Tag Archives: Pennsylvania cemetery

Death’s Garden: The Allure of the Abandoned Cemetery


All photos of Mount Moriah Cemetery by Ed Snyder.

by Ed Snyder

Last weekend [editor’s note: actually August 28, 2010], my friend Frank and I explored Mount Moriah Cemetery (established 1855) in Southeast Philadelphia. Although I’d been there innumerable times, it’s been years since I’d explored the central monument area, which is way overgrown with trees, cascading picker vines, and poison ivy. Essentially, it’s a forest, only with tombstones in it!

Frank had heard stories about the cemetery being wild and untamed. He asked me if he should bring a weapon. A weapon? Well, maybe boots and long pants (even in this heat), because of the deer ticks. Truth be told, Mt. Moriah is in a rundown section of town (where all the best cemeteries usually are), and I agreed that we should at least bring baseball bats. However, he was referring to the “family of wild pit bulls” he heard lived in the cemetery! I had my doubts.

EPSON DSC picture

The gatehouse at Mount Moriah Cemetery

I figured if there was a family of pit bulls, they’d be living in some shelter, e.g. the crumbling brownstone gatehouse. So we decided that should be our first stop! Upon arriving, we explored but found only sordid bedding littered with condom wrappers and piles of tombstones. Tombstones? Some from the late 1800s, some from 2006. Why? In looking at Mount Moriah’s website [which was taken down in 2012], it appeared that stones got moved, then disappeared. A genealogist’s nightmare. They also said if you’re planning to visit the cemetery, “It may be worth a trip, but be prepared for confusion, frustration, and disappointment.” Hm. Now that’s enticing.

Snyder_MonitorWe actually found some interesting things in the open and trimmed newer section of the cemetery (on Kingsessing Avenue), like this marble monument to the Monitor, the Civil War submarine that engaged the Merrimac in the famous battle of the ironclads. Quite a find, certainly not disappointing! We also peeked into the chained-up mausoleum nearby and were surprised to see a shattered marble crypt door, which allowed a rare voyeuristic view of the century-old wooden casket inside.

Snyder_Compass                Snyder_Grafitti
We decided to drive as far as we could into the main section of the cemetery, where the tops of very elaborate, expensive, and graffitied monuments peek out of the brush. Some of the original weed-covered roads are still used by people to deliver old sofas and tires to their final resting place, so they are somewhat drivable (a jeep would be your vehicle of choice here). The monument you see in the photo at left is in the center of the forest, and commemorates an 1862 Masonic “Grand Tyler.” Its column must be 40 feet high and 6 feet thick at the base, topped with the largest marble compass I’ve ever seen. After hacking our way to the base of it, Frank astutely pointed out that I was standing knee-deep in poison ivy! We made our way out of the thicket and back to the car.

Driving through this jungle, straddling washed-out craters in the road, and avoiding being whipped in the face by tree branches was like being on one of those Disney rides or Universal Studios—you half-expect a velociraptor to poke its head out of the thicket. Which is about when we saw the pit bulls!

Snyder_KeystoneTwo large brown puppies went scampering off down a path near the Keystone monument above. We stopped earlier to photograph it, but hadn’t noticed the dogs. Of course, we were looking up at the time. Gee, let’s get out now and see how protective the mother is! No, really, at that point, I wished the convertible top of my car went up a bit faster. We decided to bravely drive away.

At one point on a side road — a path, really — we dead-ended at a pile of lumber and other rubbish. (Here’s my car at that point.) As I backed the car out for about ten minutes to get to a different side road so we could turn around without getting lost, it became apparent to me that Saabs are just not good off-road vehicles. Well, the cemetery’s website did say to be prepared for confusion and frustration….

With a sigh of relief, we found our way out of the woods into a clearing, and then back to familiar territory: the pile of unused concrete crypts near the gatehouse. We were certainly not disappointed that the mama pit bull decided to keep a low profile that day.

