Monday, May 2, 2011

Tombstone Tragedy

   With some excitement, I discovered the death certificate for one of my maternal 3Xgreat grandfathers, James G. Osbourn.
    It even tells where he was buried!  In my mind I was already planning a trip to Philadelphia.  I thought I would look up more information about the cemetery and was wondering if perhaps I would get lucky and track down a "FindAGrave" photo.  That is not going to be the case this time.

From information about an exhibit that took place in 2008 called Rest in Pieces:
Monument Cemetery, the second rural cemetery in Philadelphia, was founded in 1837 on North Broad Street, across from Temple University. In the 1950s, it fell victim to the school's need for parking lots. Thousands of those interred there were transferred to a mass grave in the suburbs. Their monuments were dumped into the Delaware River, where they are still visible today.

A wave of dizziness swept over me when I read that.   What a shame.  I'm not sure I would like to peer into the river and view the remains of all those tombstones.  I generally like the peacefulness of a cemetery, whether my ancestors are buried there or not.  But this is just eerie.  And so sad.

My husband has ancestors whose graves were moved when the government used the right of eminent domain to create the Jefferson Proving Grounds.  In that case the whole cemetery was moved, along with the monuments.  His family was forced to leave their farmstead.  But the graves of their ancestors can still be visited and great care was shown by moving them to another site.  I wish the people of Philadelphia would have given the early residents of their  city the same respect.


  1. Weird that you should mention this, Elizabeth. I saw this article last week: A friend on Facebook commented that dumping headstones in the Delaware River was common practice in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and the people can still see them when the river is low. Very sad that a parking lot was more important than respecting the dead.

  2. Gosh, that's just low. Last winter I read about someone stealing funeral wreaths off of graves and selling them for $10 a wreath. Pretty good mark up when the investment in the first place is $0. But regarding the complete wreckage of a cemetery, it just boggles the mind. Did they think they were so modern in 1950 that no one would ever care about all those old people? I've heard of many cemeteries being moved for "progress" but usually the ones I've heard of made some attempt to preserve the markers and properly honor the dead. This just seems like the mark of a decadent society if it can't find a way to do that.

  3. Thanks for reading my blog on Monument Cemetery ( I'm writing a follow-up that I'll post in a few days. If you're in Phila., and you want to look up James G. Osbourn in Monument Cemetery's records, the Historical Society charges $8 for access to the books. I know where they are now, there's 3 volumes of tombstone inscriptions and names in alphabetical order.

  4. I'll be looking forward to your follow-up post. I probably have other relatives buried (or not?) in Phila. but I don't know as much about them yet. I'm in Indiana but would love to search the records there sometime. There must be other ancestors too; I just need to discover their names!