Title: Stock broker, builder, last superintendent of Mount Moriah Cemetery
Birthdate: January 19, 1938
Death Date: June 6, 2004
Plot Location: Burial Location Unknown
Each of the officials of Mount Moriah Cemetery Association (the organization that founded Mount Moriah and ran the cemetery until it closed) led noteworthy lives, and through their individual life stories the history of this hallowed ground is revealed. Follow the links provided to see how each life story connects with the others, and learn more about the unique place entrusted to their care.
Telling the story of the junior Jones is to tell the story of his 37 years at the helm of the cemetery he inherited. George Pennock Connell was the last of the Connell family to govern the place, Horatio Jones Sr. was in charge for 25 years until he died in 1966, and now the mantle fell to his son. (A photo of the office building serves as Horatio Jr.’s profile picture since no photo of him could be found and he was not buried here.)
This is his obituary from the Wilmington News Journal (June 12, 2004) which shows he had the same nickname as his grandfather’s uncle, Horatio P. Connell. That man’s father, George C. Connell, co-founded the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association. His life story traces the first footsteps in the cemetery’s long journey.
Running a cemetery wasn’t what young Horatio had in mind after his high school graduation. Some dates in his timeline are missing from that point until his father’s death but one major event was when he married Carol Ann Deese in 1958. Presumably he furthered his education but, like his father, the first marriage only lasted a few years.
He was residing in Manhattan in 1966 when he married Lydia Montanez. His father died in October of that year, so most likely the oversight of the cemetery fell temporarily to his mother, Henriette. Horatio returned to the area and began his career as a stock broker. A July, 1967 newspaper ad in Philadelphia announced his appointment to a brokerage firm, Bioren & Co., in their Media, Pennsylvania office. The couple settled in Chadds Ford, in Delaware County. From there it’s about 25 miles or 50 minutes to Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Horatio had the burden of balancing his new job, his family life, and taking the helm of a 112-year-old cemetery in a densely urban area, where life was far different from his. Things were dramatically different from 30 years earlier when his father worked at Mount Moriah as a young office manager.
Jim Crow laws in the South created the Great Migration of African American families coming north, beginning in the early 1900s. But in terms of sheer numbers, that first wave was dwarfed by the migration of the late 1940s through the 1950s, when blacks became a majority urban population for the first time in history.
A glance at the 1940 census shows the population of Kingsessing Ave. around the soon-to-open John Bartram High School was entirely Caucasian. “White flight” became the trend among the thousands of employees at the big GE and Westinghouse plants as they sought better housing among the suburbs of southeastern Delaware County.
Another trend was that people didn’t visit cemeteries as much as they had been doing. As society became increasingly mobile, families moved away, generations passed, and connections with ancestors were gradually lost.
A tidal wave of changes came with the post-war era as “beatniks” led the way to a “hippie” generation that rebelled against rules and questioned morality. The family unit was increasingly led by a single parent. Southwest Philly was filled with row houses and traffic that almost surrounded what was once a “rural cemetery.” That park-like oasis with only a few walls simply invited trouble because security was virtually unenforceable.
While still new on the job, Horatio wrote a letter to a friend in 1968 about the notion that the remains of Betsy Ross should be removed. He concluded by revealing his frustration with law and order:
A Personal Story
It was not entirely without policing. A man whose father was an employee at the time provided some perspective. His father, Al, answered an ad for a night watchman at Mount Moriah in 1958. The perk was that his family could live rent-free in the apartment above the office, so he and his wife and son moved in. He drove around the grounds in a pick-up truck and chased many juveniles away but never had to fire his gun.
In the late 1960s the grounds foreman left so Al took on his duties. It was frustrating, his son said, because groundskeepers wouldn’t always show up for work. Then the state discovered the cemetery wasn’t paying minimum wage.
Al was so stressed from being short-handed, his son said, that he had a heart attack and died in 1980. At one point the office manager retired but wasn’t replaced, so Al’s wife worked in the office for a few years. She and her son moved out of the apartment in the early 1980s.
A cemetery is the only business that has to service what it sells – forever. This cemetery was an incorporated, for-profit business. As sales declined, income fell but expenses, including utilities and real estate taxes, continued to increase with inflation. Eventually, repairs that weren’t essential weren’t made. Even essential maintenance got only minimal attention.
One obvious example was the original wrought iron railing along Kingsessing Ave. When a section was destroyed, if it was replaced at all it was with chain link fencing, as shown here. In another case, along 61st St. it wasn’t entirely vandalism but a tree that was allowed to grow and eventually helped to enable entry.
Without walls as a deterrent, people who wanted to do bad things found a convenient place to do them here. Gravestones were toppled, monuments and mausoleums were desecrated There was drug dealing, prostitution, and the dumping of trash, mattresses, tires, and even cars.
At some point Horatio must have known there was little he could do to put a dent in it, especially with what he said, in the above letter, was insufficient police protection. Under such circumstances, stress was probably a factor in his death in 2004 at age 66.
Horatio’s decision to be the last member of the board was probably on purpose to absolve his family of any liability. His wife, Lydia, did not turn her back to the situation, but knew there was no hope of seeing brighter days. She had not been on the board, lived 136 miles away in Maryland, and would soon be approaching the age of 70. But she gave whatever support she could.
For the next seven years there was someone paying bills, making payroll, accepting new burials, and keeping the books. Someone was there to install gravestones, cut grass, and keep up with maintenance and repairs to some extent. But by April 6, 2011, the funds (probably from the perpetual maintenance account) had simply run out.
After 156 years, the lights were turned off and the gates were locked to the cemetery that nobody wanted to buy and nobody owned. Its fate would be decided in the appropriately named “Orphans’ Court” of Philadelphia.
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