Mount Vernon Cemetery – Philadelphia

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

This is Mount Vernon cemetery. Now before you think this the George Washington’s Mt Vernon, it is not that one. This is a cemetery in Philadelphia nearly next door to Philadelphia’s famous, historical Laurel Hill cemetery that is on the hill above Philadelphia overlooking the Schuykill River (quite a lovely vista — in fact today the jester met an artist at the Mt Laurel cemetery painting a landscape on an absolutely beautiful day surrounded by these wonderful cemetery monuments).

Mount Vernon Cemetery to my horror is now a nearly defunct cemetery. There appears to be very little in the way of funds to maintain this lovely old cemetery. Overgrowth is obvious, the paths for cars is overgrown and truly I needed the caretaker to guide me through and not run over any tombstones. The picture at the top of this blog is obviously an old image. The entrance which is what the picture shows,  is now very much overgrown and disheveled and looks nothing like the image. I spoke to Norman the caretaker and he said that almost all families are no longer providing for upkeep. I felt for Norman as he is very local and doing his best to keep this cemetery together on something less than a shoestring budget.

This cemetery has Drew Barrymore’s ancestors (find-a-grave) ! This jester does not have family interred here. I would however be willing to help Norman do a project to capture the genealogy from his records and the tombstones and develop some kind of saleable product to help sustain this cemetery. But realistically, unless the lovely Drew Barrymore were to  provide some kind of endowment fund or help raise funds for this cemetery, it will  become perpetually defunct and eventually go back to the state of Pennsylvania for guardianship. My guess  is that  if anything happens to Norman, this cemetery will die. Death of a Cemetery.

Mount Vernon Cemetery Philadelphia                 28-February-1856   —  2010?

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23 Comments to “Mount Vernon Cemetery – Philadelphia”

  1. My great, great grandparents and a great aunt and uncle are buried at Mt. Vernon. I have been regularly making visits for the past five years. I must say that the cemetery is in the worst shape that it has been since I have been visiting. My family had paid for perpetual care. I have the original document. The interest in the fund was to pay for the perpetual care. The $300 was paid on August 26, 1924. At 5% compounded interest, it should be worth about $20K. Clearly, the money has disappeared in the intervening years.

    Mt. Vernon Cemetery is owned by a lawyer in Washington, DC. Clearly, he is not putting any money into it.

  2. I agree. With all Drew Barrymore’s millions of dollars, why doesn’t she do something about this? Does she even know? Her grandfather, John, and great grandparents are buried there.

    • To be fair to Drew Barrymore, I do NOT know she is even aware of the Barrymores in Mount Vernon Cemetery. Also, it is not fair for her to bear the sole burden of restoring this cemetery (especially when so few of its residents are Barrymores). Perhaps she could have used her fame to bring some action.

      Recently, another local (Philadelphia) cemetery (Mt Moriah?) had to be reclaimed by local residents who began personally clearing away the weeds and trying to restore toppled grave stones. It was a sad story.

      It reminded me of a few years ago when so many cemeteries in Michigan became insolvent. Sad state of affairs.

      Perhaps states need to monitor cemetery organizations (financial transactions) and overall property photos (to insure they do not become neglected). I would also hope that states make cemeteries open their burial books to local genealogists and historians, as well as anyone who has an ancestor buried in the cemetery and that they be allowed to walk the cemetery and record the graves as well as view any physical books recording burials and record that information so it is not lost.

      Cemeteries should look to producing CDs/DVDs and databases or smart phone apps to monetize the data as a way to help sustain the cemeteries while allowing people access for nominal (i.e. micro payments).

  3. Is there any update on this cemetery? I’m asking because it has been reported that Loretta Young and Clark Gable’s Daughter Judy Lewis has recently been buried there I can’t imagine Judy’s daughter burying her there when the cemetery is in such disrepair.

  4. One of the earlier entries mentioned a lawyer from Washington, DC owning the cemetery. Does anyone know who it is? And what his or her plans for the site are? i also have relatives buried there and would like to visit the graves. Is it possible to gain entry to the grounds? Where are the burial records? Please advise.
    Bunny

  5. I have the job of executrix to my father’s estate. I have come across several documents from the late 1800’s that include a deed for several plots there. I have been trying to call for over a week, and can’t get through to anyone.
    @ James Hulme –
    Do you know the name of the lawyer that owns the cemetery, or someone who might know how to contact them?

    • This is the info from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=45549&CScn=mt+vernon+cemetery&CScntry=4&CSst=40&

      Mount Vernon Cemetery
      Ridge and Lehigh Avenue
      Philadelphia
      Philadelphia County
      Pennsylvania USA
      Postal Code: 19132
      Phone: 215-229-6038

      Search Mount Vernon Cemetery:

      First Name Last Name

      Cemetery notes and/or description:
      Arch Street Presbyterian Churchyard was closed in 1867 and over 2500 burials were removed to Mount Vernon Cemetery.
      Unfortunately, the owner may not allow anyone in (see note below) despite the fact that it is a beautiful cemetery with many burials. Ivy McAllister was allowed in several years ago and created this album http://community.livejournal.com/victorian_grief/11195.html
      She has not been allowed in since.

      Mt. Vernon requires that you make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance in order to visit there. The phone number to call is 215-229-6038. They get back to you within 24 hours of your call, within business hours.

