Having completed the tree work back in February, the cemetery was finally ready for some much needed site work. S.Vecchione Inc. of Oreland brought in several pieces of equipment to do the job.
Several large piles of debris needed to be cleared to prepare for the final grading
A mini excavator is useful for pulling out rotted tree stumps, compacting the back fill and moving small piles of debris.
This tracked skid steer loader has an attachment that can grip logs.
This machine was also used to re-contour the ground on the uphill side of the cemetery to keep rain water away from flowing into the stone wall and undermining the foundation.
After fine tuning the final grade, grass seed and straw mulch was spread to minimize erosion. In about a month the site will be green with new grass.
Special thanks to Tory Vecchione for bringing his equipment, experience, and professionalism to the project. A beautiful job!
Eleven months after the completion of the Cemetery Survey and Condition Assessment Report we are able to begin the tree work. The work was delayed when we were forced to replace our original arborist. It took several months doing walk-throughs and collecting bids before selecting Cox and Company to do the work.
Cox and Company used a tracked, self-propelled, high reach. This special piece of equipment is well suited for sites that are tough to access and can easily reach the top of this 60′ Sassafras.
John Cox cuts the limbs of this 50′ Maple and uses ropes to lower them to the ground.
The close proximity of the grave stones make this work quite challenging. The ground crew receives the limbs and carries them out of the graveyard.
The boom on the high reach is long enough to extend deep into the graveyard while remaining outside of the cemetery walls. Any one of these trees could be blown down in a storm causing catastrophic damage to the cemetery.
The removal of these trees helped to eliminate what was perhaps the cemetery’s greatest threat. Thanks so much to John Cox and his crew for a job well done!
We are pleased to announce that work has begun at the cemetery! Using some of the $15,000 we have raised so far, we have started with Phase I of our preservation work. On Oct. 28th, Kreillick Conservation began the critical task of surveying the site. A team of conservators and student volunteers led by Scott Kreillick, laid out a grid of string lines over the cemetery. This grid was used to record the precise location of each monument and gravestone. The team then numbered the stones, photographed them, and recorded detailed information for each one. They also assessed the condition of the stones and prioritized them to identify those that are most vulnerable. All of the data collected will be organized into a report that will be archived, ensuring the preservation of this precious information. If something bad were to happen, like a tree falling down, the report will help us put things back where they belong.
Special thanks to conservators Scott Kreillick, Allison Kreillick, Gabriel Harrison and volunteers Mandi Rush, Shannon Anastas, Jillian Tugya.
Please join us for a volunteer clean up as we prepare to begin Phase I of the preservation work. meet us at the cemetery on Saturday, October 19th from noon to 4:oo. The work will involve pulling weeds, raking leaves, and removing debris from within the graveyard. The bulk of this work will be done by hand to prevent damaging the stones with power tools. Please bring gloves and wear long pants and sturdy shoes. Rakes, clippers and other hand tools will be provided but feel free to bring your own. Rain date is the following week October 26. We are looking forward to seeing you!
Not just Yeakels. There are other family names within the cemetery. Researching who exactly is buried in the Yeakel Cemetery is a bit of a challenge. Clues are scattered and traditions are difficult to verify. Tombstone research is the most reliable information we have (which is why it is so important to preserve!). Existing inscriptions, and transcriptions completed by researchers in the past, were used to create a list of burials that has just been added to this website. Some of the names were taken from the Schwenkfelder Monument and do not have individual grave markers. These represent the earliest burials. It is also likely that members of the Mack and Nice families are buried here. These families owned the property before 1802 and deed research indicates the land was used as a burying-ground before 1752. A Revolutionary War skirmish took place on this land in December of 1777. Tradition states that casualties from this battle are buried here, but that has not yet been confirmed. Perhaps some of the twenty-four unmarked fieldstones are the graves of some of these people. Please visit the Burials page to view the list.
Over the past several months the committee has been working hard to develop a preservation plan for the cemetery. We have consulted with a conservator, a historic preservationist, a fundraising specialist and trades people. Being mindful of the historic significance of the site, we are carefully reviewing all of the detailed proposals to create a plan that addresses all of the cemetery’s needs while trying to control costs. One way to keep costs down is to use volunteers for some of the labor. Under the guidance of a professional conservator, these volunteers will aid tremendously in preparing a site survey, marker condition assessment, marker conservation and general clean-up. This type of program can be an educational experience for the volunteers and a means for community involvement. The volunteer event in September provided an estimated savings of over a thousand dollars in labor costs.
