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Friday, July 17, 2015

Exploring Bucktoe Cemetery

Headstone of
Corporal William Jackson,
Civil War Veteran
What does archaeology have to do with TLC?  A lot! TLC has been working on a collaborative project with the New Garden Memorial UAME Church and Eugene Hough of Heritage Guild Works to restore and preserve the Bucktoe Cemetery. Starting with grounds cleanup five years ago, the Cemetery has been restored and opened to visitors to see the ruins of the former church building and the graves of over 120 individuals including several documented African-American Civil War veterans. To learn the history of Bucktoe, check out the full write up on the TLC history page.

Starting last year, New Garden Memorial UAME members, Eugene Hough, and TLC staff have worked with the Chester County Intermediate Unit to bring out students from the Migrant Education Program to learn about the Cemetery and area history while helping excavate the church foundation and document existing stones.  This year’s project has focused on exploring the center of the church and the front foundation wall.  On our first field day last week, students started two shovel test pits (STPs) that are smaller than standard excavation units to try and determine what remains currently exist.
Adrian and Candido excavating in the center of the former church
After only a day of excavations, students uncovered many fragments from the collapsed church including mortar, stone, window glass, and brick from the chimney.  The students working on the front stp along the potential foundation excavated several inches and did start uncovering larger stones that could be related to the foundation.  Further excavation next week will hopefully provide more answers.

Out in the cemetery, students took turns working to uncover assorted stones that could have been grave markers and footstones.  Many people would use a large natural stone to mark a grave if they could not afford a formal headstone. The students were most excited about a small stone that was found to have a rough J carved into it.  This most likely served as a simple gravestone.

Can you see the letter J in the center?
The small stones on top were around the base to help hold it in place.
In addition to the CCIU students, TLC brings out other groups who have an interest in the site for customized programs to suit the interests and needs of each group.  This past week we were thrilled to host Den 6 from Cub Scout Pack 136 of Avondale to complete their Duty to God Adventure.  We were able to show the boys the foundation and some artifacts, they completed rubbings of the original grave stones, and we hiked them to other ruins related to the church.  This helped the boys explore a site where people show reverence with Bucktoe Cemetery serving as a great example.

This program is made possible thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. Founded in 1775, this organization gives grants to organizations and programs that seek to improve conditions of African Americans throughout Pennsylvania. We are honored to partner with them to share this unique and important site of local African American history with our community. 

The Bucktoe Cemetery is open from dawn to dusk to visitors and if you’re interested in a guided tour or program, please speak to Hannah, TLC’s Education Coordinator at 610-347-0347 ext. 104 or

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