“This week, a team of archaeologists broke the asphalt in four places at Weccecoe Park, digging to a depth of 3 feet to uncover evidence of the 19th century burial site. On Thursday morning, the fourth and final trench revealed a single gravestone.
“Amelia Brown, 1819, Aged 26 years” is clearly carved into the white stone, with this epitaph:
“Whosoever live and believeth in me, though we be dead, yet shall we live.”
“There is no grave shaft associated with that stone, it’s just sitting loose in the fill,” said Douglas Mooney, senior archaeologist for URS corporation. “It was knocked over at some point, long ago, when the cemetery was filled in in the mid-19th century. It no longer marks an actual grave. It’s just a loose stone in the ground.”
The gravestone is the pièce de résistance for this dig, but not the goal. Mooney and his team found evidence of many grave shafts, and stone walls representing the border of the cemetery. They have been digging to determine exactly where the cemetery limits are, and how far down. The team stopped digging several feet shy of where actual bones could be.
“It should leave a nice buffer that will ensure the cemetery will not be disturbed,” said Mooney.
Amelia Brown was likely a member of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, the oldest African-American church in the country. At the time, the late 18th century, cemeteries in Philadelphia would not accept black people.
Also at the time, the property near Fourth and Queen streets was not within Philadelphia city limits, so Mother Bethel A.M.E. bought it as a private cemetery in 1810 and used it as such until 1864.
Then the property languished, was abandoned, was used as a dump. In 1888, the property was sold to the city to pay for a new church that’s still in use today. The site lay vacant a few more years until the city developed a playground on it.
By then the memory of the dead had faded smooth. Mother Bethel Church left nothing behind to mark the burial site.”
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