Cemeteries Like Eden in Darby Offer History and an Escape to Nature

Octavius Catto’s headstone in Eden Cemetery.
Image via Creative Commons.
Octavius Catto’s headstone in Eden Cemetery

Beyond the intended purpose for cemeteries, they are a natural refuge from the concrete and asphalt of urban and suburban life, places like Eden Cemetery writes Sandy Hingston for phillymag.com.

You’ll find trees, lawns, and wildflowers, offering clean air, sunlight and shade, and history.

Eden Cemetery at 1324 Springfield Road in Darby is loaded with history.

It’s the oldest existing Black-owned cemetery in the nation.

Philadelphia’s Black community had a burial crisis in 1902

That crisis was created by segregation, urban expansion, public works projects, vandalism, condemnation, and the closure of earlier Black burial grounds and cemeteries.

Eden was the answer, though it was a contentious beginning, challenged by a racist Collingsdale population who blocked the entrance in protest.

The first burial took place two days after that. Today, the 53-acre property contains more than 90,000 individuals.

Abolitionist Octavius Valentine Catto is buried here. So is opera singer Marian Anderson.

Eden’s on the National Register of Historic Places and it was part of the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds Project and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

An effort is currently underway to conserve and digitize their records for an electronic archive.

Read more at phillymag.com and find out about the famous residents buried there.


Enjoy this WHYY story about the Eden Cemetery in Darby.

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