Palmyra’s Old City Cemetery in beginning stages of restoration
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by Susan Gard
As Greenwood Cemetery Sexton, Gerri Feigenspan, approaches his retirement in September, one of his longed-for goals is being realized.
The Old City Cemetery, now part of the Greenwood Cemetery, is in the beginning stages of restoration.
Feigenspan, and some of the cemetery workers, have begun resetting fallen stones and replacing sunken footings. Because of the scope and nature of work, the Greenwood Cemetery Association Board of Trustees has hired Jacob’s Ladder Cemetery Restoration Specialists to repair and restore stones that need professional attention.
That work will begin in August and be an ongoing project to span several years.
This part of the cemetery saw its first recorded burial in 1823 and become the official Palmyra City Cemetery in 1862 when Mayor Joseph W. Pryor dedicated a property where the whole town could memorialize their love ones.
The City Cemetery of Palmyra originally contained two areas and was laid out in 1848.
The land was bought from Perry Be. Moore in January by Isham White, Berkley Summers, Fielding Fleming, Andrew Allsman and Henry Drescher, trustees of the city, for $100.
The city cemetery was enlarged in 1855 by another purchase from Moore of two acres northeast and south of the original site for $250.
Sadly, records were not accurately kept, and many burials are unknown.
In 1908, the Palmyra chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution placed the memorial gate at the north entrance of the cemetery.
Several of the original lots sold in the city cemetery belong to Odd Fellows, the Masons, the Baptist Church, Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic churches as well as Philadelphia College, to be used for indigent burials.
Many of those buried in the cemetery are the founders of Palmyra, and all buried there deserve to be honored.
Approximately 1,900 burials are recorded in this area and include unmarked graves of the black community.
Those graves were recently recognized with the erecting of a single memorial marker at the north entrance.
In 1926, the cemetery became part of what is now the Greenwood Cemetery Association.
Restoration has been allowed to begin due to several generous donations. The donors recognize and believe in the need to respect and preserve the past.
The project will encompass the repair and restoration of about 200 stones.
Since there are very few new burials in the old cemetery, no funds are generated for upkeep. Therefore donations are vital to continuing the project.
As quoted in an article published in the Sept. 13, 1948 edition of the Palmyra Weekly Whig, “…to apply the proceeds to further improvement and repairs, we trust our citizens will aid the board liberally to effect their purpose, so that we may not again see these grounds unenclosed and greatly neglected, as they have heretofore been.”