Mount Moriah Cemetery, in the Kingsessing section, is arguably Philadelphia’s most democratic burial ground. The undiscriminating plot is home to many Masons, U.S. Navy sailors, Civil War Yankees, North Carolinian cavalrymen, Philadelphia Muslims, ethnic Catholics, the young, the old, the powerful, the meek. Though its in rougher shape than any other of Philadelphia’s rural cemeteries, being unkempt it’s surprisingly rustic: more woodland than the Woodlands.
Imagine yourself a 19th century Philadelphian and a close member of your family has just died, perhaps a child—which was very common. Chances were that before the establishment of rural cemeteries, your loved one would be interred in one of the city’s notoriously sodden burial grounds or bone yards. As the itinerant Scottish observer Basil Hall commented, these yards where “mourners sink ankle deep in rank and offensive mould and fragments of coffins” offended 19th century Romantics’ new sense of funereal propriety.