The reason for people avoiding Mount Moriah for the past few decades is usually that it was not safe to be here. The weeds had overgrown the place and even in the 1960s, half of the cemetery’s 300+ acres had grown into a forest. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, it apparently got worse. Visitors stayed away in droves.
The people who show up to clean and look for ancestors’ graves are usually in their forties and beyond. They may have spent their childhood living near Mount Moriah, learning how to ride a bike or ski down its gentle hills. The members of the Friends Board go out of their way to help them find the graves of their familial ancestors. The Friends group has access to cemetery records and maps – the latter are on the Friends’ website, the former still not yet available to the public (contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
|Yeadon side of Mount Moriah during "Comcast Cares" Cleanup Day|
People want to see the gravesite of their forebears – it gives people a sense of their place in a larger history. We all need a tangible anchor to the past. I’ve helped folks look for graves a few times myself - it can be a truly rewarding experience, or terribly frustrating when you can’t actually find the grave. Why would you not be able to find it with a section map and plot coordinates? As of this writing, although many of the sections in Mount Moriah Cemetery have been cut back and are being kept clear by volunteers and family members, about two thirds of the grounds are still overgrown with trees and high weeds.
|Map: Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery website|
One time an experienced cemetery worker and I spent about an hour trying to find a woman’s grandparents’ graves, but gave up for two reasons: 1) it was summer and the foliage was dense; and 2) though we found the proper area in the proper section, most of the headstones had been pushed over and were lying face down. (You would think vandals would have the common decency to push them the other way so people could still read the inscriptions.)
|Northern border of Naval Asylum Plot (graves in woods beyond)|
We found the general area of the plot in Section 148 (which, according to the map (at right), contained around 204 graves – 17 columns by 12 rows), but finding the actual grave was quite another matter. The obvious obstacle was the dense forest which had grown up in Section 148. In addition, because the paths or roadways indicated on the map surrounding each section are not obvious in the middle of the woods, finding a starting point can be challenging. Section markers have long disappeared (but this is on the Friends’ to-do list). The only bearing I could get was that Section 148 was just north of the nicely manicured Naval Asylum Plot and just east of the G.A.R. plot which had just been identified and cleared that day in Section 142!
|G.A.R. Plot, Mount Moriah Cemetery|
|Visitor nearing ancestor's grave in Section 148|
What's past is past, though, and currently the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery is making great strides to bring the grounds under control. Hopefully within a year the cemetery will have an official legal owner and more concerted efforts will be made to make it a viable cemetery one again. Until such time, if you are looking for a grave in Mount Moriah Cemetery, please contact the Friends group at email@example.com. Provide us with as much information as you can, and we’ll help you to the extent of the resources available to us.