Thursday, May 21, 2015

“Monuments Men” Visit Mount Moriah Cemetery on Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2015 will be celebrated in an unusual way at Mount Moriah Cemetery (half of which is in Philadelphia, half in Yeadon, Pennsylvania). Two companies, Kreilick Conservation LLC (of Oreland, PA) and the George Young Company (of Swedesboro, New Jersey) will donate their services in an effort to upright, restore, and in some cases, reassemble some of the toppled U.S. military veterans’ grave markers and monuments. The day’s work will be overseen by Ken Smith of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. The non-profit, volunteer organization currently coordinates all such restoration efforts.
Friends' treasurer Ken Smith (L) with T. Scott Kreilick of Kreilick Conservation LLC

T. Scott Kreilick’s company specializes in laboratory and field analysis of materials, condition assessments, emergency response and stabilization, treatment, documentation, and maintenance of architecture, monuments, sculpture, and objects. Young’s company is a heavy hauling, rigging, and transport firm best known for moving the Liberty Bell to its current place on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The George Young Company has been in business since 1869 and Mr. Young’s ancestors are buried on the Yeadon side of Mount Moriah.

Volunteer workers at the Young family monument

Following is the list of toppled monuments and headstones marking the graves of veterans (and others) that will be worked on (along with the cemetery section in which they reside):

1. Brevet Brig. Genl. John K. Murphy 1796-1876 Section 128

2. Brevet Brig. Genl. Edwin R. Biles 1828-1883 Section 30

3. Major John Lockhart 1833-1917 Section 201

4. Lieut. Wm. Rainey Ritchie 1877-1904 Section 200

5. Samuel Watson 1838-1885 Section E

6. Thomas T. Tasker, Jr. 1799-1892 Section 129

(Click link to read about U.S. military veterans buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery.)

Kreilick examining monument at Mount Moriah
Kreilick Conservation, LLC proposes to wash the individual granite components of each monument. Their restoration specialists will fill cracks by injection grouting and color-matched mortar fills. Some cracks or detached elements that require more extensive intervention may be pinned to facilitate the repair and stability. Individual monument components will be rigged and repositioned by George Young Company personnel. Kreilick Conservation personnel will provide conservation oversight. These services are being provided at no charge.

All services provided by Kreilick Conservation, LLC are conducted in accordance with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ (AIC) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, and in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration.

Masonic Circle of St. John, Mount Moriah
Kreilick and Young have partnered to do similar work in the past, volunteering their company’s resources (e.g. people and cranes) at other Philadelphia area cemeteries. Their goal is to accomplish what they can in a single day. In 2005, for instance, they re-set 36 headstones at Montgomery Cemetery in Norristown, PA, that had been pushed over by vandals. The two men team up for such projects on Memorial Day to focus attention on the need to maintain the region's historic cemeteries. Many are deteriorating.

The work at Mount Moriah is even more ambitious than their Montgomery Cemetery project. Most of the damage to the larger structures at Mount Moriah was probably caused by ground subsidence or overgrowth of trees, rather than vandalism. Each of the six monuments is considerably larger and heavier than a simple headstone. Uprighting and reassembling fallen granite obelisks and other memorials requires leveling the massive bases and using a crane to lift the pieces. Then, the pieces must be secured.

Kreilick meeting with Ken Smith (right) to plan the resetting of monuments

We applaud the efforts of Kreilick Conservation, LLC and the George Young Company in assisting the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. in this restoration work. Their planned endeavor to raise these monuments to the fallen is a fitting tribute to the deceased. Memorial Day, after all, is the day the United States has set aside to remember and honor those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. 'History,' as they say, is what we deem worth remembering.

References and Further Reading:

Friday, May 15, 2015

A New Era for Abandoned Jewish Cemetery

A newspaper columnist phoned me a couple months ago and asked, “Mr. Snyder, just how many abandoned cemeteries are there in the United States?” I felt like saying “Twelve thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-six.” Obviously, no one knows the answer to that question. What I actually said to him is that there are degrees of abandonment, sort of. A cemetery can be unmaintained, yet still have an owner. So it may appear to be abandoned, but in reality, it is not - it is simply unmaintained. How can this happen? Why is this even allowed to happen? There are no simple answers.

May 2015 image of lower portion of cemetery, cleared of weeds

The good news, however, is that yet another (in my fifteen-years’ experience as a cemetery traveler) abandoned cemetery has been reclaimed! The cemetery in question is the 18-acre (by some estimates) abandoned Jewish cemetery in the woods of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia).

