Volunteers Working to Restore the Honor for Those Buried in a Forgotten Cemetery

Deep in the dense jungle that’s located between Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania… Oh. Wait. There are no jungles in Pennsylvania, just an overgrown cemetery. Yes, an overgrown graveyard, Mount Moriah, where 2,300 Navy and Marine servicemen are laid to rest. Some of the grave stones are dated as early as the Revolutionary War to as late as the Vietnam War. Sadly, this is the final resting place for some unknown soldiers.

“This is the heritage of our country,” Sam Ricks told FoxNews.com. “These stones — they’re not high ranking officials — these are the enlisted men who fought the battles. And we are trying to tell their story. These guys didn’t write history, they made it,” he said.

So how did the final resting place of some of our nation’s heroes become an overgrown mess? In April of 2011, the workers of the cemetery simply abandoned their duties and the cemetery closed its gates. The public became enraged because of the unkempt state of the grounds; the city stepped in and brought in mowers to cut the grass. However that was all that was done. They did not take responsibility for the upkeep of the cemetery. A large part of the graveyard was still covered in Sumac trees and overrun with a bamboo-like plant known as Japanese knotwood.

Sam Ricks, a 59 year old retired trucker, now works as a graves registrar for the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Pennsylvania Division. He and the Friends of Mount Moriah are dedicated in restoring and cleaning the graveyard to the glory those who are buried there, and also give them a proper tribute. In 2012, the Friends of Mount Moriah volunteer group was contacted by the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States. The group was given a list of sailors who were laid to rest in the cemetery; however, they could not be located. With this list, Ricks and the Friends of Mount Moriah are working to identify the men who lay beneath the unknown markers.



Ricks had success in identifying one of the soldiers in February of 2012. While cleaning up an area of the cemetery, he found a marker that was marked as “unknown.” After extensive research, he was able to identify the body that laid there. Commodore Jesse Duncan Elliot served as a master-in-commander of the ship named the Brig Niagara. Elliot was a hero in the War of 1812 and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for his heroics during the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813.

“Our Mission is to preserve history and then we have something to pass on to the next generation,” Ricks said. “And when you’re doing this for a descendent who [have] spent years trying to track down their ancestor, you feel like you’ve done a great deed to finally find that person.”

If you are interested in learning more about Sam Ricks’ cause and the restoration of the Mount Moriah Cemetery, follow the link.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE