Mount Moriah Cemetery (Philadelphia)

Mount Moriah Cemetery is a historic rural cemetery that spans the southwest border of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Yeadon, Pennsylvania. It was established in 1855 and differed from Philadelphia's other rural cemeteries such as Laurel Hill Cemetery and the Woodlands Cemetery in that it was easily accessible by streetcar; allowed burials of African-Americans, Jews and Muslims;[3] and catered to a more middle-class clientele.[4]

Mount Moriah Cemetery
Mt Moriah Button Gate HABS 138911pu.jpg
Mount Moriah Cemetery Gate (1855), Stephen Decatur Button, architect.
CountryUnited States
Coordinates39°55′47″N 75°14′08″W / 39.9297°N 75.2356°W / 39.9297; -75.2356Coordinates: 39°55′47″N 75°14′08″W / 39.9297°N 75.2356°W / 39.9297; -75.2356
Size200 acres[1]
No. of graves150,000[2]
WebsiteFriends of Mount Moriah Cemetery
Find a GraveMount Moriah Cemetery

The cemetery originally occupied 54 acres but grew to approximately 200 acres with some estimates as high as 380 acres.[1] Philadelphia and Yeadon share almost equal shares of the cemetery with Cobbs Creek separating the two sides. Since the construction of Cobbs Creek Parkway the cemetery is slightly less than 160 acres.

Mausoleum Hill on the Yeadon side of the cemetery
View of Center City, Philadelphia skyscrapers from near the Gatehouse

The size of the cemetery made it ideal for churches and fraternal organizations that wanted to purchase large plots for their members. The Free and Accepted Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Elks[5] and American Mechanics all purchased large lots in the cemetery.[6] Local private institutions such as the Presbyterian Home for Widows and Single Women and the Seaman's Church Institute were also purchasers of large lots.[5]

A Norman Castellated brownstone gatehouse[7] designed by Stephen Decatur Button[8] was built at the entrance on Islington Lane, today known as Kingsessing Avenue. A single gated arch was topped with an imposing statue of Father Time. The statue was purchased, removed from the gate and placed atop the grave of John H. Jones,[9] the former president of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Company.[5]

External video
Mt Moriah Old Gatehouse 2.JPG
3D Laser Scan: Mount Moriah Cemetery Gatehouse (1:05), DJS Associates[10]
This statue of Father Time used to sit atop the entrance gate but now adorns the grave of John H. Jones, former president of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association

The cemetery contains two separate military burial plots dating back to the U.S. Civil War that are maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Naval Plot on the Yeadon side of the cemetery contains soldiers who were treated at the Grays Ferry Avenue Naval Hospital. A smaller plot of graves known as the Soldier's Lot[11] is on the Philadelphia side of the cemetery.[2] Mount Moriah contains veterans of the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War[3] and 20 Medal of Honor awardees[12] which may be the highest number of any private cemetery.[13]

One section of the cemetery, known as the Circle of St. John or Masons Circle,[14] contains the Schnider monument, a 35-foot high corinthian column topped by the Masonic square and compasses dedicated to William B. Schnider, the Grand Tyler of Pennsylvania's Central Grand Lodge.[1]

The Circle of St. John with the Schnider Monument in the center

The cemetery closed its gates in 2011 and had no owner after the last member of the board of directors died. It became wildly overgrown with plants, a site for illegal dumping and the buildings, graves and monuments fell into disrepair. A non-profit organization called The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery formed to take ownership of the property, clear overgrown brush, maintain graves, stabilize the crumbling gatehouse and raise money for a petition to place the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cemetery became overgrown and a site of illegal dumping before the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery initiated clean up efforts


External video
  In Memoriam, Courtney Coombs[15] 16:12, December 2013

Mount Moriah Cemetery was established by an act of the Pennsylvania Legislature and incorporated on March 27, 1855.[16] The cemetery was expanded to approximately 200 acres, spanning Cobbs Creek into the Borough of Yeadon in adjacent Delaware County, making it the largest cemetery in Pennsylvania.[17]

In 1856, the remains of Betsy Ross and her third husband John Claypoole were moved from the Free Quaker Burying Ground in Philadelphia to Mount Moriah.[18] The practice of cemeteries purchasing the remains of famous historical individuals was common in order to drive additional business. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a flagpole at the site of her grave in her memory.[5]