You may have read one or both of the blogs I’ve posted about this cemetery, known variously as Mount of Olives, Har Zetim, and Har Hasetim Cemetery. One blog documented my maiden voyage to this "Abandoned Jewish Cemetery in Gladwyne" (as it is also known), "Passover and Gladwyne's Abandoned Jewish Cemetery" (click link to go to that blog). A second blog documented a winter visit, "Graves Beneath the Snow." One of this cemetery's challenges is access - it is surrounded by very expensive private residential properties. In fact, you would never find it unless someone physically showed you where it is.

Brick crypt in Har Hasetim Cemetery

Any information available on the cemetery via the Internet is sparse, and in some cases inaccurate. I must confess that I added to the wealth of misinformation with the title of my first blog on the cemetery, "Passover and Gladwyne's Abandoned Jewish Cemetery." As I mentioned above, although a graveyard may appear unkempt, it does not necessarily mean it has been abandoned. Har Hasetim actually became the property of Gladwyne's Beth David Reformed Congregation in 1999. The most complete history of Har Hasetim has just been published in the Spring 2015 issue of "Chronicles," the Journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia (Vol. 32 - 1). The article, written by Philadelphia's LandHealth Institute member Rachael Griffith and Beth David Executive Director Jill Cooper, is entitled, A New Era for an Abandoned Jewish Cemetery (past issues are available at this link online). 

Back in 1999, the courts ruled that nearby Beth David Reformed Congregation be granted ownership of Har Hasetim, as the cemetery was facing a land development threat. Since its inception in 1895, Har Hasetim changed ownership a few times, and has faced a number of challenges. Since 1999, Beth David has kept the cemetery intact, and has reached the point where a master plan for the property will soon be adopted. The plan is being created with the help of LandHealth Institute. Details of the plan will be made public in the near future. The people directly involved with the care of the cemetery are members of Beth David's "Friends of Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery," a non-profit company (click here to go to the Friends website).

Wineberry thicket photographed in 2014

Keeping the sacred ground intact, maintained, and eventually restored is the main goal of the Friends group. I sat in on a recent meeting of the Friends and was taken by their knowledge and enthusiasm. The group has already had several cleanup days this spring, with a major goal of removing the wineberry (a relative of the raspberry) vines that tangle the grave sites at the lower end of the grounds. They've done wonderful work. Much of the thorny wineberry plants have been uprooted and removed. This allows access to individual graves. Another cleanup day is scheduled for this Sunday, May 17, 2015. Their volunteer efforts have certainly been evident. I visited Har Hasetim at the beginning of May, 2015, and was struck by how walkable the grounds are. Vines and weeds had been cut back and the walking trails are clear of woodland debris.  

Since forming in 2012, the
Friends of Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery has done much genealogical research (a list of a thousand names from the burial records appears on their new website). Working to publish these names as well as publishing the concise and accurate history of the cemetery (Spring 2015 "Chronicles" article) satisfies the curiosity of many and fills in some of the gaps of Jewish history in the Greater Philadelphia region. I, for one, did not know that Philadelphia had many Jewish burial associations, which owned plots at Har Hasetim for the purpose of providing "poor Jewish immigrants with a proper burial according to Jewish law" (1). This explains all of the pieces of rusting iron fencing throughout the property. Also shocking are the documented attempts by land developers over the years to build on the cemetery grounds. In 1912, when Har Hasetim had fallen on hard financial times, a Narberth, PA, contractor purchased a majority of the land at sheriff's sale and disinterred an estimated half of the bodies before he was stopped.

Har Hasetim Cemetery currently has clear paths on which to walk its grounds (you can see the tree branches in the photos above and below, which bound the walking path). This is just the beginning. The future of Har Hasetim, "its continued survival and success," as Griffith and Cooper put it in the Chronicles article (1), "is in the hands of those who care about it. Themes of survival emerge from many parts of the cemetery's story. [It's] existence has been tenuous since its establishment, but there have always been people who cared enough to save it from obliteration." The Friends, along with the LandHealth Institute, are developing a master plan to ensure this will continue.

So if you have wondered about this formerly abandoned cemetery, tucked in the woods, totally off the beaten path – as I had please consider stopping by for at least a tour this coming Sunday. The Friends group welcomes all volunteers and would be happy to show you around. If you’d like to help clear some weeds, the formal invitation from the Beth David Reform Congregation is reprinted below:

We Need Your Help!

