ABOUT THE BETHEL BURYING GROUND PROJECT

A number of years ago I became aware of a 19th Century African American burial ground in the 400 block of Queen Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was not familiar with its existence and began researching its history with the expectation of finding a good deal of information, considering that it was purchased in 1810 by the prominent historical figure, Reverend Richard Allen, and the founding trustees of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

I came to find that there was very little in the historical record about the graveyard and what was available was scarce, scattered and not user-friendly. My goal in creating this website is to do something toward correcting those shortfalls. Additionally, in the course of my investigation, I discovered that no records existed to document that the human remains were ever removed before or after the 1889 sale of the graveyard to the City of Philadelphia. The official church records went missing in 1850 and have never been recovered. An archeological investigation in July of 2013 found that the human remains were, in fact, still there and that the estimate of individuals interred was 5,000+.

These men and women laid to rest in this small cemetery were the pioneers who struggled and fought to successfully establish the first major free Black community in the North. This they did against murderous mobs, virulent epidemics and crushing poverty. In my opinion, their stories are vital because History does matter. At present, I have identified the names of approximately 2,488 Black Philadelphians buried on Queen Street and have arranged their names and personal information in the BETHEL BURYING GROUND NAME DIRECTORY.

I have been humbled and richly rewarded over the years while researching the lives of those buried on Queen Street. I take my research responsibilities seriously and at the same time celebrate having brought to light the vital stories of such a historically important group of individuals and their families.   For further information, please examine the website. I can be contacted at tebuckalew@gmail.com. Terry Buckalew, M.A.

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4 comments on “ABOUT THE BETHEL BURYING GROUND PROJECT

  1. Hello, I am wondering if there are any groups or people working to have a memorial for the burial grounds of those there. I live across the street from the park and to me, this seems to be a very important part of history that, at the least, deserves memorial signage or information on the significance of the site. Thank you

    • Dear Julianne

      There is a committee established by the city to erect a memorial on the cemetery. After years of struggle with the city, it looks like we will have the old community building removed (it sits over many graves) and the cemetery fenced off from the playground and a memorial erected. I am an advisor to the committee. Other members include the current president of the Queen Village Neighborhood Association and Duncan Spencer who lives on Lawrence Street and is the president of the Friends of Weccacoe. We are hoping all of the changes will be done within two years. It will all depend on funding from the city. If you have any others questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Best Regards
      Terry

      Terry Buckalew
      tebuckalew@gmail.com

      • Thank you Terry and good luck with the endeavor! I’m glad to hear that, despite all the red tape and hardships, that there will be something meaningful finally put on the grounds!

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