Work Underway to Preserve Collingdale’s Eden Cemetery Archives

David Bjorkgren
The headstone for Octavius Catto. Image via Stgarr Herr-Cardillo, WHYY.

Eden Cemetery in Collingdale is the final resting place for many influential Black Philadelphians, including Absalom Jones, Marian Anderson, Octavius Catto, Julian Abele, Frances Harper, and William Still.

Its existence comes from segregation and the fight for civil rights.

Now, Eden’s board has launched a GoFundMe campaign to digitally preserve its fragile centuries-old archival burial records, writes Starr Herr-Cardillo for WHYY.

Eden volunteer Joyce Mosley is creating an Excel database. She’s traced her family back to the 1600s, with nearly 100 buried at Eden, including the first person interred there, Celestine Cromwell.

She’s related to Humphry Morrey, the first mayor of Philadelphia and Cyrus Bustill, George Washington’s “Baker Master.”

The African American Genealogy Group of Philadelphia has uploaded more than 10,000 entries on Eden’s residents to the Find a Grave site.

Eden, with 93,000 graves, was a “collector cemetery,” reinterring burials from earlier Black burial grounds that had been condemned.

It gave Black Philadelphians an option when segregation limited where burials could take place.

“Eden reflects Black agency and how earlier African Americans responded to the brutal racism of their times,” said public historian and civic activist Chapman-Smith.  “They lived and died as a community.”

Read more about the Eden Cemetery at WHYY.