The Penllyn Friends Burial Ground

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

While driving along Penllyn Pike nearby Wissahickon High School, I noticed an abandoned site hiding behind the wooded trees between two big historic homes. When I began finding this site on historic maps, I began to understand that the site I saw on Penllyn Pike was an abandoned burial ground.


To dedicated this Halloween, I want to know if this site is haunted. But, before jumping to that conclusion, I have to understand its history, why it's still there, and who was buried there.

The Hicksite-Orthodox Separation of 1827


I always thought there was only one Gwynedd Friends Meeting House that's currently on the corner of Dekalb and Sumneytown Pikes. But it turns out there was another Friends Meeting House that was on Penllyn Pike that hosted Orthodox Quakers. It lasted from 1827-1936.


It all started in Philadelphia 1827 involving a disagreement on how the Society should be organized. There was a rivalry between the Orthodox and the Hicksites.

"Orthodox Friends were not highly alienated from the world. They were generally well-to-do and committed to the values of the society around them. They felt an unconscious need for a religion which would allow them to make their peace with the world. Hicksites, on the other hand, were usually not well-to-do and were not committed to prevailing culture standards. Hicksites were alienated from the world and therefore wanted a religion which would reflect their alienation."

- Doherty, 432


Fun Fact #1: It was unknown if the blame of the schism was fully on Elias Hicks, a travelling Quaker from New York who was promoting unorthodox doctrines.


Friends outside of Philadelphia were aware of the tension, including the Gwynedd Friends. It occurred prior to the separation in 1823 when two men, Ezra Comfort and Isaiah Bell, were disowned for their behavior and lack of sympathy.


After the 1827 split, the majority of the Gwynedd Friends were becoming Hicksites. As a result, the minority group, the Orthodox, parted away from the main Gwynedd Friends Meeting House, and established The Orthodox Friends of Gwynedd at the home of Jesse Spencer, the same year the Orthodox and Hicksites in Philadelphia split.

"Whereas a number of the Members heretofore belonging to our meetings have withdrawn themselves from the Established Order of our Society and joined themselves to a New Yearly Meeting held in the present month and appointed representatives to attend there to, contrary to the Established Order of our Yearly Meeting held in Philadelphia in the 4th month annually and inconsistent with the Order and subordination of its discipline."

- Minutes from the very first Orthodox Friends of Gwynedd Meeting, 1827

Map of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania : from original surveys (1849); William E. Morris, Publisher
Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 29; A. H. Mueller, Publisher
Google Satellite Plan View: 144 Penllyn Blue Bell Pike, Penllyn, PA 19422
The former Orthodox Friends of Gwynedd; Source: Philadelphia Magazine

The Abandoned Burial Ground


The burial ground is currently located next to the former Orthodox Friends of Gwynedd building. It existed during the time the Orthodox Friends of Gwynedd was established in 1827 until it ended after the 1950s.


According to the Find A Grave website, there are 29 grave records found at this burial ground. Unfortunately, I couldn't read the names on the tombstones, but I was able to identify a few names:

The Children of Amos and Hannah Foulke


The Foulke surname is a very famous surname in the Gwynedd area due to the fact that the Foulke family was one of the early settlers in the area in 1698. Amos Foulke was descended from Edward and Eleanor Foulke who immigrated from Wales to Gwynedd in 1698. His wife Hannah Jones, meanwhile, was descended from a family who came from Wales, and immigrated to Lower Merion probably around the William Penn era.

The Jones Family Tree

Their children were raised in Gwynedd, but unfortunately their father died from the yellow fever from the epidemic in Philadelphia. Their mother sent them away to their relatives from Penllyn, Jesse and Priscilla Foulke, where they resided in the old homestead. It was where Sally Wister temporarily stayed in and wrote her famous journal during the American Revolutionary War.


Read more about the Foulke Family and the homestead here!


It was their son Edward who took over the old homestead later on with his wife Tacy.


Amos's children, Susan, Edward and his infant son, and George's bodies were disinterred from the Friends burying ground, and moved to the North Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia on October 18, 1887.


It's uncertain if the rest of the bodies were disinterred like the Foulke children. If they weren't, would they be haunting around the former gravesite?

Bibliography


Doherty, Robert W. "Non-Urban Friends and the Hicksite Separation." Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 33, no. 4 (1966): 432-445.


"Dr. Edward Jones." FamilySearch. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://ancestors.familysearch.org/en/L13P-D7X/dr.-edward-jones-1645-1727.


"Google Maps Area Calculator Tool." DaftLogic. Accessed March 23, 2021. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-area-calculator-tool.htm.


Glenn, Thomas Allen. Merion in the Welsh Tract, With Sketches of the Townships of Haverford and Radnor : Historical and Genealogical Collection Concerning the Welsh Barony in the Province of Pennsylvania, Settled by the Cymric Quakers in 1682. (Norristown, 1896): 151, 315-322.


Jenkins, Howard Malcolm. Historical collections relating to Gwynedd, a township of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, settled, 1696, by immigrants from Wales, with some data referring to the adjoining township, of Montgomery, also settled by Welsh. (Philadelphia: Howard Malcolm Jenkins, 1897): 233-235, 250-252, 261, 269.


Morris, William E, and Smith & Wistar. Map of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: from original surveys. [Philadelphia: Smith & Wistar, 1849] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/2012590207/.


Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 29, 1916.


"Penllyn Burial Ground of Gwynedd Friends Meeting." Find a Grave. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2465884/penllyn-burial-ground-of-gwynedd-friends-meeting.


"SECTION II 1798 - 1898." Gwynedd Friends Meeting. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.gwyneddmeeting.org/history/gwynedd_history_page2.html.


Sheridan, Matthew. "'Orthodox Cottage': A Blue Bell Property With An Amazing History." Philadelphia Magazine. Last modified March 29, 2016. https://www.phillymag.com/property/2016/03/29/orthodox-cottage-a-blue-bell-property-with-an-amazing-history/.


#pahistory #penllyn #burialground #cemeteries #friends #orthodox #hicksite #schism #separation #penllynpike #gwynedd #lowergwynedd #haunted #halloween

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