Presently, Mary Ann’s gravestone is in a sad state of despair. It is broken and totally illegible. It has been 156 years since Mary Ann’s death and the ravages of time have taken its toll. Less than a decade ago her name could still be seen, today that too has faded away. Her gravestone originally read: Mary Ann Perigo, daughter of Clarissa and Thomas Perigo died April 11, 1856, 14 years, 7 months, and 2 days. She died just 5 months before her 15th birthday. Members of the Perigo Family are numerous in Sussex County, NJ. In researching this family we find a Thomas and Sarah (Kimble) Perigo living in Frankford Township. They were married by “Squire Francis Price” in 1765. We believe these are Mary Ann’s great- grandparents. Thomas and Sarah had a son John, who married a Phebe Kimball in 1806 in Frankford Township .John and Phebe, are Mary Ann’s grandparents, and are believed to be the parents of Thomas Perigo who married a Clarissa Darling. Thomas and Clarissa (Darling) Perigo are the parents of our “Mary Ann” and were also residents of Frankford Township. Mary Ann was the youngest of four children that included John born in 1836, Nancy Jane born in 1837, Thomas born in 1839 and Mary Ann born in 1841.
Following Mary Ann’s family through the census records of Sussex County we find them living in Newton, N.J. in 1850. Thomas and Clarissa are farm laborers. In 1860 the family is living on a farm owned by Joseph Vannoy in Montague, NJ and again they are farm laborers but Mary Ann is not listed with them as she died in 1856. During the 10 years of the census records from 1850 to 1860 we don’t know the journey of this family. Considering that they were tenant farmers it seems safe to assume that they were working for or friends of one of the land owners along the Old Mine Road in Sandyston Township when Mary Ann died. Out of kindness to the family for their loss they were offered a plot in the Mettler Cemetery. We say this because the Perigo Family did not leave the area, but went on to Montague to work. In 1863 we find Mary Ann’s brothers Thomas and John living in Montague Township. Thomas is married to an Eleanor Mitten. In 1863 both John and Thomas have enlisted for military service as residents of Montague Township with the 4th Congressional District, Class 1 for service into the Civil War. So many indicators have been found to show that Mary Ann’s family is still in the immediate area. The 1870 census shows Maryann’s parents and sister, Nancy Jane, have returned to Frankford Township. The family is still living in Frankford Township in 1880.
Mary Ann was not abandoned. A gravestone was placed in the Mettler Cemetery with her parent’s names lovingly stating that this was their daughter. The Perigo Family, not being related to the families already buried at Mettler, was given a spot befitting of this dear little girl where her life could be honored. Her gravestone was not a mere fieldstone marker, but a stone designed by a stone carver. This would have been a rather costly item during the difficult economic times just prior to the onset of the Civil War.
The Mettler Family cares for this private cemetery. The Mettler Family has stated that they felt local members of the Perigo Family were originally responsible for the numerous remembrances that have been left at Mary Ann’s graveside. Over the years as others visited the tiny graveyard they, too, would leave an item to show they had stopped to visit and ponder about the life of this little girl. Thus, Mary Ann became a part of Sandyston Township’s local history.
Over the years rumors and stories have abounded about the death of Mary Ann Perigo. We may never know the truth about what caused her to die at such a young age, we can only speculate. The life of this one little girl in this tiny graveyard has touched many in a common interest to know about this little girl named Mary Ann.
Since the creation of the Sandyston Township Historical Society in 2007, one of the most often asked questions concern “Mary Ann Perigo”. Everyone wants to know about her.
The Mettler Cemetery is a very special and unique place. Surrounded by the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Park, it is an island of historic peace. Within its boarders lie many of the earliest settlers and their families. Today, it is a tranquil place where time seems to stand still. The woes of the world seem far and away when you visit here. The peaceful song of the wind whispering through the trees is ever present there. A place where one can come and visit and ponder. Even today Mary Ann’s family is close at hand. Her parents Thomas and Clarissa, her brother Thomas and his wife, and nephew Reverend DeAlton Perigo and his wife Nellie’s parents Isabel A. (Viall) and E.B. Whitney are buried in the Branchville Cemetery in Frankford Township, NJ.