  6. I have just been doing some research, I have 8 ancestors buried there, including great great grandfather & grandmother, great grandfather, two great great uncles & one great great aunt, and two great uncles. I am sorry to hear that the cemetery is in such bad shape and inaccessible.

  7. The cemetery is owned by Mr. Joe Murphy, attorney in Washington, D.C. I did write to him at the Mt. Vernon Cemetery address and he did respond by phone to my letter. I mailed a $10 check to the cemetery sometime around Nov.-Dec. 2011, as Mr. Murphy requested, and tried to arrange a time to visit. The caretaker was ill and, as Mr. Murphy explained, needed time to recover from the flu. The check has not been cashed and I have not received a reply to my last phone call.

    My great-great-grandparents were buried at the German Lutheran Cemetery at approximately 31st and Lehigh, the last family member interred in 1905. I discovered from the records at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that the family at one time had purchased and installed tombstones. Their graves were moved to Philadelphia Memorial Park, I believe in the 1920s. The family’s remains, 7 individuals, are buried at Philadelphia Memorial Park, Frazier, PA, in one grave designated by an approximately 6″ x 6″ numbered cement marker. Their tombstones apparently were discarded. Most probably a newspaper notice requested interested family members to remove bodies to another location and the notice missed.

    I feel sad that their desire to secure a spot where their loved ones could rest close to one another in death was disregarded.

    Leslie

  8. Hi! Is there anything we can do to help with the cemetery? A clean up day or something? It’s such a remarkable cemetery. Breaks my heart to see it like this.

  9. First my experience. I called 5 June to set up a visit 6 June. I got a call back saying Norm was too sick on 6 June. I visited other cemeteries with ancestors on 6 June and got a call on 6 June that, since I was there from Seattle, Washington, Norm would meet me at 3 PM on 7 June. He was there, I got in and took pictures of two family headstones. Norm had cut the grass to and around the two headstones.for my visit. We had to walk around a fallen tree on the “road” to the headstone. I was in and out in about half an hour. I have a nice letter from them telling me the cost ($60) and expected turn around (two months) for copies of records. You can email me at gatesrh@aol.com for a copy of the two page letter.

    Even though I live in Seattle, I would like to help start a “Friends of Mount Vernon Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA” if one does not exist. I am a man of modest means, but am willing to donate $1,000 seed money to help get it started once I know the money will be wisely monitored and used by some structure set up. I would like to use Laurel Hill’s group as a model of how to do it. I have a cousin helping me from Arizona, but we need a local volunteer representative to be our person on the ground. Any volunteers out there? Feel free to contact me directly by the email address above. Because of time differences, I would like to have most exchanges by email. For the genealogists out there, my cousin and I are Nieweg descendants. The two headstones were for Nieweg and Kornbau. Dick Gates, b. 1937

  10. Update: I am about to make my annual treck to Philadelphia to place wreaths on a number of family graves. However, the telephone number for Mount Vernon Cemetery is now disconnected. Thus, it appears that it will not be possible to gain entrance there. Does anyone have any ideas? I am trying to track down the owner, whom I understand is Joseph Murphy and is an attorney in Washington, DC. Does anyone have his contact information? According to records of the DC Bar, there are four attorneys named Joseph Murphy. If you would like to contact me directly, please email me at lawjay at mac.com. Thanks.

  11. I also have ancestors buried at Mt. Vernon, although I have never been to the cemetery. I too would be interested in doing something to help Mt. Vernon.I like the idea of a Friends of Mt. Vernon Cemetery group.

  12. Please email me at hereslooking4@msn.com to discuss this cemetery or starting a group for Friends of Mt. Vernon. I am going to start a group on Facebook I will put a recent photo of what it looks like now. A white truck will be parked at the gates. I spoke to Mr. Murphy yesterday can I just say he was VERY RUDE! I live about 3 hours from there but I have 15 family members buried there so I am VERY interested in cleaning it up. I took photos from outside the fence last weekend.. VERY sad I can imagine how farther in looks. The man across the street said the mow the grass 4 times a year. I have left messages offering to help clean it up …..no response. NOT until I said I wanted to get in this weekend…. did I get a call back.
    It is AMAZING the caretaker is still sick with the FLU…BTW

    • Debbie — I am very interested. I make an annual trip to Mt. Vernon in December and put wreaths on my family graves there. I call ahead and Norm, the caretaker, meets me at the gate. I have notice a significant decline in the condition of the cemetery in the past few years. Please fee free to email me at sellerdc at mac.com

      Jay

      • I also belong to Find A Grave…would you be willing to help photograph headstones this spring? I can provide you a memory card to just give back to me after photos taken. Do you happen to know ANYONE else that is trying to save this cemetery?

    • Hi Debbie – i am interesting in helping with Mount Vernon Cemetery. I live about an hour away and have several relatives buried there. You can reach me at bunnyr925@aol.com
      Bunny

  13. I have gotten a call from the owner and he said he will take me up on my offer to help clean things up…….. who wants to help with your time and gardening equipment? MOWWERS, WEED EATERS, HEDGE TRIMMERS…….. gas, man power or battery ONLY please
    PLEASE CONTACT ME at hereslooking4@msn.com

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