Is Mount Moriah a sad commentary on our city or a wondrous attraction for the urban explorer of abandoned places? I can’t be judgmental as to the former and am sorry that the cemetery has been allowed to devolve to this sad state. However, it allows one to contemplate the detritus of human endeavor. We erect monuments to the deceased (ourselves) for a purpose, but attempts to preserve memories can be undermined. Vandals, time, and weather erode efforts at immortality. The corruption of the cemetery seems to affirm, rather than deny, the decay down below. Seeing it in this condition, you feel you are witnessing the final disappearance of the spirits of the interred.

I wrote the above account in 2010, never guessing that years later I would find myself on the Board of Directors of a Friends group making every attempt to save this massive historic cemetery. How it got to the condition I described in 2010 seems to have been a result of gross mismanagement and negligence—perhaps 100 years of this. When Harry Houdini visited the grave of his idol Robert Heller here in 1910, he was dismayed at the condition of the cemetery. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If people join together for a common goal, miracles sometimes happen. Respect for the dead is a powerful thing.

I published a few posts like the one above on my Cemetery Traveler blog between 2010 and 2012 and got quite a few people riled up. Local residents, descendants of those interred, the City of Philadelphia, and numerous other concerned citizens nationwide were appalled and irate.

The situation at the cemetery got to the point where the City of Philadelphia felt obligated to step in and haul away the abandoned cars, round up the feral dogs, and barricade the entrances. A grassroots Friends group formed: The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. (FOMMCI). After a few run-ins with them, they became convinced, as did I, that I wanted to help save the cemetery. At approximately 300 acres and over 80,000 graves, Mount Moriah is possibly the largest cemetery in Pennsylvania. It likely was the largest abandoned cemetery  in the U.S. in 2010.

It is no longer abandoned. The FOMMCI has worked tirelessly since 2012, engaging thousands of volunteers to clean up and take back from nature this overgrown green space in urban Philadelphia. If not for the efforts of so many concerned with showing respect for our dead, Mount Moriah would have been left to die on the vine — or by the vine, more literally.

Such a dramatic display of volunteerism is hardly revolutionary (although Betsy Ross is in fact buried here); however, the sustained effort certainly is. The recently formed Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation was legally given control of the property in 2014.

Snyder_Friends shirtIn the words of Mount Moriah resident John Whitehead’s (1948-2004) 1979 hit song, there “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” I continue to photograph and document Mount Moriah’s restoration progress on my Cemetery Traveler blog. For more information and a detailed history of the cemetery, please visit the FOMMCI website and Facebook group.


The first part of the this essay was published as “Pit Bulls, Deer Ticks, and Poison Ivy – The Allure of the Abandoned Cemetery”on Ed’s Cemetery Traveler blog. I invited him to update it, since I’m excited by all the work he’s inspired at Mount Moriah Cemetery.


Snyder portrait squareEd Snyder’s photography and writing converge to help society come to terms with death and dying. These creative processes help him deal with the world, with personal issues, and even to judge himself. (In retrospect, psychiatry would’ve been cheaper.) Spending time in cemeteries has helped him to prepare himself for the loss of loved ones. Seeing others find meaning in his work is an unexpected gift. Ed says, “What strikes me about the cemeteries of the Victorian era is the tremendous emphasis on art in people’s remembrance of the dead. It is almost as if their respect was more profound.”

Please check out Ed’s books Stone Angels and Digital Photography for the Impatient and his lovely photography. You can follow his cemetery explorations at the Cemetery Traveler on blogspot.


About the Death’s Garden project:

For the next year, I’m planning to put a cemetery essay up every Friday. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

Cemetery of the Week #140: Christ Church churchyard

Souvenir postcard with a photo by Fred Miller, circa 1987

Souvenir postcard with a photo by Fred Miller, circa 1987

Christ Church
aka Christ Episcopal Church
20 North American Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Telephone: (215) 922-1695
Founded: 1695
Size: Only a small patch of churchyard remains. There may be bodies under the green lawn next door, but they no longer have monuments.
Number of interments: 500?
Open: Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday afternoons from 1 PM to 5 PM.
Admission: Visiting the Church is free, but a donation of $3 for adults and $2 for students will help to maintain the Church.