We have also been planning for fundraising. The Central Schwenkfelder Church, who owns the property, has agreed to manage a fund for the preservation effort using their non-profit status. The church has already spent over $9000 removing dense brush and creating a stream crossing to provide access to the site. Thanks to them workers and visitors have a clear path to the cemetery. The rest of the work will require more money. We are close to establishing a budget and timeline and hope to reach out to the community soon to solicit funds. Another option to explore is a historic preservation grant. Generally, these are matching grants allocated to projects that meet certain requirements. The application process requires a lot of historical research and will take some time to prepare.
I have been asked many times about who is buried in the Yeakel Cemetery. Having it’s roots as a private burial ground, there is no official record of interments, like there would be with an incorporated cemetery. However, research has provided much information. I am currently working on a list of names based on existing tombstones and genealogical data. Some of the early lists include names of burials that have not been confirmed. I will attempt to distinguish between the known and suspected burials and publish the list on this website. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment on this site or contact me through email, my address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Happy holidays to all!
On Sunday, October 14, a beautiful autumn day, two tours were held at the cemetery. With the help of the Chestnut Hill Historic Society and the Springfield Township Historic Society, the groups were treated to an informative presentation about the history of the site. Jerry Heebner, editor of The Schwenfeldian magazine, led the tour beginning with some background about the Schwenkfelder emigration and settlement in the area. He also spoke about how the property developed and provided an entertaining outline of the families buried there. Jack Yeakel concluded the tour with some stories about the Yeakel family’s experience during the British occupation of Chestnut Hill. It’s a thrill to see so many people taking an interest in the cemetery and the history it represents. Hopefully, these were the first of many. Stay tuned.
If you would like to learn more, please come to the First Presbyterian Church in Flourtown, November 8th at 7:30. The program will feature presentations by Jefferson M. Moak, Senior Archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration, and David Contosta, Professor of History at Chestnut Hill College. Moak’s talk, “Chestnut Hill and Springfield Township: 18th Century Land Development and Architecture” will include original land partitions, an introduction to 18th century roads, and examples of 18th century architecture. Contosta’s presentation, “Millers and Mystics”, will explore the history of the Whissahickon Valley as both an early industrial powerhouse and home of a Pietist sect known as the “Hermits of the Whissahickon”. The talks are open to the public at no charge and will be moderated by Miles Orvell, Professor of English and American Studies at Temple University.
Come join us for an intimate tour of the cemetery on Sunday October 14. Times are 1:30 and 3:30. Jerry Heebner, editor of The Schwenkfeldian magazine, will talk about the history of the site and those buried there. Jack Yeakel will talk about the Yeakels during the Revolutionary War. Due to the fragile condition of the cemetery, tours are limited to 20 people. The tours are presented by the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and the Springfield Township Historical Society. Tours are free for members ($15.00 non-members). To make a reservation, please call Audrey Simpson at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society 215-247-0417 x103
On Saturday, September 8th volunteers, led by Jack Yeakel, gathered at the cemetery to deal with a collapsed portion of the stone wall. A 30 foot section of the wall came down in 2011, toppling into the graveyard. Using wheelbarrows, buckets and elbow grease, the crew moved several tons of debris to an area outside of the graveyard. The salvaged stone will be used for future wall repair. The volunteers also collected fallen branches, pulled weeds and picked up litter. Thank you to all those who braved the heat, your effort made the cemetery safer and cleaner for our up-coming tours. A round of applause for all those involved:
Gina Yeakel Boll
Alex Van Haute
“what should we do next?”
It’s hot out here!
Nice job everyone!
Back in March, I was researching some gravestones at the cemetery, and suddenly I was not alone. Some people were walking up the path. In all of my many visits to the place, I’ve never seen anyone there. That’s when I met Jerry Heebner and Liz Jarvis. Jerry is a historian; assigned by the Schwenkfelder Church to clean up the cemetery. Liz is Curator/Archivist for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society. By coincidence they were meeting at the cemetery the same time I was there! Jerry and Liz were meeting to discuss some upcoming tours of the cemetery sponsored by the CHHS. After much discussion about the history of the cemetery, we began to talk about the condition of the place. We noted some of the issues that needed to be addressed and decided that we all should meet to explore a course of action.
We have met several times since then. We have consulted with a cemetery conservationist, masonry expert, arborist, and other professionals. The Schwenkfelder Church has sent out crews to clear out the area for better access. Tours of the cemetery and lectures are being scheduled for the fall. We are developing a preservation plan to serve as a framework for decision-making and fundraising. Anyone interested in helping out is welcome to contact Jack Yeakel via email at email@example.com