The current idea to locate and document all of the African American cemeteries and burial grounds in Pennsylvania began through the work of Lenwood Sloan and the planning for the Pennsylvania Grand Review, an initiative launched in 2006 in anticipation of the commemorating the 150th anniversary of the United States Civil War. Sloan wanted to make sure that the commemoration suitably honored the thousands of men from Pennsylvania who served in the United States Colored Troops. The initial idea was to hold commemorations at all cemeteries containing the graves of veterans of the United States Colored Troops, but it became apparent that no such list existed. Moreover, the sites that were identified often had been destroyed by development or neglect. An effort was needed to both identify and work to preserve and restore these historic cemeteries and the final resting places of the veterans of the United States Colored Troops.
A grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to document the burial grounds of provided funds both for documentation and to provide professional assistance to help with the preservation of sites. An initial list of 42 cemeteries was compiled by the Grand Review and through an ARC grant. That initial effort was spearheaded by Caleb Jackson, Lenwood Sloan, and Larry Knudson. The effort also collaborated with Dr. Mathew Pinsker and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College and Dr. Michael Barton in the History Department at Penn State Harrisburg to research and document those sites. The House Divided Project mapped and provided historical information on many of the cemeteries and profiles of 100 veterans of the United States Colored Troops. Dickinson College hosted a Grand Review website that contained the information gathered by that initiative: https://housedivided.dickinson.edu/grandreview/.
Starting in 2017, Dr. Steven Burg and graduate students at Shippensburg University in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds and the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, launched the Pennsylvania African American Cemetery and Burial Ground Documentation Project. They undertook an effort to expand the list of sites and to gather additional documentation that would allow the data to be included in the State Historic Preservation Office and the PennDot CRGIS database of statewide cultural resources, later renamed PA-SHARE (Pennsylvania Historical and Archaeological Resource Exchange). The goal was not only to find sites where members of the United States Colored Troops were buried, but to identify all African-American burial grounds in the state of Pennsylvania, ranging from slave burial grounds to contemporary cemeteries primarily operated by or for African Americans.
In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, graduate students at Shippensburg University combed online resources, genealogical databases, and reached out to historians, historical societies, and history organizations across Pennsylvania to located every known African American burial ground, as well as cemeteries containing the graves of men who served with the United States Colored Troops during the American Civil War. The Applied History graduate students working on that project were Jennifer Ott, Taylor Mason, James Hughes, Justin Skavery, and Kristian Carter.
Since 2019, Dr. Steven Burg has continued to collect information about existing sites and gather information about previously unknown sites. The work has been a collaborative effort that has drawn heavily on the work that others have undertaken through the years to document cemeteries, often at the local or county level.
While it is likely that some individuals or groups may be overlooked, here is a list of sources, organizations, and individuals that contributed to the data in this list:
Partial List of Individuals Who Assisted This Project
Pamela Anderson, Franklin County Historical Society
Rebecca Anstine, Harrisburg Area Community College
Barbara Barksdale, Friends of Midland Cemetery and Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds
Joe Becton, PAHG Board of Directors
Marlene Bransom, African American Historical and Genealogical Society, Pittsburgh
Julia Byrnes, Bloomburg Summer Arts Intern, Penn Museum (Summer 2021)
Winton Butler, Branch Historian Reading/Berks Branch NAACP
Dr. Benjamin Carter, Muhlenberg College
Crystal Crampton, Friends of Bucktoe Cemetery and Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds
Dr. Jason Herrmann, Penn Museum
Dr. Leroy Hopkins, African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania
Dr. Catherine Hastings, Susquehanna University,
Ann Hull, Franklin County Historical Society
Bertha Jackmon, Mt. Zion AME Church Historian and Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds
Sheila Jones, Friends of Eden Cemetery and Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds
David Maher, PA State Historic Preservation Office
Tom Mainwaring, Washington and Jefferson College
Andrea McDonald, Director, Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office
Howard McGinn, Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society
Barry Rauhauser , Montgomery County Historical Society,Barry Rauhauser,[email protected]
Betty Smith, Susquehanna County Historical Society
Shelby Splain, Education and Outreach Coordinator, PA SHPO
Dr. Craig Stutman, Delaware Valley University
Thank you to everyone else who provided valuable information along the way through countless emails, phone calls, and personal conversations.
Major Sources Consulted
The research in this project entailed many, many sources and leads. Several sources proved particularly useful in locating large numbers of African-American burial grounds and USCT graves across the state:
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Listing of Hallowed Grounds Cemeteries by Community and County (September 7, 2010), https://www.paquestforfreedom.com/sites/default/files/Pennsylvania%20USCT%20Cemetery%20GPS%20coordinates%20listing%209-7-10.pdf.
Rebecca Anstine, “The Peach Bottom Circuit: Recovering African American Churches, Graveyards, Camp Meetings, and Pastors,” Journal of York County Heritage (2016): 28-37.
Janet Bell, Lincoln Cemetery: The Story Down Under (2011).
Blair County African American History, https://sites.psu.edu/harriettgaston5/
Bucks County Genealogical Society, Bucks County Cemeteries, https://www.bucksgen.org/index.php/bucks-county-cemeteries.
Chester County USCT Index, https://www.chesco.org/2273/Chester-County-USCT-Index
Clinton County Genealogical Society, and their Grave Guide, http://clintoncogensociety.org/cemeteries/150.htm
Debra Sandoe McCausland, Yellow Hill: Reconstructing the Past Puzzle of the Lost Community at Yellow Hill, (Gettysburg, PA: For the Cause Productions, 2007).
Frank McCoy, “”Soldiers Dead: List of those buried in the cemeteries and graveyards of Bedford County 1912,” http://www.bedfordpahistory.com/civilwar/usct.html
Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, Historic Burial Places Map and Database, https://www.phillyarchaeology.net/paf-activities/burial-places-forum/
Pennsylvania Veteran Burial Records, PHMC records at Ancestry.com
Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1968, PHMC records at Ancestry.com
Matthew Pinsker, Dickinson House Divided Project, http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/
Meyersdale Public Library, African American Burials in Somerset County, https://digitalarchives.powerlibrary.org/papd/islandora/object/papd%3Apmeye-aabisc
Edward McLaughlin, Where Have All of the Soldiers Gone (2019)
Betty Myers, Segregation in Death: Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery, (privately published, 2001).
A. Hunter Rineer, Jr., Churches and Cemeteries of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Lancaster, PA: Lancaster Historical Society, 1993.
Alisha Sanders and Debra McCauslin, “Black Settlement on Yellow Hill,” Pennsylvania Heritage, (Fall 2008). Available online at http://paheritage.wpengine.com/article/black-settlement-on-yellow-hill/.
Janet Taylor, African Americans in Perry County, 1820-1925 (Newport, PA: Perry Historians, 2011), p. 63-64; Perry County Heritage Trail, “Little Washington,” https://perrycountyheritagetrail.com/trail-locations/regions/millerstown/little-washington/.