Anglicans, who looked to the King of England as their spiritual leader, organized Christ Church congregation in 1695. Their worship derived from Henry VIII’s split with Pope Leo X over his ability to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn in 1533. At its beginning, the Anglican liturgy varied little from its Catholic forebear, other than denying the authority of the pope and performing the mass in English. Both were radical ideas in their time.

Construction of this beautiful Georgian church began on this site in 1727. The current building was completed in 1754. The exterior of sober brick was crowned with a bright white steeple. When I visited, the interior was bright and people-scaled, cozy enough to absorb a tour group of 50 high school kids without swallowing them up. There was a steady stream of tour groups through the gift shop.

On July 4, 1776, the Vestrymen of Christ Church were holding a meeting when they heard that the Declaration of Independence had been signed in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, three blocks away. They quickly decided that all the passages in their prayer book that prayed for the King of England were “inconsistent” with the new Declaration — and edited them out. In 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S. was organized here.

Christ Church became “the fashionable house of worship in Philadelphia,” according to Freedom of Worship: Meeting Houses, Churches, and Synagogues of Early Philadelphia. The Vestrymen set aside a pew for the use of George Washington, who had been elected president of the fledgling nation (whose capital was Philadelphia until just before the War of 1812). Benjamin Franklin was a pew-holder in the Church, meaning (I think) that he tithed enough money to maintain use of it. Betsy Ross became a member of the congregation after the Quakers rejected her for marrying her husband.

Detail of the postcard above, showing the churchyard

Detail of the postcard above, showing the churchyard

Buried in the churchyard outside was Robert Morris, one of the richest men in America at the time of the Revolution who became known as the Financier of the Revolution. He signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of the Confederation, and the United States Constitution, and served for one term as a Senator.

James Wilson also lies in the yard around Christ Church. He signed the Declaration of Independence and is one of the authors of the Constitution. He argued that citizens should be able to elect their government directly, rather than going through the Electoral College. Washington appointed him to the first Supreme Court. He died in North Carolina and was buried at the Hayes Plantation near Edenton. In 1906, his remains were exhumed and moved to the Christ Churchyard.

Other famous autographers at Christ Church include Jacob Broom, signer of the United States Constitution from Delaware; Pierce Butler, signer of the Constitution from South Carolina; and Judge George Ross, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Andrew Hamilton, an attorney in Colonial America, is remembered for his legal victory on behalf of printer John Peter Zenger. Hamilton’s defense concluded with the assertion that the press has the duty of “both of exposing and opposing tyrannical power by speaking and writing truth.”

Several Revolutionary War commanders are buried at Christ Church, including Major General Charles Lee and Continental Army Officer Samuel John Atlee, who later served as a delegate to the Continental Congress.

General John Forbes (1710–1759), British commander during the French and Indian War, has a memorial inside the church, as does John Penn, the last colonial governor of Pennsylvania.

The churchyard served as the congregation’s burying ground until 1719, when it was nearly full and Christ Church Burial Ground was opened two blocks away at 4th and Arch Streets.

Useful links:

Visiting Christ Church

Notables buried in the churchyard

Architectural information about Christ Church

Christ Church’s mystery in history

Other Revolutionary War heroes on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #18: King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #33: Old Dutch Burying Ground, Tarrytown, New York

Cemetery of the Week #41:  Trinity Churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #61: Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #80: the Mütter Museum

The Museum at is appeared in the 1880s.

The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
19 S 22nd Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Phone: (215) 563-3737
Founded: 1858
Number of interments: several hundred
Open: 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed: Thanksgiving, December 24, December 25, and January 1
Admission: General $15, Military and Senior (with ID) $13, Student (with ID) and 6-17 years $10. Children under 5 are free.

What makes a place a graveyard? Is it bodies interred in dirt? If that’s the case, then the USS Arizona Memorial isn’t a cemetery, despite what the National Park Service says. Is it the presences of markers standing over graves? The African Burial Ground didn’t cease to be a graveyard simply because it was forgotten and covered over. Is it a graveyard if it contains the residue of dead humans – like the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum or Westminster Abbey? Do the bodies have to be whole? Are the Paris Ossuary or the Capuchin Catacombs of Rome or the Bone Church of Kunta Hora graveyards? What about places that used to house bodies — like the Catacomb of St. Sebastian or the Atrium of St. Maclou — where all the bodies have been removed? Do they stop being cemeteries once they’re empty?

