Philadelphia’s Christ Church Burial Ground – History

Read about the history below, pens made from trees at the site will be found here

Christ Church Burial Ground of Philadelphia.

Final resting place of five signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1719, Christ Church purchased two acres of land on the outskirts of town at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets. The burial ground became the final resting place for over 4000 members of Christ Church including five signers of the Declaration of Independence: Dr. Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, George Ross, Joseph Hewes, and Francis Hopkinson. Also buried on these historic and sacred grounds are many of our nation's early founders and leaders, prominent lawyers, medical pioneers, military heroes, victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic, and members of the Church from the colonial era up into the last decade. When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, he was buried in his family plot in the north west corner of the burial ground along with his wife Deborah and their two children Francis and Sarah. In 1858, Franklin's descendants requested that an opening be placed in the brick wall so the public could see Franklin's grave day or night, and a metal fence was installed. After the opening in the wall it was much easier for Franklin's many fans to show their respect and remembrance of him by tossing a penny onto his grave. "A penny saved is a penny earned." In 1864, the warden of Christ Church, Edward Lyon Clark compiled a book of all the inscriptions that were still visible on the fading soft marble markers. Today only 1,300 markers remain and plaques have been placed in front of some of the gravestones that contain the words that once appeared on the now blank headstones.

Some famous and notable people buried in the burial ground include:

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Scientist, Philosopher, Printer, Diplomat, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1790) Artist, Lawyer, Judge, Composer, Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Joseph Hewes (1730-1779) Secretary of Naval Affairs, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina.

George Ross (1730-1779) Judge, Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Sarah Knowles (1721) oldest known marker in the burial ground.

Edward W. Clay (1799-1857) Political cartoonist.

John Dunlap (1747-1812) Printer of the first broadside of the Declaration of Independence. Published the first daily newspaper.

John G. Watmough (1793-1861) United States Congressman, who served as First Lieutenant in the War of 1812.

Major William Jackson (1759-1828) Revolutionary War officer, Secretary of the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Sarah Franklin Bache (1737-1811) Daughter of Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Founder and member of "The Ladies' Association," which was a leading fund raiser during the Revolutionary War.

Franklin Watkins (1894-1972) Served in the US Navy during World War I, Painter with artwork featured in museums around the world.

Philip Syng (1703-1789) Silversmith and maker of the ink and quill stand used for the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Julia Stockton Rush ( 1759-1848) Wife of and daughter of signers of the Declaration of Independence, member of the Ladies' Association.

Major General George Cadwalader (1806-1879) General during the Civil War.

William M Meredith (1799-1873) Lawyer, State Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury under President Taylor.

Michael Hillegas (1729-1804) First Treasurer of the United States.

Commodore William Bainbridge (1774-1833) Commander of Old Ironsides.

John Spurrier (1746-1798) Author of the Practical Farmer, his book promoted the idea of composting.

John Taylor (1718-1803) He was the gravedigger at the burial ground for over 50 years.

Richard Folwel (1768-1814) Printer and newspaper publisher. He printed the first collection of laws of the United States, which was commonly known as the Folwel Edition.

Joseph Dolby (1741-1816) Sexton and bell ringer for Christ Church.

James Humphreys (1748-1810) Printer, who founded and published The Pennsylvania Ledger.

Richard Thomson (1799-1824) Consul from the United States to Canton.

The following is a list of some of those who are names without stones:

Charles Mason-Astronomer, surveyor. Mason along with Jeremiah Dixon helped to settle the boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, creating the Mason-Dixon Line in 1763.

Major David Franks -Highest ranking Jewish officer in the Continental Army, died of Yellow Fever in October of 1793.

Jonathan Gostelowe -Philadelphia cabinet maker, crafted the baptismal font and altar table still in use at Christ Church.

Captain Anthony Palmer -Governor of Pennsylvania, founder of Kensington area of Philadelphia.

Benjamin Franklin Bache -Grandson of Benjamin Franklin, printer and publisher of the Aurora newspaper. He died of Yellow Fever in September of 1798.

Thomas Hopkinson -Father of Francis Hopkinson, President of the Philosophical Society, one of the founders of the Library Company.

Samuel Blodget -Economist, merchant, amateur architect who designed the First Bank of the United States.

Matthew Pratt-Portrait Painter.

Lewis Evans-he was a surveyor and Geographer, who made maps of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware counties. His maps were used by people migrating to the colonies and also by General Braddock during the French and Indian War.