The Hallett family, led by patriarch William Hallett, emigrated from England and settled in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1648, but moved in 1652 to 160 acres in the Hallett’s Cove area of Astoria. In 1664, William Hallett expanded his holding to 2,200 acres, which included all of modern-day Astoria. Several generations of Halletts lived on the property and as was customary at the time, family members that died were buried near their home. The Hallett cemetery was located between Astoria Blvd and Main Avenue. Over time, the family’s land was divided into parcels and sold.
As explained by Vincent Seyfried in his book, 300 Years of Long Island City: 1630-1930, “All the 50 bodies in the burial plot, 35 of them Halletts dating from 1724 to 1861, were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery in April 1905 and the stones were re-cut and re-erected over the new graves.”
The original historical plaque that recorded this event had been weathered to the point where some of the writing on it was no longer readable.
“We don’t want barriers such as illegible writing to prevent Queens residents from understanding their history, so our board decided that replacing the plaque was the right thing to do,” explained Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson. “We thank Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. for his assistance in making this happen.”
Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr. was instrumental in locating and obtaining permission from the descendants of William Hallett.
Vallone made contact with Dr. William C. Hallett, a Nassau County-based pharmacy consultant and direct descendant of the original William Hallett. Dr. Hallett is proud of his family’s history and is in possession of many documents dating back 300 years or more. The Hallett family history stretches across the borough to Flushing and Jamaica, but they are best known as being among the first settlers of Astoria.
"Astoria has a rich and storied history, and the Hallett family is proud to be a part of it,” said Dr. William C. Hallett. “We are deeply appreciative of the efforts of the Newtown Historical Society and Council Member Vallone to replace the plaque, and helping to preserve the history and heritage of our area."
“I commend Newtown Historical Society for being proactive and restoring this important link to Queens history. I thought my family had deep Queens roots, but the Halletts definitely have us all beat,” said Council Member Vallone. “Queens is a great place to call home, whether it’s your first year in the borough or your family’s 350th.”
The inscription on the new plaque, which is identical to the one on the old plaque, reads:
“In this plot rest the remains of many of the descendants of William Hallett who came to this country from England A.D. 1648. They were removed from the family grave yard at Hallett’s Cove A.D. 1905.”
For more information on the Newtown Historical Society’s programs, please visit NHS’ website at www.newtownhistorical.org.