Numerous tales have been told over the years about Mary Ann. One tale says that she was captured by a band of gypsies. When traveling along the “Delaware Mine Road”, as it is sometimes called, she died and was buried by the gypsies in the Mettler Cemetery. To my knowledge gypsies do not purchase gravestones. Another tale states that she was playing near the road and was hit by a passing wagon of a wagon train. This is possible, but we have no proof. I personally have found no hard-fast facts as to why Mary Ann died. Mary Ann died in 1856 as did many people from a wide variety of illnesses. Scarlet Fever and Measles were just a few diseases that took the lives the young and elderly. Medicine and medical advice was scarce. Families took care of each other as best as they could.
About a year ago the Sandyston Township Historical Society was contacted by a lady from California. She was researching her family genealogy and her name is “Mary Ann Perigo Lindsay”. She found us from information posted on the Township’s website concerning our historical society. Amy Lobban, secretary-treasurer of the Sandyston Township Historical Society, immediately forwarded her a copy of the story our society did with Jennie Sweetman, history writer with the NJ Herald about Mary Ann Perigo in 2007. This newly found Mary Ann was thrilled. Our Mary Ann in the Mettler Cemetery was a great - great Aunt to the Mary Ann Perigo Lindsay in California. The California Mary told us that growing up she did not know about our Mary Ann. She was in awe that she and our Mary Ann shared the same name. The California Mary Ann was descended from Thomas Perigo, brother of our Mary Ann.
Due to the poor condition of Mary Ann’s gravestone in the Mettler Cemetery and the fact that her story that has touched so many lives, the Sandyston Township Historical Society has purchased a new gravestone to be placed at Mary Ann’s grave. The purchase of this gravestone is made possible through the generous donations made by members of the society for the preservation of Sandyston Township’s local history. Thank you to all our members! Mary Ann Perigo Lindsay (Mary Ann Perigo’s great-great Niece) has also made a donation to the gravestone. The new gravestone reads:
Mary Ann Perigo
Beloved daughter of Clarissa and Thomas Perigo
Died: April 11, 1856
Aged: 14yrs 7mos 2das
The Mettler Family Burial Ground is located just north of the Dingman’s Bridge in Sandyston Township along the Old Mine Road and is still lovingly cared for by the Mettler Family. For information please call 973-948-7443 days, or 973-948-6110 evenings, or email This story was written by Sandyston Township Historian and Sandyston Township Historical Society President, Patricia " Patte" Haggerty Frato.
Sandyston Township
Mary Ann Perigo
" Mary Ann Perigo, buried in the Mettler Cemetery, loved by all who visit"
For many years people have been intrigued by a child’s grave located in the Ancient Mettler Family Burial Ground, just off the Old Mine Road in Sandyston Township, N.J. The grave is that of Mary Ann Perigo, who died on April 11, 1856. It is located by itself in the rear section of the graveyard. The fact that Mary Ann is there alone causes one to wonder about her life, but it’s the array of tokens and gifts that have been left at her graveside that brings endless visitors to ponder about the life of this one child.
The Mettler Cemetery was originally known as the Fisher/Mettler Cemetery. It was created on lands owned by these families as well as the Carmer and Bevans Families that settled in this area after the close of the Revolutionary War. A few other families that are buried in this small private graveyard include, Stoll, Depue, Loder, Dusenberry, Reasor, Kyte, Emery, and Myers. Most of the people buried in this cemetery are related to each other. As time went on neighbors and family friends were buried here with the permission of the Mettler Family. For a long time, people have asked the same questions. Who was Mary Ann Perigo? Why is her grave all by itself? Where is her family? Why do so many visitors leave mementoes at Mary Ann’s grave? Over the years small toys, stuffed animals, a wind chime, flowers, hand written notes and letters have been left at her grave. It seems as if the authors of these notes felt they could communicate with the past and learn of Mary Ann’s story. So many people have been drawn to this same site, unknown to each other, yet with the same desire to know the story of Mary Ann Perigo.
By: Patte Haggerty Frato, Sandyston Township Historian
By: Patte Haggerty Frato, Sandyston Township Historian