Sunday, May 17th

Calling All Gardeners and Horticulturists

Tucked among the homes and estates of Gladwyne is a gem of an historic cemetery, as well as a hidden haven for nature, the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery. Beth David Reform Congregation of Gladwyne has been tasked to maintain it, and the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery has plans to restore it. This Sunday, May 17th, we will be cleaning up the cemetery by removing the dead wood, overgrown weeds, and invasive plants. Meet at Beth David at 12:30pm, 1130 Vaughan Lane, Gladwyne PA 19035 (proceed to the very end of the lane). Wear appropriate clothing including stable footwear, jeans, and work or gardening gloves. Bring hand tools for weeding and clearing such as rakes and clippers. Additional tools will be available for those who need them.

Questions? contact Jill Cooper, Executive Director,, 610-896-7485 x104

1. Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, Vol. 32 - 1, Spring 2015 (

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day and its Founder – Anna Jarvis

I recently photographed Anna Jarvis’ (1864 - 1948) grave marker in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Jarvis is the mother, the founder, of Mother’s Day in the United States. I wondered if people left Hallmark cards and boxes of Whitman’s chocolates at her grave every Mothers’ Day (the second Sunday in May, here in the U.S.). Turns out that such a deed would be a great insult to the woman!  Keep reading to find out why.

Mother's Day, according to Wikipedia, is “a modern celebration honoring one's own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. The American holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her own mother in Grafton, West Virginia."
Her campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her own mother, Ann Jarvis, died. "Anna’s mission was to honor her mother by continuing work she started and to set aside a day to honor mothers…, 'the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.' Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War….” (ref).

Due to Jarvis’ campaigning, several states officially recognized Mother's Day, the first in 1910 being Jarvis’ home state of West Virginia. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation to institute Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

FTD gift assortment for Mother's Day (ref)

So, why would Jarvis be insulted to have FTD deliver flowers to her grave on Mother’s Day? Or for folks to leave a Whitman’s Sampler and a Mother’s Day card? Well, in 1923, just nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the holiday became so rampant that Jarvis herself “became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration,” says Louisa Taylor in the 2008 Canwest News Service article "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'".

Jarvis' efforts did little good to thwart the commercialization as Mother's Day became (and continues to be) one of the most commercially successful of all U.S. holidays. Who profits? Greeting card companies, flower delivery companies, and candy companies, to name a few.

Hallmark greeting card (ref)

"A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment."
—Anna Jarvis, the Founder of Mother's Day (ref)

Whitman's (Russel Stover) chocolates (ref)

Jarvis memorial grave marker, West Laurel Hill
So how is it that Jarvis was born in West Virginia and is buried outside Philadelphia? Anna Jarvis never married and had no children – ironic, perhaps, for the founder of Mother’s Day. She spent her declining years in West Chester, PA, where her sister lived. The grave marker in West Laurel Hill Cemetery marks the family plot, in which Anna, along with her mother, sister, and brother are buried.

To give you an idea of the size of the Jarvis monument here at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, above is a photo of my friend Robert Reinhardt photographing it. I must thank Robert for pointing it out to me last year. We were at the cemetery photographing the grave stones when he brought it to my attention. As many times as I have been to West Laurel Hill, I never knew of the existence of the Jarvis grave marker. Note also the "Daughters of the American Revolution" plaque at its base.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Park Day 2015 at Mount Moriah Cemetery

On March 28, 2015, The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. celebrated our nation’s “Park Day” with a special restoration event at the cemetery (half of which is in Philadelphia, half in Yeadon, PA.). Tours and cleanup activities abounded! About a hundred people showed up to help restore some of the sections that had become overgrown.

America’s  “Park Day” is sponsored by the Civil War Trust. For the fourth year in a row, the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. participated and honored the memory of those who died in both wars. I was there to photograph and document some of the activities.

"Since 1996, the Civil War Trust has sponsored Park Day, an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War — and now Revolutionary War — battlefields and historic sites take on maintenance projects large and small. Activities are chosen by each participating site to meet their own particular needs and can range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and trail buildings."

Easily a hundred people attended, most with tools in hand to help clear graves. After I posted the image above on Facebook (click for link), one reader responded: "That is one of our old sledding hills in the back ground. The silver car is parked at the bottom. I don't know how long it's been since I saw it. Congratulations to the Friends of Mt. Moriah for your labor of love. If I didn't live in Arizona I'd be out helping you."

