Residents of South Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood should know that three feet below Weccecoe Park rests a gravesite from the 19th century. The cemetery belonged to Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. Founded in 1794 by Richard Allen, it's the oldest African-American church in the country. During this era, Philadelphia cemeteries would not accept African-Americans, so families were left with no choice but to bury their loved ones there.
Because this area was not considered part of Philadelphia at the time, the church bought it in 1810 and used it until 1864. It sat idle for a while and was briefly used as a dump before being sold to the city to fund a new church. After a few more years of vacancy, a playground was built on top of it.
The cemetery was accidentally discovered by historian Terry Buckalew while he was searching for information about 19th century civil rights activist Octavius Catto; his research led him to a gravesite he had never heard ofâ€”Bethel Burying Ground. Buckalew uncovered 1,500 names of people buried there and believes there could be another 1,500 interred beneath the playground that he hasn't found.
Now that the city is planning to update the playground, discussions to leave a proper marking for those who have passed on have begun.
[via NBC Philadelphia]