Lyons, my scoutmaster, and Mrs. Linda Lyons, my Eagle Scout advisor. As well as my parents of course, who constantly encouraged me and offered assistance throughout my project. None of this would be possible without them.
I would also like to give a special thank you to all those who volunteered and contributed their time to help assist me in this project, including my friends, family, and other troop members and their families.
These were ordinary people in our community who made our community what it is. Through the research uncovered, many people interested in those interred here can now easily research obituaries, death certificates, and military records, and pinpoint the exact location of those interred.
These people ought to be remembered just as everyone else who has passed from this life, and although physical alterations may occur, the history of these people, our fellow man will stand firm. Please visit the Rye Town website to view these findings.