THE HISTORY OF EDEN CEMETERY
One of the First public acts by members of Philadelphia's African Community was a petition to the Pennsylvania Government requesting permission to fence the portion of the city's Potters Field where African Society petitioned for the control of the space. There were steps in the African community's journey to obtain autonomy.
Eden's creation, the collaborative effort of five African American Philadelphians to provide a place where African Americans would be buried with dignity and respect, was an outgrowth of the journey. A fifty-three acre tract of land, formally Bartram Farm, Delaware County, was selected because of its proximity to Philadelphia and beautiful landscape.
After litigation, magistrates agreed to grant a charter, issued on June 20, 1902. The first meeting of the charter was held on August 9, 1902 with: John C. Asbury, a lawyer, President Jerome Bacon, an instructor at I.C.Y., The Institute for Colored Youth (Cheyney University), Secretary; Charles W. Jones, a first-Vice President; Martin J. Lehmann, a cigar maker, Treasurer; and Daniel C. Parvis, an upholsterer, Vice President and Manager.
The unexpected death of Celestine Mosley Cromwell, wife of Willis Cromwell, a member of the Advisory board, in August 1902, hastened the opening of the cemetery. It was decided that Mrs. Cromwell would be the first burial.
On August 11, 1902, Collingdale residents blocked the entrance to the cemetery protesting "a colored burial ground" in their community and authorities of the borough delayed the funeral for hours.The headline in the August 13th, Chester County Times read: Collingdale Has More Race Troubles, Town Council Has No Use for a Colored Funeral, No African Need Apply.
A compromise was reached in court by lawyers for the Collindale Borough and Eden Cemetery. On the evening of August 14th, Mrs Cromwell was finally laid to rest. The section of the cemetery was named Celestine to honor the first burial.
In October 1902, the injunction against the Eden Cemetery Company was discontinued.
The first offices located in the 1300 block of Lombard St., 1504 South St. and 501 So. 16th St. (near the Philadelphia Tribune, an African American newspaper, founded in 1884 by Christopher J. Perry) were in the 7th Ward, the area of Philadelphia studied and written about by W.E.B. DuBois in the Philadelphia Negro.
Eden is the burial ground for many 19th century Philadelphia African Americans. The remains from area cemeteries were reinterred in Eden: in 1903, Lebanon Cemetery, (founded 1849) and the Stephen Smith Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored Person's Burial Ground; in 1923, Olive Cemetery (founded in 1849). In 1987 and in 1995 the First African Baptist Church Burial Grounds (closed 1841) were reinterred.
Eden has expanded to twenty-three sections including Richard Allen, David Bustill Bowser, John Bower, John Brown, Octavius Catto, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman. Celestine, Home, Lebanon, and Olive are the oldest sections of the cemetery.
Eden Cemetery, the burial site of William Still, Father of the Underground Railroad, and many other abolitionists and early civil and equal rights activists was selected to be on the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Eden Cemetery is a part of Scribe Video Center's Precious Places Community History Project. In 2010, Eden was designated a Hallowed Ground Site, by the State of Pennsylvania to honor the over 400 United States Colored Troops Civil War Veterans, buried at Eden.
Eden is on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are 23 Sections in Eden Cemetery
- Douglas, A, B, C, D, E: Honoring Frederick Douglas
Home: Honoring the Deceased from Stephen
- Celestine: Named after the first person buried at Eden, Celestine Moseley Cromwell
- Lincoln: Honoring Abraham Lincoln
- David Bowser: (David Bustill Bowser) A native Pennsylvania artist; painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in oil (taken from a photograph) and painted a portrait of John Brown who was killed at Harper's Ferry. He was a member of the 18th century famous Cypruss Bustill, and Educator and baker during the Revolutionary War up to the 20th Century Paul Robinson.
- Richard Allen: Named for the founder of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church
- John Brown: The leader of the rebellion
- Catto A&B: (Octavius H. Catto) Martyr in the fight for civil rights in the 1860s
- Lebanon: A cemetery in Philadelphia purchased by Eden Company, bodies transferred to Eden in 1903
- Harriet Tubman: Honoring the outstanding female freedom fighter
- Letson-Martin: (Albert Letson) President of Eden Cemetery; Secretary Board of Revisions of Texas (City of Philadelphia); Member of the State of Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission; Founder of the First Black Golf & Country Club "Freeway" Sicklerville, NJ; Founder/President of Letson Realtor Company; (I. Maximilian Martin) - Treasurer of Eden Cemetery Company; President of Berean Savings Bank; Life Heritage Member of the NAACP
- Lehmann: Named after Martin J. Lehmann, one of the five Charter Members
- Celestine 1 & 2: Expansion of the Celestine Section
- Katherine Parvis Gardens: Daughter of Daniel Parvis
- Olive: A former cemetery purchased by Eden. The bodies were transferred around 1923.