Everything on the list above has been featured as a Cemetery of the Week here on Cemetery Travel. As you can see, my definition of a graveyard is broad. The way I define cemeteries or graveyards, people or bits of people or the cremains or mummies of people must rest – or have rested – on the site for a period of time. A murder site is not a graveyard, unless, like the garden in Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, it becomes a permanent shrine.

With this broad definition of Cemetery of the Week in mind, we turn to Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, which has been described as “America’s finest museum of medical history.”

The Museum after remodeling in 1986. Photograph by Jack Ramsdale. From a postcard sold at the museum.

The Mütter is the legacy of Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, a fellow at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. In the 19th century, medicine wasn’t taught as it is now, with every budding young doctor able to dissect a donated cadaver. Body snatchers – and medical students themselves – did provide a limited number of practice corpses, even in the US, but since embalming would not become widely spread until the decades after the Civil War, bodies were dissected by the professor at the front of the room while students looked on from theater seats. Dr. Mütter made it his mission to collect preserved body parts and wax models that could be used again and again to teach medicine.

When Dr. Mütter passed on, he left his collection to the College with the stipulation they provide a museum building, hire a curator, and continue to add to the collection.

The Museum has acquired 23 adult skeletons since 1863. Only seven of these were on display in 2002 when the Mütter Museum book by Gretchen Worden was published. The others were kept in the storerooms to be studied.

Photograph by Jack Ramsdale, from a photo postcard sold in the museum.

Among those on display are a 7’6” giant who stands beside a 3’6” dwarf. At her feet in this postcard photograph is the skull of her child, whose head was too big to pass through her pelvis. Even though the doctor crushed it before the child could be born, it could not be delivered the usual way and a cesarean was performed. The mother died three days later.

Mary Ashberry had lived in a house of prostitution. Perhaps there was no one to claim her body. The giant who accompanies her came to the Museum with the stipulation that “no questions be asked” that might identify him, which leads me to wonder if his family didn’t know he was missing.

In 1973, the skeleton of Harry Eastlack came to the Museum as a donation after his death. He’d suffered since childhood with a condition that made bone grow in his muscles and other connective tissue. He’d hoped that the study of his skeleton would lead to a cure for the disease, which afflicts as few at 300 people worldwide.

The Museum purchased the skull collection of Dr. Joseph Hyrtl, which arrived in Philadelphia in 1874. The 70 skulls included representatives of “all the tribes of Eastern Europe” as well as two Hollanders, Pacific Islanders, and more. Hyrtl’s catalog claimed, “It is easier to get the skulls of Islanders of the Pacific than those of Moslems, Jews, and all the semi-savage tribes of the Balkan and Karpathien valleys. Risking his life, the gravestealer must be largely bribed.”

This casual attitude toward the theft of these skulls – many of which are marked with names, birthplaces, occupations, and causes of death – inclines me to treat them with reverence, to consider the Mütter Museum their grave.  It’s an honor to be able to visit them, so one should show proper respect.

Useful links:

The Mütter Museum homepage

The Mütter Museum’s youtube channel

Events at the Mütter Museum:

Coming up on Saturday, October 27: The Mütter Museum’s Annual Day of the Dead Festival. Come celebrate this traditional Mexican holiday with an all-day event at the Mütter Museum! Decorate sugar skulls, enjoy traditional food and drink, and visit the Museum!

Roadside America’s Mütter page

Follow the museum on Twitter.

Cemetery of the Week #57: Laurel Hill Cemetery

The Warner Monument

Laurel Hill Cemetery
3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19132
Telephone: 215-228-8200
Founded: 1836
Size: 78 acres
Number of interments: 75,000
Open: Weekdays 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Weekends 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed major holidays.
Admission: always free

THIS WEEKEND: Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day focuses on “The Bizarre and Mysterious at Laurel Hill Cemetery” Saturday, April 28, 1 to 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered here. Hurry, as many Obscura Day events have already sold out.

