Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Cemetery Harris Free Cemetery

Published the 11th of December in 1882 in the Patriot out of Harrisburg, PA
A Belief That the Expose Will Aid in Remedying the Evil – Additional Facts in Relation to It – A Meeting of the Board of Trustees Called for Tuesday Night.
     The facts laid before the public by the PATRIOT on Saturday, relative to the horrible condition of the Harris Free Cemetery, caused much talk throughout the city. Although the charges were horrible and almost next to impossible, yet it was admitted on all hands that the facts were presented in such a plain and unvarnished manner as to leave no reason doubt of their truth. Among the colored people it created must comment. Yet there were none willing to dispute the terrible condition of affairs. The general opinion seemed to be that it would prove beneficial to the cemetery association in aiding them to procure necessary relief. A number of additional facts in connection with it have been gathered by PATRIOT reporters. One of these (the names of the parties for the present being with-held), is that a body was taken out to the cemetery one evening, and because no tools were at hand to dig a grave, it was placed without covering in a corner an allowed to so remain until it was necessary on account of the stench to have it interred.
     A PATRIOT reporter called ou Prof. W. Howard Day yesterday. “What in your opinion is the general feeling among the colored people in regard to the PATRIOT expose of the condition of the Harris Free Cemetery?” was asked.
     “The people as far as I have learned are satisfied that it is vastly true – too true – and that they had no reason to disbelieve even the most horrible portions of it. They have lamented the condition of the cemetery for some time but every effort to raise money and place the grounds in a respectable condition has for some reason or other failed. The old board of managers had no money and the new board is not an improvement on the old in that regard. The old board empowered a committee of women to raise funds for the purpose of constructing a new bridge over the stream to the south of the graveyard. In this they succeeded and expended about seventy dollars on a culvert at this point, but a flood afterwards washed it away.”
     “Who do you regard accountable for the state of affairs in and about the cemetery?”
     “Well, the white people are largely entitled to blame in this matter and in a double sense. The soldiers in 1877 broke down the fences, gates and tool house, and destroyed or lost the tools belonging to the cemetery, thus doing damage to the amount of nearly $200. Again, public sentiment has largely brought about this terrible shame. The doors of other cemeteries are closed to the blacks, and the only alternative left them is to bury in this miserable cow pasture. This I regard as all wrong. Death blanches alike the black and the white, and demands for all a common grave. Several efforts have been made to secure lots in the Harrisburg cemetery by respectable colored people, but they have been barred and double barred. I regard as a significant fact that the black and the white cannot lie together in “God’s acre’ even in death. The exposure will no doubt be instrumental in remedying the evil. There is no question but that the cemetery has been receptacle for the bodies of infanticide.”
     After a chat of a few minutes with the professor, Major Simpson, secretary of the board of manages, was called on. The major said: “The sunken graves have been noticed, but there was no revenue to repair them or the fences. There are rules for the government of the cemetery, but they cannot be carried out. Some people come for a permit and other bury without it. One man came to me stating that his mother-in-law had been dead three or four days and that he had no money with which to furnish a coffin or to pay for grave digging. He went away and did not again return. It is to be presumed that he buried without permit or coffin. No record has been kept of the burials by permit ant it is impossible to give correct data in this respect. The burials by permit would average about thirty-five to forty per year, but since the Lincoln cemetery was opened there are not so many.” Mr. Simpson says that a meeting of the board of managers had been in contemplation for some time, but that the PATRIOT’S expose has hurried them up, a meeting being called for Tuesday evening when steps towards remedying the evil may be looked for.

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