- Bowers: Named after Henrietta Bowers Duterte, America's first female undertaker
- Daniel Parvis: A Founder, Manager and Vice President. Father of Katherine Parvis
Organizations who believed in the worth of Eden Cemetery, and purchased lots for their members are:
- The British Great War Veterans
- Veterans of Both Wars
- House of Refuge
- The Association of Colored Orphans of Philadelphia
- Home for Destitute Colored Children
- The Prime Hall Masons
- The IBPOE if W
- Odd Fellows
- The Cyrens
- African Presbyterian Church
- Lombard Central Presbyterian Church
- Wesley AME Zion Church
- Grace Union AME Church
- Church of God and Saints of Christ
- St. Thomas P. E. Church
- St. Marks P. E. Church
- Church of the Crucifixion
- St. Mary's P. E. Church
- St. Simon the Cyrenian Church
- Union Baptist Church
Some of the many outstanding citizens buried in Eden area:
- Amos Scott - First Magistrate for Philadelphia
- Chris J. Perry - Founder of the Philadelphia Tribune
- William and Letitia Still - Author of "The Underground Railroad"
- Dr. Caroline Still-Anderson - Philadelphia's first Black female physician. Daughter of William and Letitia Still
- Dr. Rebecca Cole - Another female physician
- John Taylor - First African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal
- Jesse Fauset - Noted Author, Teacher and First Phi Beta Kappa
- William Cole - An Ambidexter
- Ms. Caroline Lecound - Principal of O. V. Catto School
- Francis Ellen Watkins Harper - Poet, Author know as "The Bronze Muse"
- Nellie Bright - Teacher and First female PhD., University of Penn graduate
- Marian Anderson - Renowned Opera Singer
- The Reverends John Reave, Charles Tindley, J. Campbell Beckett, Wesley Parks, William Creditt, Father McDuffy, Father Bright, and Bishop Ida Robinson are interred in Eden
- Edward C. Howard - Physician, a founder of Sigma Pi Phi, Mercy Douglas Hospital
- Joseph Turpin Seth - Successor to Harietta Bowers Duterte as well as her nephew. When he died in 1927 the business was the oldest "colored" business in Philadelphia. It was over 80 years old.
- Julian Francis Abele - Architect, Free Library of Philadelphia, Museum of Art
- Robert Jones Abele - Physician, a founder of Sigma Pi Phi, first African American Fraternity
- William C. Bolivar - Bibliophile and Journalist
- Octavius V. Catto - Civil Rights Leader, Baseball Pioneer
- John Mott Drew - Transportation Entrepreneur, owner Hillsdale Baseball Club
- Henrietta S. Bowers Duterte - PA's first female African American Undertaker
- Jessie Redmon Fauset - Editor, Poet, Novelist
- T. Thomas Fortune - Civil Rights Leader, Journalist, Publisher, Orator
- Founders of Mercy Douglas Hospital
- Stanislaus Kostka Govern - Manager of the Original Cuban Giants Baseball Team
- John McKee - Civil War Hero, one of America's first millionaires
- James F. Needman - Educator (Institute for Colored Youth) Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Price Hall Lodge of Pennsylvania
- Robert Penn - Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, Spanish American War
- Ida Robinson - Bishop, Founder of Mt. Sinai Holy Church of America, Inc.
- Hans Shedd - Educator (Institute for Colored youth), Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Prince Hall Lodge of Pennsylvania
- Stephen Smith - Abolitionist, Businessman
- John Baxter Taylor, Jr. - Veterinarian, first African American Gold Medal Olympic Winner
- Charles Tindley - Minister, Composer, "Father of Gospel Music"
- United States Colored Troops - Civil War Veterans
- Laura Wheeler Waring - Harlem Renaissance Artist, Head of Art Department, Cheyney University
- George Henry White - reconstruction Era African American US Congressman (NC), Entrepreneur
- William Whipper - Abolitionist, Businessman
- Members of the Free American Society and the American Negro Historical Society
- United States Colored Troops Civil War Veterans
- Reggie Bryant - Founder of the National Black Journalist Association