1855 – 2011
Mount Moriah Cemetery is an historic burial ground incorporated by an Act of the State Legislature in 1855, one of several rural cemeteries developed in Philadelphia between 1845 and 1860. The cemetery originally consisted of 54 acres. While reports indicate that the cemetery is 380 acres, a review of real estate records indicates that it is approximately 200 acres. Philadelphia and Yeadon share equal shares of the cemetery, which spans Cobbs Creek.
Due to the massive size of the cemetery, many churches and other organizations established smaller lots within its bounds. A Romanesque gatehouse fabricated from brownstone was designed by local architect Stephen Decatur Button in 1855. This was once the entrance to Mount Moriah on Islington Lane, today known as Kingsessing Avenue.
There is a naval plot located within the cemetery that is managed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs. They estimate more than 2,400 navy officers and sailors have been buried in Mount Moriah Naval Plot since the first interment on March 26, 1865. A separate Soldiers’ Lot is also managed by the department.
Since its founding, the Cemetery has been governed and cared for by the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association. In 2004, the last known member of that Association, Horatio C. Jones, Jr., passed away. From 2004 until March 2011, the Cemetery appears to have been operated by an employee of the Association.
2011 – Cemetery Closes
In March of 2011, the City was made aware through news reports and citizen phone calls that Mount Moriah had ended its business operations. To our knowledge, no one from the Association informed the State, the City or the funeral directors that had worked with the cemetery of its intent to close. At this time the City led a working group consisting of representatives of Yeadon, Councilman Johnson, Councilwoman Blackwell, Councilman Jones, Representative Waters, and Senator Williams.
2012 – Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation Established
In December of 2012, Yeadon Borough and Philadelphia established the Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation. This nonprofit 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. Because of the complexity of the issues and in order to insure a similar situation does not occur in the future, ongoing municipal involvement is important. While the organization would be led by the municipal governments, the organization’s board is diverse in experience and ethnicity.
2014 – Receivership Appointed
A Philadelphia Orphans’ Court judge appointed a receivership to rehabilitate the neglected 200-acre Mount Moriah Cemetery. Judge John W. Herron dissolved the 159-year-old Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, whose last officer died in 2004.
The Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation assumed responsibility and reports to the court twice a year on its progress in restoring the grounds. Because Mount Moriah Cemetery is in receivership under the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Orphans Court, any family member(s) with legal standing must petition the Court for approval to place a headstone, move/remove or bury remains.
Current Conditions and Maintenance
For many years before its closure, the cemetery had not been well cared for. Since 2011, the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery have worked to restore the cemetery. Volunteers began by clearing debris (including abandoned cars, tires, trash, etc.) and brush in overgrown sections, working inward from the entrances on either side. As of 2019, nearly 50% of the cemetery has been opened up to allow visitors to safely enter these sections.
Because of the imminent threat of damage to the historical records contained in the Association’s office, the Court authorized the City to remove and secure the historic records. The records were initially moved and stored by Iron Mountain, a records storage company. They were since moved in November 2013 to the City Archives for holding. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery have been working to digitize the records. Inquiries regarding burial lookups can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In late 2018 our strategic plan was completed by Fairmount Ventures in conjunction with Studio Bryan Hanes, KSK Architects Historians Planners, and the ROZ Group.