Section 27 (photo above) was an area of work concentration for the day. Flags were placed on Veterans' graves after the weeds were cleared.

Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Board Vice President Bill Warwick and his trusty chainsaw! That wonderful yellow shirt he's modeling with the Mount Moriah Gatehouse logo is available for purchase, by the way: $20 from the Friends. Please inquire at Help us fund future restoration work!

Volunteering to clear a heavily wooded area near the Masonic Circle of St. John are workers from Circle Landscape Services of Philadelphia. The company is affiliated with Philadelphia's Masonic Jerusalem Lodge 506.

One of the most photographed examples of overgrowth at Mount Moriah Cemetery is evident in the photo above. The orange paint marks the trees to be cut and chipped from around this crypt in Section 31.

Happy restorationists Joe (Sr.) and Joey (Jr.) Reilly (of Harleysville, PA) cleared overgrowth and weeds from the area around Civil War Nurse Mary Brady's grave. (Read more about their experience at this link.)

Volunteers tackling the high weeds in Section 27!

Temple University (Philadelphia) student volunteers Anastasia Longoria and Ryan Greed take a break from their work of clearing graves. Temple sent forty students to help at Mount Moriah for Park Day!!!!!

Circle Landscape Services (Philadelphia) workers start up chainsaws to fell trees around the Masonic Circle of Saint John. Note the tall marble column in the background, the monument to the Pennsylvania Masonic Grand Tyler. The column can be seen in the photo below, through the weeds at right. This is what the Circle of Saint John looked like before the massive restoration project of 2013!

Circle of Saint John, c. 2012

Joe Becton of the 3rd Regiment USCT (United States Colored Troops) was on hand to place flags on Civil War veterans' graves. He is greeted by The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc., Board President Paulette Rhone at the check-in area.

Reverend Marlon Smith (photo above, far right in foreground) leads tour of “African American Sailors of the Civil War” in Mount Moriah's Naval Asylum Plot (Yeadon, PA side of cemetery). Rev. Smith's son, Joshua, read short bios of each veteran on the tour's stop. A wonderful presentation! The fellow at left is reenactor Dan Cashin (Fort Delware). This gentleman is a specialist on the war ships used in the Civil War, and explained the vessels on which each of the veterans served.

Reenactors stood guard at each grave on the tour of “African American Sailors of the Civil War” in Mount Moriah's Naval Asylum Plot.

Readers interested in helping out at a future restoration event, or sponsoring one, please contact the (The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. at The schedule is posted at this link.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Civil War Nurse Mary Brady's Headstone Found!

Joey Reilly plants flowers before the grave stones he helped discover (Photo FOMMCI)
On March 28, 2015, “Park Day,” the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. (FOMMCI) sponsored a cleanup and restoration event in this sprawling, formerly abandoned cemetery (you can read about the history of Mount Moriah at the website link at the end). America’s national “Park Day,” is sponsored by the Civil War Trust, and while it is mainly about saving historic Civil War battlefields, it also encompasses related historic sites. Mount Moriah Cemetery is sacred in that hundreds of Civil War soldiers and sailors are interred here.

Volunteers clearing Section 27 of Mount Moriah Cemetery

On March 28, 2015, “Park Day,” the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. sponsored a cleanup and restoration event in this sprawling, formerly abandoned cemetery (you can read about the history of Mount Moriah at the link at the end).  America’s  national “Park Day,” is sponsored by the Civil War Trust, and while it is mainly about saving historic Civil War battlefields, it also encompasses related historic sites. Mount Moriah Cemetery is sacred in that hundreds of Civil War soldiers and sailors are interred here. 

Joe and Joe Reilly Jr. beginning their day at Mount Moriah

I planned to photograph some of the events and projects going on that day, which included tours, searching for visitors’ ancestors’ graves, and various brush-cutting and raking endeavors. Section 27 on the Philadelphia side of the cemetery was the designated area for the latter, and scores of volunteers showed up to help clear weeds and other dead vegetation. This was one of the last opportunities to tackle these plants, as everything would be greening up soon. The live plants are more difficult to cut back, the leaves and vines hide headstones, and springtime ushers back the deer ticks and poison ivy.

