Sprawled across almost 400 acres of land, encompassing the Borough of Yeadon and along Philadelphia’s neighboring Cobbs Creek, sits the historic Mount Moriah Cemetery. Incorporated in 1855, the final resting place for notable figures, veterans and area residents has endured its fair share of neglect.
Paulette Rhone, board president of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, is leading the charge to restore the grounds while honoring the souls of the buried. In addition to leading the group, Rhone is a longtime Cobbs Creek area resident who has a personal interest to ensure Mount Moriah is preserved.
“My husband, Gilbert, died in July of 1993,” she said. “The funeral service provider recommended Mount Moriah Cemetery as a place of interment. At that time the front of the cemetery was well maintained so it appeared to be a peaceful resting place for my husband. But, the area around the cemetery was declining rapidly.”
More than ten years after Rhone buried her husband, the Preservation Pennsylvania listed Mount Moriah on its Most Endangered Historic Properties List in 2004.
In 2005 The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia placed the cemetery on its Endangered Properties List.
Last year it was reported that the cemetery was officially closed for business, upsetting families that made prepaid burial arrangements and those seeking to obtain records and information on their loved ones.
“My belief is that the cemetery can be used as a tool to teach young people of all cultures, especially African-American students, their lineage and the contributions of their ancestors made to the history of this country from a familial perspective,” Rhone said.
Mount Moriah’s rich history includes being the final home to Betsy Ross, 17 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, former Philadelphia Mayor George Connell, and renowned Philadelphia recording artist John Whitehead. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia recently recognized the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery for its outstanding work to preserve the landmark cemetery.
As a result of her strong beliefs, Rhone and the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery have organized a series of cleanup days in partnership with Greater Philadelphia Cares, Global Citizen and City Year Greater Philadelphia.
“After speaking with Mrs. Rhone and visiting Mount Moriah, I knew that the project would be perfect for our students,” said City Year corp member, Joshua Stutte. “The cemetery is an extremely beautiful area and contains such a rich history. I knew that our City Heroes (students) would enjoy the experience.”
Nearby residents of the cemetery are joining the cleanup call and appreciate the effort.
“It is amazing how much nicer the cemetery is beginning to look,” said Yeadon Borough resident Learin Johnson who has volunteered her time to assist.
As momentum and interest builds in beautifying the cemetery, Rhone is inspired by what she and the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery have been able to achieve so far.
“The goal of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery is to restore and preserve the Mount Moriah Cemetery through research, education and community engagement,” Rhone said.
For more information on how you can support the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, visit www.friendsofmountmoriahcemetery.org.