The Plot Thickens

Locals are dying to get into this Fishtown cemetery.

By Frank Rubino
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted May. 18, 2005

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On the plus side, you'll be billed nothing for your plot, though the digging will cost somebody $600 ($800 for a 10-foot deep grave, say, to make room for your due-to-arrive-someday spouse).

I'm getting all this from Daniel Dailey, a 30-year-old electrician who grew up around the cemetery and whose father is a member of Palmer's board of trustees.

"It's unique, a true neighborhood cemetery," says Dailey, who's both played and dug graves there.

Dailey says things typically work this way: Someone living within the boundaries kicks the bucket, and their family tells the undertaker that the goner wanted to end up in Palmer. The undertaker notifies James Weiss, president of the board of trustees, who either approves or shoots down the request.

If it's thumbs up, the family advises the cemetery caretaker of an area their loved one preferred, and the caretaker sticks an 8-foot spike into the ground around that spot.

If it doesn't hit anything, they're in luck.

"That's really how they still do it," Dailey says. "That's why there aren't neat rows or anything in Palmer. The people are just kinda here, there and everywhere."

How many are buried in Palmer? Dailey says nobody really knows.

"Jim [Weiss, now a nursing home resident] used to always say between 30,000 and 50,000," Dailey says. "But since there were no records before 1851, there's no way to tell."

Palmer's getting crowded, and Dailey says it's difficult to tell how many more corpses it can accommodate. Not that he's concerned personally; he and his wife moved to Lancaster years ago.

Milano, on the other hand, who's 46 and has lived on York Street his entire life, could develop a rooting interest in the coming years.

And speaking of the coming years, I just had a disconcerting thought: How will the board of trustees react if the family of one of Fishtown's new wave of young professionals someday requests a treasured spot?

Will the board find some justification to turn them down? Do the ground rules contain a yuppie loophole?

"No," Dailey answers. "Yuppies can absolutely be buried at Palmer. If you live in the neighborhood, you can be buried there. That's how it's always been."

That's how it's always been in old-school Fishtown, he might add, where some traditions are beyond gentrification.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Michael Manorowitz said... on Oct 25, 2009 at 08:06PM

“Who is responsible for the care of Palmer cemetary. I would like to offer some services to the cemetary. Thank you Michael”

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2. Richard F Love said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 09:21AM

“Does anyone have a copy of the site map? Looking for Goodwin Worrell. Civil War veteran. Someone is putting up American flags. Perhaps they have a list of veterans.”

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3. Janet McClelland said... on Jun 21, 2010 at 01:40PM

“Totally facinating article! I have family buried in Palmer Cemetery. My great-grandmother was Martha Faunce Smith and I know that she is buried there. My mother used to say that my great-grandmother was buried in the same grave with another family member because it had been 19 years between the deaths.”

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4. Pat Wilk said... on Jan 17, 2011 at 07:59PM

“I am searching for confirmation of the burial of James Main in the Kensington
Burial Ground. SAR records indicate that he is buried there, but the grave is unmarked. Do records exist?”

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5. Jim kingsmill said... on Feb 9, 2011 at 05:54PM

“The Palmer Cemetery is one of the greatest historical sites in Philadelphia. It's true that veteran's from every war from the Revolutionary War to Viet Nam and maybe even later conflicts. The cemetery is currently managed by a small group of which I am the Vice President, working with Jim Weiss, who is 83 years old and living at the Penn Retirement Home in Fishtown. The caretaker, Rich Wenglicki and his wife handle the maintenance issues at present. While there are still burials in the cemetery, they are getting more scarce, do to the lack of space. Cremation remains are routinely buried in the graves occupied by deceased relatives. The cemetery is in need of repairs, from fencing and sidewalk problems and crumbling headstones that need to be repaired. Grass cutting is done on a regular basis inside the fences, at a cost of about $1500.00 per cutting.The grass is cut approximately 10 times a year, from March thru November. Volunteer clean-ups are done several times a year also.”

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6. Mikey said... on Feb 12, 2011 at 09:40AM

“Is there adatabase of burials? How can I locate a grave or find out if my Grandparents are there?”

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7. Mikey said... on Feb 13, 2011 at 08:27AM

“So yesterday I took my first tour of Palmer Cemetery. It's such an interesting place. I was in search of ancestors there. Sadly I didn't find any traces of ancestrors but i did find a poor soul dying on one of the graves. At first we thought it was a sheet covering a newly dug hole, but it was the white jacket of a young man who was face down on a grave. His hands and face were completely white and he was not breathing. It was such a sureal situation. something that you would expect in a film but never imagine to see in real life. Happily, once the paramedics arrived, they shot him with adrenalin and he awoke. He was just a young boy of 20. Apparently it was an overdose of heroine. I am happy to have been there at the right moment because he basically died at the moment we were there, and then managed to be reanimated by the paramedics. I never got to finish searching for ancestors. Would be nice if someone could tell me where to find a list of interents. My Palmer adventure!”

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8. Linda said... on Feb 27, 2011 at 01:21PM

“Looking for Margaret Shetzline, Supposed to be buried in Palmer Burial Ground. She died 21 Aug., 1879. If anyone knows how to find out if she's there, I'd appreciate their help. Thanks!”

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9. Mikey said... on Mar 1, 2011 at 10:10PM

“Linda?Margaret Sheltzine,

Are you sure of the death date. I found a Margaret Sheltzine buried there but date is different. If you can go to www.familysearch.org and do a search. You will find her there, I just did.”

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10. Jim Kingsmill said... on Mar 21, 2011 at 04:29PM

“New wesite for info on Palmer Cemetery...Palmercemeteryfishtown.com I am new Presdient/Trustee of Palmer Cemetery. I need volunteers on a regular basis to help with clean-ups inside and around the perimeter of Palmer. Much work is needed to get things done, such as debris removal, old decorations, tree branches, trash etc...Next clean-up day is April 16th at 830am. Also looking for donations of gas powered weed trimmers, leaf vacuums and chipper. These items can be loaned to us or donated. We really need motivated people to come out and help with some heavy work, cleaning raising toppled headstones, and general cleaning. See the website for more info. Thanks, J Kingsmill”

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11. Ghostmystery said... on Mar 25, 2011 at 04:04PM

“Hi please contact me if you know the hours that the public
is permitted at the cemetery. Hitoyou909@yahoo.com”

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12. Crysty Boucher said... on Apr 22, 2011 at 12:49PM

“I am a direct decendant of Aaron and Anthony Palmer, the founders (My great-grandmother was Catharine Palmer, daughter of Samuel the fire chief, etc.). My grandmother was her only daughter, Catherine Davis (93 and still alive).

I am looking for information on which of my ancestors are buried there. How do I get this information, please?”

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13. Elliott Collier said... on Jun 27, 2011 at 12:48PM

“Descendent of Jacob Faunce sr, d. 21 September 1867, here. How can I make a donation?”

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14. Mary Clark said... on Nov 29, 2011 at 01:12PM

“I am looking for some family members. Their last names are Mallo and Sims. Is there anyway of finding out about these names? I believe both names were children. Any help would be great.

Many thanks...”

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15. Looking for Kramer and Dwier said... on Jun 26, 2012 at 04:54PM

“I am looking for relatives there were buried here with the last name Kramer and Dwier. Thanks.”

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16. Wendy said... on Aug 22, 2013 at 01:38AM

“My great great aunt and uncle and at least one of their children are buried here. Some records can be found on findagrave.com. Other deaths can be researched at familysearch.org where you can view the death certificate and see if your family is buried here.”

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