Unearthing A Roslyn Hero

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Trinity Church of Roslyn (Photo source: trinityroslyn.org)

Trinity Church of Roslyn underwent extensive renovation work on the main floor of the church this past summer. In addition to the plumbing and “problem areas,” something unexpected happened: workers uncovered the grave of John Codham Pollitz, a 19th century Roslyn native, Trinity parishioner and Civil War veteran.

“Several people were called in to confirm the existence of the Pollitz grave and radar technology was used as well,” the church’s September bulletin stated. “Codge Whitting and Whitting Funeral Home and Howard Kroplick, Town of North Hempstead historian were on hand to observe and consult. Several area teachers were also invited to observe and consult and the saga may be the basis of some future curriculum pieces. This was an unexpected and inspiring part of this project as we have inscribed on plaques to mark the location, ‘son and hero of this parish.’”

The work on the church floor included laying down both a new patch of tile and a branch new carpet. But the real story was the discovery of the Pollitz grave.

John Codham Pollitz was heir to a longtime Roslyn family that traced its roots to the early 19th century. A 1859 map of the village reveals a house on Main Street as belonging to O.W. Pollitz. John Codham Pollitz was a Civil War veteran who met his end at a battle in New Bern, NC, one that took place in February 1862, as Confederate forces attempted, unsuccessfully, to recapture that coastal town which had been lost to the Union Army in 1862.

According to a 1978 Roslyn Landmark Society house tour booklet, “John Codham Pollitz…was active in fundraising for the original Trinity Episcopal Church (for which a cornerstone had been laid in 1835, but which remained unbuilt until 1862). Pollitz, who enlisted in the Union Army just before the Civil War, presented his accumulated Army pay to Trinity’s congregation as a contribution for the purchase of a bell for the new church. Ironically, Pollitz died at New Bern…and according to tradition his funeral was the first occasion on which the bell was rung.”

Also according to the booklet, the Pollitz family sold the entire 70-acre farm to Colonel Aaron A. DeGrauw of Jamaica in 1882. “As early as 1886 social notices appear in The Roslyn News announcing the arrival of tenants who rented apartments in the Caleb Valentine house which continued to be called ‘the Pollitz place,’” the booklet continued. “Among the tenants were a Mr. C.C. Little and a Mrs. J.B. Robedee.”

Even after they left the Roslyn family, the Pollitz family is still fondly remembered. And why not? They were homesteaders who contributed greatly to the settlement of Roslyn, especially the founding of Trinity Church. John Codham Pollitz was special: A veteran who donated his soldier’s pay in what was up to that time, the bloodiest war in world history, so that his parish could purchase a bell to announce the Good News every Sunday morning. Upon his death, Pollitz was honored with that same bell being rung in his honor at his funeral. And now, an incredible 153 years later, Pollitz has been memorialized in his own parish in his own hometown. Things do have a way of coming together.

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Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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