Founded in 1836, Laurel Hill Cemetery is the second oldest garden cemetery in the United States, after Cambridge’s Mount Auburn. Architect John Notman designed Laurel Hill’s maze of roads to wind amidst terraces above the Schuykill River.  His intention was to give the people of Philadelphia a park from which they could ponder their mortality and look forward to the glories of Heaven.

The cemetery’s driving tour explains that “Within a few months of its opening, Laurel Hill Cemetery was Philadelphia’s most popular attraction,” drawing more visitors than Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The cemetery was so popular that in 1860 it received over 140,000 visitors. The cemetery office issued admission tickets to control the flood of visitors.  These days, you can often have the lovely place nearly to yourself, which is a shame.

Permanent residents include Sarah Josepha Hale (whom we have to thank for “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), portrait painter Thomas Sully, and Union General George Gordon Meade (who was victorious at Gettysburg) and four other Major Generals as well as fifteen Brigadier Generals, both Union and Confederate. A signer of the Declaration of Independence is buried here, as well as a sailor who fought in the War of 1812.

Mausoleums overlooking the Schuykill River

The cemetery is a sea of obelisks and grand mausoleums, with its own Angels Row. In fact, Laurel Hill contains more than 33,000 monuments. The most striking monument in the graveyard remembers the William Warner family. Designed by Alexander Milne Calder, the sculpture embodies the Angel of Death as a stern woman whose gown is slipping from her shoulder. She has opened the granite sarcophagus to release the soul trapped inside. A winged face rises from the open tomb in a flame of stone.

Death’s arms were broken off as early as 1977, when a photograph of the Warner monument appeared in Famous and Curious Cemeteries. Hopefully, repairing her is on the schedule.

Unfortunately, the cemetery suffered years of neglect, but a Friends group formed in 1977 and continues to raise money to restore the sculptures. (When I visited in 2002, the cemetery office — housed in Notman’s ornate gate house — was selling a t-shirt that said “R.I.P. Restoration in Progress.”) Laurel Hill became a National Historic Landmark in 1998, one of the few American cemeteries to rate the distinction.

The cemetery continues to welcome guests to Laurel Hill for self-guided walking, driving, or audio tours. You need only stop by the office to pick up a map of the cemetery grounds, a brochure for the audio tour, or to purchase a $5 guide highlighting the graves and histories of some of the best-known residents. They offer a cell phone tour whose only cost is minutes on your cellphone plan. The grounds are also open for jogging, nature walks, dog-walking (on a leash), biking, and picnics.

In addition, the cemetery offers frequent tours. One in May will be led by Russ Dodge, the mastermind behind the venerable Findagrave. Money raised by the tours continues to fund preservation of the cemetery.

Useful links:

The official Laurel Hill Cemetery site

Monthly tours at Laurel Hill

A Laurel Hill love story

Books I’ve reviewed that reference Laurel Hill Cemetery:

The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History

Famous and Curious Cemeteries: A Pictorial, Historical, and Anecdotal View of American and European Cemeteries

Victorian Cemetery Art

Other garden cemeteries on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #12: Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan

Cemetery of the Week #17: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York

Cemetery of the Week #28: Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #31: Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #42:  Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

Cemetery of the Week #53: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Cemetery of the Week #55: Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, California

Cemetery of the Week #58: Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island

Cemetery of the Week #43: Christ Church Burial Ground

Benjamin Franklin’s grave

Christ Church Burial Ground
Arch Street between 4th & 5th
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Telephone: (215) 922-1695
Established: 1719
Size: two acres
Number of interments: An estimated 6500
Open: In December, on Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Please call for more information. Closed January and February, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Open March through November, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m to 4, Sunday noon to 4, weather permitting.
Admission: $1 Students, $2 adults, and $25 for groups up to 25 people.
Guided tours: an additional fee of $3 for adults and $1 for students. In December, tours are by reservation only. From March to November, guided tours are given from 11 to 3:30 p.m. An historian leads  visitors to Colonial and Revolution-Era people and tells their stories.

The brick wall of the Christ Church Burial Ground, built in the 1770s, has a gap through which Benjamin Franklin’s grave is visible. Franklin’s tombstone has a large slab, almost as big as a bed sheet, carved with the names Benjamin and Deborah Franklin and the year 1790, the year of his death.

