Cemeteries Like This One in Delco 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, writes Sandy Hingston for Philadelphia magazine.

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 is 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 its records for an electronic archive.

Read more about Eden Cemerty in Philadelphia magazine.


Enjoy this WHYY story about the Eden Cemetery in Darby.