In 1864, the United States Federal Government purchased two parcels of land within Mount Moriah Cemetery. The Soldiers' Lot on the Philadelphia side of the cemetery was purchased for soldiers who died at local military hospitals and contains 404 Union Army soldiers. The lot initially included the remains of many Confederate soldiers, however in 1885 all but two were reinterred at Philadelphia National Cemetery.[19] The Naval Plot on the Yeadon side of the cemetery is ten acres in size and was purchased for the reinterment of bodies previously buried at the U.S. Naval Home. The Naval Plot today contains 2,400 U.S. Navy officers and seaman.[11]

The Soldiers' Lot contains the graves of 404 Union Soldiers and 2 Confederate Soldiers
The Naval Plot contains 2,400 U.S. Navy officers and seaman

In the early 1870s, Henry Jones, an African-American man purchased a lot for burial in Mount Moriah Cemetery. After his death, cemetery authorities refused to bury him based on his race. A lawsuit was filed against the Mouth Moriah Cemetery Association and in 1876 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Jones had the right to be buried in the cemetery.[20]

In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration program performed work at Mount Moriah Cemetery to improve the drainage system throughout the cemetery.[21]

In December 1975, Betsy Ross' descendants petitioned to have her remains moved to the Betsy Ross House. The headstone at her grave had been stolen years before.[21] A physical anthropologist, Dr. Alan Mann, moved some bones in 1976 from the estimated vicinity of her grave but was unable to determine whether they belonged to Ross or not.[22]

Horatio Jones, the last known member of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, died in 2004 and the cemetery closed its gates in 2011 in a unique legal situation having no known owner. In 2014, Philadelphia Orphan's Court appointed Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation as receiver for the long neglected cemetery.[23] The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc., a non-profit organization, held regular restoration events and progress was made to return the cemetery to normal condition. Expected annual maintenance costs are about $500,000.[24]

In February 2015, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced that the cemetery was eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, subject to review by the NRHP. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery began a campaign to raise funds to stabilize the crumbling gatehouse.[25][26]

In January 2019, the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery presented their strategic plan to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to convert Mount Moriah Cemetery into a nature sanctuary similar to the nearby Bartram's Garden and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.[13]

Paulette Rhone, the president of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, died in March 2019. The group is petitioning the Orphans Court to allow Rhone to be the first burial in the cemetery since it closed in 2011.[27]

Notable burialsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Murrell, David. "What Happens When a Cemetery Dies?". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b Papa, Dan. "Stones and Stories At Mount Moriah Cemetery". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hatmaker, Julia. "Inside the formerly abandoned Mt. Moriah Cemetery: Cool Spaces". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  4. ^ Keels 2003, p. 49.
  5. ^ a b c d Webster 2014, p. 152.
  6. ^ Keels 2003, p. 53.
  7. ^ Christopher, Matthew. "Mount Moriah Cemetery". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Confederates, Catholic, Muslims and Masons: The Mount Moriah Cemetery Tour". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  9. ^ Keels 2003, p. 50.
  10. ^ "Digitally Preserving A Historical Philadelphia Landmark". DJS Associates. February 9, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Mount Moriah Cemetery Naval Plot and Soldiers' Lot Philadelphia, Pennsylvania". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  12. ^ Forsythe, Pamela J. "The long road ahead to resurrect Mount Moriah". Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  13. ^ a b Blumgart, Jake. "Mount Moriah cemetery could become nature sanctuary". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ Arvedlud, Erin E. "Keeping Mount Moriah Cemetery, and its memories, alive". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  15. ^ "In Memoriam". Courtney Coombs. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  16. ^ Scharf, John Thomas (1884). History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. p. 2360. Retrieved 23 August 2019. moriah.
  17. ^ "Mount Moriah Cemetery". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Rediscovering Betsy Ross' bones". Strange Remains. 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  19. ^ "Mount Moriah Cemetery Soldiers' Lot". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Mount Moriah Cemetery Naval Plot". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b Webster 2014, p. 156.
  22. ^ Cheney, Jim. "Exploring Philadelphia's Overgrown Burial Grounds: Mount Moriah Cemetery:". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  23. ^ "History". Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  24. ^ Bolling, Louis (May 23, 2012). "Mount Moriah Cemetery clean up a moving experience". Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  25. ^ "Historic Resource Information, key # 201334". CRGIS. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  26. ^ "Mount Moriah Cemetery Gatehouse". Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  27. ^ Newall, Mike. "She tended Mount Moriah until her death. Now her friends hope to bury her in the abandoned cemetery". Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Mount Moriah Cemetery: Famous names at Find a Grave
  29. ^ "Baseball President Dead: George Dovey of Boston Passes Away on a Railroad Train" (PDF). The New York Times. June 20, 1909. Retrieved 2011-09-16.


External linksEdit