Franklin was buried near the wall because that is near the grave of his four-year-old son Francis, now remembered by a small brass plaque. The child died of smallpox. Franklin’s daughter Sally and her husband lay in the grave beside him. She raised money for the Continental Army and later sewed shirts for American soldiers.

Even during his lifetime, Franklin had been Philadelphia’s most famous citizen. He was responsible for the paving, lighting, and patrolling of the streets, along with improving the postal service, which made Philadelphia the communications center for the entire country. Franklin founded the nation’s oldest subscription library in 1731. He was also instrumental in founding the Pennsylvania Hospital and the “oldest continually active mutual fire insurance company in the country.” In 1757, he traveled to London as an unofficial ambassador to the Crown. When he returned to Pennsylvania in 1775, he joined the Second Continental Congress, which included John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John and Samuel Addams. Afterward, Franklin sailed to France, where he helped to get diplomatic recognition of the United States. At the end of the Revolutionary War, he negotiated the treaty with Great Britain, then returned to the United States to attend the Constitutional Congress in 1787. He was one of only five men who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution.

When he died in 1790, 20,000 Philadelphians followed the cortege to the Christ Church Burial Ground. In 1850s, bricks were removed from the wall to allow people to view Franklin’s grave. The custom of scattering coins on the grave began at that time, when a bride would toss a coin for luck onto the grave on her way to Christ Church to be married. Franklin’s marriage to Deborah had been long but not especially happy. Franklin married Deborah in 1730, when he was 24 and she 22. She died of a stroke 44 years later while he was in London. He’d been gone 16 years.

While Franklin’s is the most visited grave in the cemetery, the graveyard holds the remains of five signers of the Declaration of Independence, including George Ross, who served three years in the Continental Congress; Francis Hopkinson, a composer who designed currency; and Joseph Hewes, a delegate to all five Provincial Congresses who signed the Declaration for North Carolina.

In the Burial Ground rests John Dunlap, the Declaration’s first publisher. His descendents continue to be members of the Christ Church congregation. Also in the graveyard lies Colonel Edward Buncome, who died in nearby Germantown during the Revolutionary War and was buried here. A bronze plaque inside the cemetery’s wall remembers William Henry Drayton, signer of the Articles of Confederation and a member of the Continental Congress from South Carolina. His unmarked grave is now lost.

The cemetery contains a “Who’s Who” of Pennsylvania naval officers, including Commodore James Biddle, who received the Congressional Gold Medal for capturing the HMS Penguin during the War of 1812. Before his career was over, he’d signed treaties with Turkey and China and landed in Japan. Although two of the commodores were moved to newer family plots in Philadelphia’s lovely Laurel Hill Cemetery, Commodores Thomas Truxton (one of the first six captains appointed after the United States formed its Navy) and William Bainbridge continue to lie here. Bainbridge’s obelisk was restored by officers and alumni of the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland, named in his honor.

A number of Philadelphia mayors also lie in the Christ Church Burial Ground, including Matthew Clarkson, a Continental Congressman who was mayor during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793.

My tour ended at the grave of Dr. Benjamin Rush, acclaimed by the American Psychiatric Association as the father of psychiatry in America. Our guide said that Rush was the most radical of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was suspicious of slave-owners and wanted to see the practice of slavery banned in the new country. The other signers, nearly all slave-owners themselves, voted him down. While serving as the surgeon-general of the Continental Army, Rush campaigned for the removal of George Washington as commander. After the war, he served as treasurer of the U.S. Mint, advocated scientific education for women, wanted public clinics opened to treat the poor, and authored the first textbook on psychiatry in America, which demanded that the insane be treated with respect. When he died, John Addams wrote, “I know of no character, living or dead, who has done more real good in America.”

Useful links:

Famous people and a map of Christ Church Burial Ground

Some context for the burial ground

A lovely springtime photo of Christ Church Burial Ground

Other Revolutionary War heroes on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #18: King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #33: Old Dutch Burying Ground, Tarrytown, New York

Cemetery of the Week #41:  Trinity Churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #61: Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard, New York City, New York