Mount Moriah Cemetery
Located in Philadelphia, PA
Photo © 2006 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Mount Moriah Cemetery History
In the early 19th century, the American perception of burying their dead shifted towards a new direction - instead of placing loved ones in watery, mouldering pits at the church graveyard, people desired a more bucolic setting for their families, a cemetery, which derives from a Greek word which means place for sleeping. These peaceful, rural places of mourning first became popular in cities such as Rochester, Worcester, Boston and Albany, with Philadelphia following suit in the 1840s with the opening of Laruel Hill and Woodlands cemeteries, which became immensely popular. They were resting places for the affluent however, and soon the Philadelphian middle class was clamoring for a cemetery that was far away from the swampy, fetid graveyards. Mount Moriah was founded in 1855 in what was Kingseeing Township (now part of Philadelphia); the far distance from the city center promoted the cemetery as being untouchable by the rapid residential expansion taking place. Both the affluent and middle class were buried here, from a wide variety of religions and ethnicity. The 54-acre cemetery featured a Romanesque crenelated gate, designed by architect Stephen D. Button and constructed using brownstone.
Mount Moriah would eventually expand to 200 sprawling acres and hold 80,000 citizens. The remains of Betsy Ross, designer of the American flag, were moved to Mount Moriah to join her third husband's family plot there in 1856. Their remains were reportedly moved once again in 1975 to the backyard of the Besty Ross House at 239 Arch Street, although some speculation has arisen to their actual whereabouts these days.
When the last remaining owner of the cemetery died in 2004, Mount Moriah simply left abandoned, although burials continued to take place until 2011. The land encompasses both the city of Philadelpha and the Borough of Yeadon, complicating the matter of reorganizing and restoring ownership. Although the Civil War and Naval plots are cared for by the Department of Veteran Affairs, much of the grounds have become overgrown, with tombs and gravestones crumbling and vandalized; eventually, a non-profit group called Friends of Mount Moriah was formed in 2012 to clean up and maintain the grounds.