Buried, Abandoned, but Not Forgotten: Yeakel Cemetery Preservation


For more information about the Cemetery, including how to visit the cemetery and for information on tours, you can visit their website at www.yeakelcemetery.com.

History of Yeakel Cemetery Preservation

Cemetery PreservationThe Yeakel Cemetery is located in Wyndmoor, Springfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, about a quarter-mile from the Philadelphia line north of Chestnut Hill. It was once owned by the Mack family of Germantown and used as a place of interment prior to 1753. The Yeakel Cemetery Preservation project aims to preserve this vital history, as well as the final resting place of some of the earliest residents of Chestnut Hill and Springfield Township Montgomery County.

The cemetery is over 200 yards back from Stenton Avenue, in a wooded area, behind a rehabilitation center. About an eighth of an acre in size, the graveyard is surrounded by a stone wall built sometime before 1882. An early photograph shows the wall with a shingle cap. Today it has a cast concrete cap with a date stamp that reads 1927. A pair of wrought iron gates, with small lion’s head medallions, completes the enclosure.

Inside there are 86 head and foot stones, some dating back to the 18th century. The earliest are made of marble and the inscriptions are fading. The later granite stones are still crisp. There are about two dozen common field stones set in the ground upright, as if to suggest a marked grave. The most dominant feature in the graveyard is a polished granite monument placed by the Schwenkfelder Church to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Schwenkfelder migrations. The monument, erected in 1931, is inscribed with the names of the immigrants buried in the Yeakel cemetery as well as the Hood and Pilgrim cemeteries.

According to tombstonCemetery Preservatione research, there are 53 burials in Yeakel cemetery. The earliest inscription is Maria Yeakel who died in 1752 and the latest is Matilda Heydrick who died in 1902. Some other family names that appear on stones are Dowers, Heebner, Neff, Schubert, Schultz, and Schuman. Other burials may include members of the Eshamann, Kriebel, and Mack families, though no tombstones mark their graves.

Tradition states that soldiers killed during the Revolutionary War are buried here. This has not been verified; however a skirmish did take place on this hillside. On Dec. 6, 1777 a detachment of 600 Pennsylvania Militia, commanded by Gen. William Irvine, fought with British troops. According to military records, the fight lasted twenty minutes, General Irvine was wounded and captured, and there were 30 to 40 casualties.

Four patriots are buried in the cemetery. Lists of associators and militia 1777-1781, include the names Christopher Yeakle (under Capt. James Irvine) from Chestnut Hill and Abraham Yeakle, Abraham Heydrick, and Jacob Neff (under Capts. Baltzer Heydrick and Andrew Redheiffer) of Springfield Township.

In 1802 Christopher Yeakle, his sons Christopher Jr. and Abraham, and his son-in-law Abraham Heydrick purchased the burial ground. Additional purchases were made in 1838 and 1847. Every purchase added new names to a growing list of owners. By 1847 seven people had “equal right, title, and interest” to the property. Eventually the land was taken over by the Schwenkfelder Church.

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Yeakel Cemetery Preservation Today

Today the cemetery is all but forgotten. For many decades the site was nearly inaccessible. The dense overgrowth, a small stream prone to flooding, and the lack of a visible presence, challenge those who wish to visit the place. Many of the older stones are leaning dangerously. Some are broken, missing, or misplaced. Some fragments were moved to other parts of the graveyard making it difficult to determine their original location.

A large tree grows in the middle of the cemetery. It’s roots have shifted some monuments and falling branches continue to threaten many ancient gravestones.

In 2009 the church made an effort to improve access to the site.A long wide path was created by cutting the underbrush and spreading crushed stone. Large pipes were placed in the stream to permit crossing with equipment. However a storm in 2010 flooded the area and washed out the stream crossing.

Large branches came down, damaging the iron gates. The gates have since been removed and are being repaired. The stone wall has also suffered damage. Trees and invasive plants have grown in and around the wall, shifting the stones. In 2011, a 20 foot section of the wall tumbled into the graveyard.