The creation of the Eden Cemetery Company was a collaboration effort to provide a sanctuary in the Philadelphia area where African Americans could be buried with dignity and respect.
After some litigation,a charter was granted by the State of Pennsylvania on June 20, 1902 for the establishment of a not for profit cemetery company. Fifty-three acres of beautiful rolling hills and level ground, part of the former Bartram Farms in the near-by borough of Collingdale, Delaware County, was selected as the site.
The first meeting of the charter was held on August 9, 1902 with: John C. Asbury, a lawyer,President; Jerome Bacon, an instructor at The Institute for Colored Youth ( the precursor of 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. All were upstanding members of Philadelphia's black community.
The unexpected death in August 1902 of Celestine Mosley Cromwell, wife of Willis Cromwell, a member of the Advisory board, hastened the opening of the cemetery. It was decided that Mrs. Cromwell would be the first burial.
On August 11, 1902, Collingdale's white residents blocked the entrance to the cemetery, protesting "a colored burial ground" in their community. 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."
However, a compromise was reached in court in the case of the Borough of Collingdale vs. Eden Cemetery. On the evening of August 14th, Mrs Cromwell was finally laid to rest. The section of the cemetery in which she was lain was named Celestine to honor the first burial at Eden.
In October 1902, the injunction against the Eden Cemetery Company was discontinued. But that did not mean the end of the struggle..... Indeed, the story of Eden's role in honoring the lives and remains of our familial and cultural ancestors reaches even further back than 1902. Learn more at "Eden Stories" on this site.....