Title: Secretary-treasurer of Mount Moriah Cemetery Association; state legislator, county sheriff
Birthdate: October 28, 1840
Death Date: January 10, 1927
Plot Location: Section 33

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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. 

 

Large families were not uncommon in the mid-1800s, but 13 children was certainly above average. The fourth of this family’s baker’s dozen was Horatio,  named in honor of his mother’s father, Horatio Pennock. George Connell, Horatio’s father, has his own “Notable” life story here that explains more about the family tree.

Home Life

Having a four-syllable name usually means it gets shortened by family and close friends, and that explains why Horatio was nicknamed “Rash.” Educated in the public schools of Philadelphia, he had nine younger siblings when he was 15. One of them died in 1856 and was buried at Mount Moriah. That’s significant because the cemetery which his father founded had just opened ten  months earlier. 

Horatio chose to begin his working life as a civil engineer and surveyor. The 1860 census did not list street addresses, but where he lived in 1862 was revealed in a church register. On the day he was married, his residence was recorded as “entrance to Mount Moriah Cemetery.” That was most likely at the gatehouse which was built to include a two-story residence on either side of the main arch. How long (or if) the newlyweds lived there is unknown. While he enjoyed many interests,  he spent the rest of his life as attached to the cemetery as he was to his bride. 

Her name was Anne Laycock, a recent immigrant from England whose father was a stonecutter. Cemeteries made money from the sale of burial plots but also from the sale of gravestones and monuments through a third party. It’s natural to assume (although still just a guess) that Horatio met Anne because of his father’s business relationship with her father.

Their wedding was on February 5, 1862 and their first child was born on September 18. They became members of St. James Church (Episcopal) in Kingsessing where all of their eight children were baptized and three of them were married. It’s also where most of Horatio’s siblings were baptized.

In the Militia

During the turbulent years of  the Civil War he answered the governor’s urgent call for an emergency militia to be formed. By September of 1862, Confederate forces were in Maryland. The idea that they might succeed in crossing the Mason-Dixon line prompted Horatio to join the 16th Infantry, Pennsylvania Emergency Militia on September 12, six days before his son’s birth. To his great relief, his service wasn’t needed; Union troops forced a rebel retreat from Antietam on September 17 and the militia was disbanded on September 26. 

Things looked desperate again in the summer of 1863 as the governor again called for reserve units. Horatio again joined the militia on June 24 but again they weren’t called to action. The Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3 was a Union victory, but this time his unit wasn’t disbanded until August 1. 

That means Private Connell’s cumulative service was less than eight weeks and he probably never even left the city, but he was officially considered a Civil War veteran. He joined the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran’s organization, and was proud to be in the George G. Meade Post #1, probably because it provided excellent social and networking opportunities.

His father served in the State Senate from 1859 until his death in 1871, and during that time three more of Horatio’s siblings were laid to rest in the family plot. Horatio became secretary on the cemetery’s Board of Managers, which positioned him to succeed his father as the most important person at the cemetery. He had that title for another 50 years or more. His brother, George Jr., was superintendent of Mount Moriah from 1872 until he died of tuberculosis in 1884.

Burial Dispute

One of the darkest moments in the cemetery’s history occurred in 1875. The wife of a well-known African-American caterer named Henry Jones purchased a lot in the cemetery from an existing lot holder. After his death the cemetery’s Board of Managers ordered that his funeral procession be turned away at the gate, claiming their right to discriminate on the basis of race. This clipping summarizes their position. A lawsuit was filed and in 1876 the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mrs. Jones. Weary of the struggle, she gave up and went elsewhere.

After burying yet another sibling, Horatio was acting superintendent (in addition to board secretary) from 1884 to 1898. He made his oldest son, Charles, his assistant superintendent in the 1880s so he could pursue another of his father’s interests.

Politics & Real Estate

Horatio already had a good idea how things worked in Harrisburg. He took his first step into the workings of government by serving as Sergeant-At-Arms of the State Senate during the 1881 legislative session. Then, from 1883-1891, he was a member of the state House of Representatives, followed by a term as Philadelphia County Sheriff. That was the title by which he was best known.

After Horatio’s father died, his mother, Elizabeth, still had three teenagers and two adult children living at home. She owned a 20-acre tract on the southwest corner of Kingsessing Ave.  and 60th Street. (Her house can still be seen as the back part of the church on the corner.) After she died, Horatio’s sons, Joseph and George, sold some of that land and bought an adjoining tract to create Sections E and F. 

Horatio inherited a tract between 65th Street and  the western edge of the cemetery. He also seemed to inherit his father’s talent for buying and selling real estate, which was passed down to his sons. One of them, George, took the western-most part of that tract and built a home there overlooking Cobbs Creek. Horatio lived his last few years there with George.

Elizabeth remained a strong influence in both family and business matters, although officially the cemetery had a board of managers. A bit of family drama found its way into this 1881 newspaper column. Elizabeth’s namesake granddaughter, known as Bessie, exhibited a strong-willed trait in her choice of husbands that landed her in the doghouse and her father in court.

Ambition also seemed to be in the family genes. The oldest son, Charles, moved on from cemetery operations to serve on the city’s Common Council from 1893-1912 while also being a city real estate assessor for 37 years. Joseph was a real estate broker, John became a lawyer, and Horatio Jr. was a vocalist and teacher at Julliard. George helped operate Mount Moriah for 30 years, while partnering with Joseph in selling real estate. He was also a city councilman for 25 years, council president one year, and acting mayor for five months. 

The Connell family didn’t officially “own” Mount Moriah but it was under their firm control. Sometime just after 1900 a sales brochure was published that listed the names of the board members. Joseph Connell was one of them, but George was the most involved after he became superintendent from 1898 until his father died.

20th Century Expansion

Meanwhile, Horatio’s title became secretary/treasurer and he was still making the big decisions, such as opening a new section of lots for sale. These newspaper ads ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1911:

A newspaper account of the dedication ceremony said sections A through G, (the “alpha sections”) covered 15 acres; this ad says 20. Another ad boasted that 150,000 burials had taken place by 1911. One project on Horatio’s wish list, a stone wall around the entire property never got off the ground, thanks to the construction of the Cobbs Creek Boulevard (now Parkway) in 1909. As a result, only one connecting road between the two sides remained. Security has remained compromised ever since.

It was about this time that the number of burials per year must have peaked and began a slow, downward spiral. The cemetery never ran out of space, but to avoid the tremendous cost of cutting trees and clearing stumps, existing cleared space was used, like sections J, K and L. These were once part of the carriage lane leading from the original entrance at the Gatehouse, shown in this artist’s sketch, to the bridge over the creek. It has and always will require an enormous amount of manpower, gas, and equipment to maintain the grounds. Those plots that didn’t have “perpetual care” and weren’t cared for by the owners quickly became overgrown. It grew to be more of an issue over time, due simply to the sheer size of the place.

Horatio’s story ends with his death in 1927, but not before this family photo with all eight children was snapped, probably in the early 1920s. George is standing at the far left. Horatio’s wife, Ann, died in 1923 and is buried in Section 141 with several other Connells. There seems to be a question about the exact location of Horatio’s plot. There are 20 or more Connells in the family lot in Section 33. It had been cleared recently, as shown below, but may have since been covered again with weeds.  That section is not regularly maintained.

What role did George play in the destiny of the cemetery, and when did it pass out of the Connell family’s hands? The story of the cemetery continues through the telling of George Pennock Connell’s life story, which can be found here.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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