Volunteers felling and chipping trees near the Circle of St. John

Section 27 is just below the Masonic Circle of Saint John (click link to map, which indicates the density of overgrowth in all sections of Mount Moriah Cemetery). Early in the day, as I was hiking up to the Circle to see what all the chain saw noise was about (volunteers felling trees), I noticed a young boy and his Dad pulling tools out of their car and setting up to cut weeds near the lower end of Section 27, near the road.  I interviewed them for a bit and took some photos. Joe Reilly, Sr., said he had brought his ten-year-old son to Mount Moriah a couple times and the youngster really enjoyed the landscaping work. As Joe Jr., Joey, went at the weeds with clippers, I could see he was really charged up.

Joey Reilly beginning to clear weeds from around the Brady headstone
 I knew that about thirty feet up the hill was the grave of volunteer Civil War nurse Mary Brady (1821 – 1864), which had been cleared last year but now had weeds growing all around it. I offered to show the Reillys her grave and suggested that, with this being Park Day - when we focus on Civil War-related historic sites - perhaps they would like to clear the area around her grave. They were both enthusiastic about this so we grabbed their tools and walked up the hill.

 From the Civil War Trust website

"Since 1996, the Civil War Trust has sponsored Park Day, an annual hands-on preservation event to help Civil War — and now Revolutionary War — battlefields and historic sites take on maintenance projects large and small. Activities are chosen by each participating site to meet their own particular needs and can range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and trail buildings." 

Joe and Joey Reilly, after having cleared the area around the Brady headstone

As I showed the Reillys the Brady head stone, Joey started poking in the dirt with a small shovel exposing pieces of marble. He asked me what this was. I explained to him that over the years, grave markers and parts of monuments fall and are buried by natural soil erosion. I told him that what he was poking at might very well be a headstone of someone in Mary Brady’s family. I left them to explore as I went off to photograph other events in different sections of the grounds.

Joey Reilly examines the headstone of the Brady children
About an hour later I stopped back to see their progress, and to do a “before and after” photo. To my surprise, Joey had unearthed a regulation-size marble headstone, lying on its back a few inches below the surface. I took a brush and swept some dirt off the top of the inscription, and saw the last name “Brady.” I congratulated them and told that they found the headstone of a member of Mary Brady’s family.  Joey was beaming! They had uncovered the headstone of Eward Brady, Mary's husband.

Civil War Nurse Mary Brady's original headstone; 1990s-era replacement stone at rear (photo FOMMCI)

At the time, I told them not to try and lift the stone themselves, but to go get one of the Friends of Mount Moriah volunteers to work with them. I had to leave then to go photograph the tour of the Naval Asylum plot and left the cemetery after that. You can imagine my surprise when I saw this photo (immediately above) on the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Facebook page the next day! The Reillys uncovered two headstones – one that marked the grave of Edward Brady and another that marked the graves of their children. At some point after the Reillys had gone, Ken Smith, Treasurer of the Friends, along with other volunteers raised and secured these, along with an even more fascinating stone.

Ken Smith uncovers Mary Brady's original headstone (photo FOMMCI)
In the words of Paulette Rhone, President of the volunteer Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.:
"As if the day could not get any better, it did. After the headstones for the family of Mary Brady were unearthed, we knew that she must have one too. Well, you know Ken [Smith] was bound and determined to find it and he did. Civil War nurse Mary Brady's original headstone is now standing tall with the rest of her family. Mike Comfort did the honor of placing the flag. It just doesn't get much better than that for Civil War Park Day!"

Hat’s off to Joe Reilly Sr. for providing his son with the opportunity to rediscover American history in such a personal way! And for giving us all a prime example of one of the things that can happen to headstones in a cemetery. For whatever reason – ground subsidence, vandalism, etc. – a headstone may fall. Over the years, it may get buried with leaves, silt, mud from water runoff, etc. Eventually, it may only be a few inches below the surface, but to the naked eye, it has disappeared. Unless documentation exists that a stone was there, no one can be sure if there ever was one placed. One could also assume the grave marker was stolen, or even that the grave was relocated.

When the 28th Pennsylvania Historical Association of the Sons of Union Veterans decided to honor Mary Brady’s memory in the 1990s by having a new grave marker carved and installed, it probably did not occur to them that the original stone lay but a few inches underground. Today, the original stands proudly before the substitute, but oddly, bearing different dates! The original shows Brady's life dates as 1821-1864, while the original shows 1822-1864. Ah, the mysteries of cemeteries ….. !

Volunteer Mike Comfort places flag before Mary Brady's newly-raised headstone (Photo: FOMMCI)

References and Further Reading:
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Website
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.
Facebook Group Page
Civil War Trust Park Day link