It is believed that the vault was built by John I. Slingerland and William H. Slingerland when patriarch John A. Slingerland died in 1850. John A. was initially buried behind his homestead located at 1575 New Scotland Road, Slingerlands, NY. In 1851, the family voted to move John A. to the new vault.
This is an extract from John I. Slingerland's 1851 cash book, which resides in the historical archives of the Town of Bethlehem.
The following heirs agreed to have my father John A. Slingerland deceased taken up where he is now buried and have him removed and buried where the marble monument now stands with his inscription on.
Leah Slingerland for to take up
John I. Slingerland [ditto]
Wm H Slingerland [ditto]
F. B. Slingerland [ditto]
E. Vanderzee [ditto]
T. Ten Eyck Waldron agrees to do as the above.
Albert Slingerland and Hester Loucks are opposed to have him taken up.
In 1852, the vault is completed and inscribed
FAMILY VAULT OF
JOHN I. & Wm.H.
ERECTED A.D. 1852
John A. Slingerland's body was likely moved to the vault in 1852.
In 1857, James W. Slingerland (son of William H.) died and was interred in the vault.
In 1861, John I. Slingerland died and was interred in the vault. His marker reads "Here Sweet be my Rest, Till Christ Bids me rise, To Hail Him in Triumph, Descending the Skies".
In 1863, matriarch Leah Britt Slingerland died and was interred in the vault. Her marker reads “God My Redeemer Lives, And Often From the Skies, Looks Down and Watches Over my Dust, Till he Shall Bid me Rise”.
In 1868, Elizabeth Wayne Slingerland (wife of William H.) died and was interred in the vault.
In 1874, Sally Hall Slingerland (wife of John I.) died and was interred in the vault.
In 1883, Charles Arthur Slingerland (grandson of William H.) died and was interred in the vault.
In 1884, Helene Slingerland Bender (daughter of William H.) died and was interred in the vault.
In 1910, William H. Slingerland died and was interred in a sarcophagus on the floor of the vault. He willed his 1562 New Scotland Road property to his heirs, but excluded the vault site defined as a 60-foot-wide by 85-foot-deep lot containing the vault and a 16.5-foot-wide ingress / egress.
In 1914, John H. Slingerland (William H.'s son) died and was interred and was interred in a sarcophagus on the floor of the vault. This is the last interment in the vault.
On September 12, 1978, the Town Board adopted a resolution to appoint a committee to “explore and evaluate appropriate ways and means to preserve and maintain as a historical shrine the Family Vault of John A. Slingerland and family.”
A November 26, 1980 Town Board Resolution recognized the town’s “vested right in the historical burial site” and resolved that the Town of Bethlehem “will maintain, restore, care and preserve this historical family burial ground and vault.”
For several years prior to 1989, Slingerlands Elementary school teacher Evonne Lutkus walked her class to the vault for a lesson in both philanthropy and history. Her class would clean the area around the vault, then sit near the vault while Mrs. Lutkus taught the national historic relevance of the folks interred.
In 1990, the Town of Bethlehem files a lawsuit seeking title to the property to resolve issues and concerns regarding ownership of the vault property.
In 1994, the NYS Supreme Court affirms the Town of Bethlehem’s title to the property.
Around 2009, the Bethlehem Garden Club made a valiant attempt to improve the vault site.
In 2017, The Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault was established.