Reburials at Mount Moriah Cemetery

In late October I had the privilege of joining members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, local university students, and other volunteers in reclaiming section 112 of Mount Moriah Cemetery on the Yeadon side.

This section was purchased by the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia and the church moved its burial ground from the area of 2nd and Arch Streets to Mount Moriah in early 1860. The center of the section contains a large monument to the churches pastors and the rest of the section contains a criss-cross of sidewalks with burials in between.

It appears a number of stones were moved when the bodies were reinterred, but perhaps most interesting is the portion of sidewalk made up of flat headstones used as sidewalk ‘pavers’.

In October 2015, may of these stones saw the light of day for the first time in many years.



Preserving History in Philadelphia

I’ve talked about Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia before. I don’t have any of my own ancestors buried here, but the cemetery still draws me in. It spans a few hundred acres, straddling Philadelphia and Delaware Counties via Cobbs Creek Parkway. There are 1,000s and 1,000s of people buried here, poor and rich, unknown and famous. Many, many veterans–including those from the Civil War–are buried at Mount Moriah as well.

The cemetery was abandoned in 2011, leaving countless families wondering what would become of their loved one’s final resting place. It’s amazing to step from urban Southwest Philly, past the gates, and into this oasis of rolling hills and often jungle-like overgrowth of vines, trees, rose bushes, and invasive knotweed. It quickly becomes hard to believe you are standing within a huge East Coast city. It’s beautiful, but it was neglected for many decades before being abandoned.

There is a dedicated group of volunteers fighting to take back the cemetery. They are working hard to show the cemetery the respect it deserves–to give all the people interred here the respect of a well kept burial site.

So often genealogists are excited to find an ancestor’s burial spot…we make requests on findagrave, visit the cemeteries when we can, and keep searching. We hope for burial records, plot cards, and visible headstones with vital information. What do we give back?

You can help save Mount Moriah Cemetery. Even if a donation to this particular project doesn’t excite you, I urge you to take a look at the organizations working in your area to preserve history and pitch in what you can. I can guarantee you, even $5 will help these organizations.

Using Simple Shapes to Diagram a Burial Plot

I’ve mentioned my search for ancestor Catherine Ware and her (currently) overgrown burial plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia a few times here.

Each time I visit Mount Moriah I try to visit her plot and learn a little more about the people buried here.

There are 7 visible stone in this plot: 2 for Catherine Ware (a large obelisk and a smaller stone with her initials), 1 for Thomas H. Ottey and Amanda (Wagner) Ottey, one for Mary A. Wagner, one for the children of Thomas and Amanda Ottey that died in infancy or early childhood, 1 for Lillian and Albert Simon, and 1 for Horace and Christina Kincaid.

I’m still unravelling exactly who all of the people are and I’ve recently learned from GSP records that there are others buried here, too: John Wagner, Adam Wagner, Rebecca Wagner, and Walter Walker.

To help myself sort it all out and plan where to look for possible stones for these other folks I’ve created the following:

Section 130, Lots 17 & 18, Div A

Section 130, Lots 17 & 18, Div A

My diagram started by taking a close up screen shot of the double plot owned by Catherine Ware. I plugged this in to Pages, but you could easily use Word or any other program that allows you to import an image and then place text and shapes over top.

I then used the shape tool to approximate the location, placement, and general shape of each visible stone. This is certainly not to scale, but you get the idea.

I ended by labeling each shape with text indicating the names on the stones. If I’m able to discover any new stones I can easily edit my document to add new shapes.

There is clearly a lot of unused space in these plots! In about a week I’ll be clearing the knotweed to get a better look.

Playing Find a Grave in the Knotweed

In August I wrote about finding the burial site of Catherine Ware at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia. I visited again in mid-September for a clean up event and happened to be working in a section adjacent to Catherine Ware’s plot.

Another brave volunteer and I took a break from the clean up to climb through the knotweed that has completely taken over her plot.

See, I knew there were other people buried in this plot. You can tell from this photo that there are a number of smaller stones surrounding the larger monument:


I was amazed to find so much new information on these stones, even though I couldn’t reach all of them. Catherine Ware isn’t buried with her husband, but a few of her siblings and their children are here at Mount Moriah.

To give you an idea of what climbing through knotweed is like: