Incorporated January 18, 1884 as the Cortlandt Cemetery Association of Peekskill, NY. Hillside is a non-sectarian cemetery serving the Peekskill and Cortlandt communities.
Around 1750, a plot of land of about 4 acres was set aside for a church and burial ground. In 1770, by royal charter, this tract was assigned to St. Peter’s Church. The church graveyard served as a burial ground for all of the town of Cortlandt, and became crowded as the local population grew.
Hillside Cemetery began in the 1860s and 1870s, as lands neighboring St. Peter’s were acquired to use as burial spaces. Sadly, there was no management of this cemetery and the grounds took on a neglected and disheveled look. In response, the Cortlandt Cemetery Association of Peekskill, NY was formed on January 15, 1884.
The first officers were George W. Robertson, President; John N. Tilden, Vice President; Sanford R. Knapp, Secretary and Treasurer; Isaac T. Montross; Stephen D. Horton; William D. Southard; James T. Sutton; John Halsted; and Stephen Lent. All were all prominent men in the Peekskill and Cortlandt areas. They immediately set out to repairs the roads, build receiving vaults, and to lay out and map the property. They acquired about 84 more acres, creating a tract of 96 acres.
An electronic bell was installed in 1899 at the cemetery entrance. As a funeral procession arrived, the bell tolled out the number of years that the deceased person lived. This bell was programmed before the burial by the Hillside superintendent. Upon arrival, the funeral director pulled a switch and the bell would ring out the correct number. This bell is now in the indoor mausoleum at Hillside.
Buried at Hillside are 30 members of the Van Cortlandt family, dating to 1766. Here is entombed Chauncey M. Depew, US Senator, President of the New York Central Railroad, and one of the most famous men of his day. Ornate monuments and mausoleums mark the graves of foundry owners and other industrialists whose factories drove the growth of the Peekskill area in the late 19th century. Here at Hillside also rest those who worked in those factories, along with farmers and tradespeople.
Today, Hillside remains a non-sectarian, not-for-profit cemetery drawing from a wide cross-section of the local population. Descendants of old local families still find their final resting place here, as do those who are more recently arrived.