Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mount Moriah Cemetery - 2013: The Year in Review

This is just a quick, end-of-the-year blog posting to fill you in on the state of Mount Moriah Cemetery in West Philadelphia. As you may know, I’m chair of the Communications and Technology Committee for the non-profit Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. (FOMMCI), and I’d like to thank everyone for the tremendous effort put forth this past year in the preservation efforts for the cemetery.

This includes not just physical labor and the loaning of equipment by hundreds of individuals, but for all who believe in the power of civic engagement in bringing a community together. We’ve had multiple colleges, fraternal organizations, and corporations participate in both large and small cleanup (or “restoration”) events. We welcome all. If you’re wondering why people get involved and what they do, please see the video link, “In Memoriam,” at end for a wonderful mini-documentary made this past fall by cinema students of Temple University.

Villanova University students being oriented to their tasks on a volunteer cleanup day
In my role on the FOMMCI Board of Directors I’m responsible for updating the website and sending out the monthly newsletter. It occurs to me now that some of my Cemetery Traveler readers have not seen either, so here’s the link to the FOMMCI website and if you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, just send us your email address (to: and we’ll put you on the list. You’ll learn about the latest news, updates, announcements, cleanup days, and the cemetery’s legal situation.

So many things happened with Mount Moriah this past year that it is challenging to list them all. Probably most substantially, the FOMMCI organization was granted 501(3)c status by the United States government so that it is legally recognized as a non-profit entity.  Tax-deductible contributions can be made directly to the FOMMCI via our new on-line “Fundrazr” site. We also gladly accept checks sent to us at: 

Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.
P. O. Box 5321
Philadelphia, PA 19142

Greater revenue equates to better equipment with which to care for the cemetery grounds. It also helps provide additional resources to help with locating graves, major deforestation projects, and analysis of burial records.

Tending to Betsy Ross' Plot
Never been to Mount Moriah Cemetery?

The winter months give one the opportunity to see clearly the potential of this vast (estimated 380 acres) green space spanning Philadelphia and Delaware counties (street address is 6201 Kingsessing Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19142). Winter quite literally allows us to see clearly through the trees – we can more easily appreciate the expansive beauty of the Victorian-era sculpture garden. One can more easily visualize a full restoration of this serenely landscaped masterpiece with its proud monuments to our city’s forefathers (and foremothers, as Betsy Ross is buried here too!)

The beauty of nature is evident at Mount Moriah. Aside from the architecture and landscaping, wildlife inhabits this luxurious green space in the middle of the city. On December 27, 2013, I saw my first heron feeding on fish in Cobbs Creek, the dividing line between the Philadelphia and Yeadon sides of the cemetery. On the same day, two deer ran into view in Section 102 on the Yeadon side.

What’s happened in 2013?
We’ve had literally hundreds of volunteers work on countless cleanup days and have successfully cleared (and kept clear!) many areas of the cemetery. This has allowed many visitors to access their ancestral graves and provided many with first-hand experience delving into the types of historic research and education which only a cemetery can provide. Individuals prefer to join the large groups to tend their own ancestors’ graves on the scheduled cleanup days when (typically) dozens of other people will be are to help. Section maps are posted on our website. For help locating a grave, please contact us at this email address: You can also write to us at:

Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.
P. O. Box 5321
Philadelphia, PA 19142

Landscaping Maps

Color-coded landscape map indicates cleared (green) areas
We’ve been publishing maps on the FOMMCI Facebook Group Page showing the various states of foliage clearance. An outcome of all this work is that we now publish a landscaping map, of sorts, on Facebook to indicate cleared areas of Mount Moriah so that visitors can see if their section of interest is cleared.

Organizational Sponsors
In the past year, Mount Moriah has hosted student volunteers and employees of many corporate national and international organizations like Virgin Airlines, Comcast, Asplundh, Comcast, and Verizon. Large or small – if your group or organization is willing to donate physical labor, please contact us at: Our scheduled restoration events are listed here, but we can usually accommodate requests for groups to work on other days.

Volunteers needed!
We are always looking for volunteers to help us in a variety of endeavors, ranging from marketing, website design, and guiding tours to the hard labor of grass cutting and deforestation. Please let us know if you can donate any amount of time and practical experience!

Drexel University student volunteers clearing graves

Recent “News and Events” from the FOMMCI website:     
Philadelphia Inquirer article (Sept. 26, 2013): Read about the Naval Asylum Plot on the Yeadon side of Mount Moriah Cemetery through an interview with Sam Ricks, FOMMCI Board Member and historian. “Its 21 medal honorees may be the most buried in any cemetery in the country, according to a military expert.“

In Memoriam,” A mini-documentary released in fall, 2013, by Temple University film students. Through interviews, the history and current state of this massive, formerly abandoned cemetery are examined. The dramatic efforts by hundreds of volunteers to revitalize it are addressed.

CNN posted on November 5, 2013, “Taking care of sacred spaces.” Photojournalist Effie Nidam introduces us to an Air Force Vet who is preserving the past. This wonderful “Veterans Day” newscast features Philadelphia’s Mount Moriah Cemetery and Ken Smith, Treasurer on the Board of The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. Many of us who volunteer time and energy to keep Mount Moriah from being overgrown with trees and weeds have our own very personal reasons for doing so. We invite you to discover Ken’s.

Civil War Veterans plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery
New fundraiser campaign established by the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.

The accomplishments of the FOMMCI have grown substantially over the past year and the cemetery has benefited immensely. The organization has been granted 501(3)c status by the United States government so that it is legally recognized as a non-profit entity. We are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Mount Moriah Cemetery by honoring the memory of those interred in her folds through restoration, historic research, and education. Greater revenue equates to better equipment with which to care for the cemetery grounds, to improve access to burial records, and to educate the community as to the value of the site ( which is included in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places).

FOMMCI Board treasurer Ken Smith cuts through weeds

It's not too late to make your 100% (2013) tax deductible donation to The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. If you already have, thank you so very much!

We recognize that not everyone can contribute physical labor to the upkeep of the grounds, so monetary contributions are a valuable way to help! Please consider making an end-of-the-year tax-deductible charitable contribution. Thank you and Happy Holidays! 

(Please click this link to help Mount Moriah!)

Art and Architecture Tour in progress at 1855 gatehouse (photo frank Rausch)

Looking to the future:
In December of 2012, Yeadon Borough and Philadelphia established the Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation. This not-for-profit organization will likely become the Receiver of the property whereby it will be authorized to act on behalf of the Court for the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association in specified areas of business operations.

References and Further Information:
Visit the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. website
Keep up to date with us on Facebook!