|Franklin Cemetery RECEIVING VAULT||Living Family Members, Site Contact|
|Information on Franklin Vault||List of Submitted Names to the Database|
|Receiving Vault Temporary Burials||Comments Submitted by Living Relatives|
Franklin Cemetery Memorial Page Information
I created this page to help those in their genealogical research that had family buried in Franklin Cemetery as I had, and that found out about the horrible fate that happened to all of the people buried in this cemetery. This site is intended to be used for non-profit educational and genealogical reasons, and all information posted is free to use for this purpose. This site has no affiliation with the owner(s) of Franklin Cemetery in Philadelphia (Defunct).
Franklin Cemetery History
In 1840, Mrs. Catherine R. Livingston, of the township of the Northern Liberties, proposed to convey to Reverend George Boyd and John W. Kester a lot of ground containing about seven acres, situate near the two-mile stone on Frankford Road, for the purposes of a rural cemetery. On the 29th of May, 1840 the association was incorporated as the Franklin Cemetery Company. During its operation the cemetery interred about 8,000 bodies in 2,400 graves.
In September of 1947 according to the Telegraph-Herald Newspaper "The 107 year old Franklin Cemetery is to be converted into playground. Judge James C. Crumlish approved the plan which is part of a city wide program adopted a year ago and calls for an approximate $2,500,000 expenditure. The 8,000 bodies are to be re-interred in another cemetery." This of course led to the political scandal explained below.
In 2009 the City of Philadelphia again reallocated the space to begin building a new elementary school. (Francis E Williard K-4 Elementary)
This statement was given by the School District about the project and former Cemetery location before construction was able to begin. "The School District of Philadelphia is awaiting approval from the Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County to proceed with the excavation phase of construction of this new school. As many in that neighborhood know, the new Willard School will be built on the foundation of the former Franklin Recreation Center, which was built on the site of the former Franklin Cemetery. The School District purchased the site from the City of Philadelphia last year. The expected completion date of the new school is Fall 2010." One reason this process had to be done was that after running sound penetrating radar tests on the ground they found a small number of intact burials that had to be excavated and moved to another location.
According to the News Story “A Tale of 47,000 Bodies, Final Resting Place Unknown" by Donna Shaw of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in 1988 Four decades ago, the deal seemed pretty clear.
In 1947, records show that the court approved a plan under which the city paid $95,000 for Thomas A. Morris, president of Evergreen Memorial Park in Bensalem Township to remove 8,000 bodies from 2,400 graves in Franklin Cemetery, located at Elkhart and Helen Streets in Kensington. According to newspaper accounts, the remains were to be reburied in a three-acre Franklin section of Evergreen Memorial Park.
That plan, called for perpetual care and markers.
Now, 42 years later, that seemingly straightforward transaction has become the focal point of a story so complicated it may never be completely told: The story of those bodies, and 21,500 more Morris was paid to dig up from two other city cemeteries and rebury elsewhere.
"My recollection was that he was the type of guy who could sell the Brooklyn Bridge," said state Superior Court Judge Frank J. Montemuro Jr., who in 1958 was the lawyer appointed as receiver for the Evergreen Memorial Park Association when Morris, now deceased, got into legal and financial trouble. ''… He was glib as hell."
The tale began to unravel late last month, when two anonymous callers told township officials that a pair of unmarked graves had been uncovered inadvertently at the Bensalem cemetery during a construction project. The cemetery is on Neshaminy Boulevard, across from Neshaminy Mall.
After spending a week and a half digging test shafts at the site, officials last week said they had uncovered what probably are 32 trenches, each 300 feet long. Inside the trenches are stacks of wooden boxes, presumably containing most of the remains. Officials do not intend to dig up all the boxes to find out. But some of the remains and clothing scraps found in the trenches will be sent to an archaeologist to determine their age, according to Bensalem police Detective Kenneth Hopkins, who is heading the investigation.
Based on accounts from longtime township residents who said they had watched as trucks delivered the remains, officials believe that some also were dumped into the nearby Poquessing Creek.
Alan Cohen, whose family owns Rosedale Memorial Park - part of the Evergreen property before Morris went bankrupt in 1959 - has told police that he believes only 3,000 of the Franklin remains were transferred to Evergreen. According to Hopkins, Cohen, whose family bought the Rosedale property in 1960, said the 3,000 were re-interred on what is now the adjoining property - King David Memorial Park.
Cohen said he believed the 5,000 other bodies were buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Feasterville, according to Hopkins.
In an interview Friday, the Sunset office manager, who asked not to be named, said no Franklin remains were buried there. And Jack Livezey, manager of King David, said he knew "for a fact" that they weren't at his cemetery, either. Cohen could not be reached for comment.
Although news stories from the 1940s say that Morris sold the old Lafayette Cemetery property in South Philadelphia to a group that planned to build duplexes and stores on the site, both Lafayette and Franklin eventually were condemned by the city as part of a multimillion-dollar playground-building project. Of the 43 properties that were purchased, those were the only former cemeteries. Playgrounds were built at both sites.
Contribute Information or Media
If you found this site helpful or have any information, pictures, stories, articles, etc. that could be added to this site to make it better and more helpful to all ancestors of the interred at Franklin cemetery please either contact me, or use the link provided to add a person to the Interment rolls. All media can be e-mailed to me, please just include where you found the media so that it can be included.
The Cemetery was last located at Helen & Elkhart Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The original address of the cemetery as found in the city directories was Livingston c Franklin Cemetery Avenue. At Some point according to the Philadelphia DOC Historic Street Name Change Index the location was changed to Malvern c Cemetery Lane. This was then changed to the last known location of Helen and Elkhart Streets.