Kensington: Palmer Cemetery

A cross with the name, Baby Joel, etched into it.

The Palmer Cemetery, in-between Palmer and Memphis Streets in Kensington, is one of the oldest in the nation, founded in 1732. Anthony Palmer’s daughter, Mrs. Thomas Keith, bequeathed the cemetery to the residents of Fishtown and Kensington in the early 1730s. Anthony Palmer was the founder of Kensington, a ship captain and acting governor of Pennsylvania in 1747 and 1748. Palmer himself is not buried at Palmer Cemetery having died before it was established, but instead lays to rest in the cemetery of Old Christ Church with Benjamin Franklin.

A cross with the name, Baby Joel, etched into it.
The main entrance into the Palmer Cemetery.

In order to be buried in the colonial cemetery, the deceased must have been born within the original boundaries of Fishtown-York Street, Frankford Avenue and the Delaware River. No one knows exactly how many are buried in Palmer Cemetery, the number is probably somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000. When a resident of Fishtown or Kensington wishes to be buried in Palmer Cemetery, the family chooses a spot for burial and the ground is poked with a pole to see if there are any obstructions blocking a new grave from going in.

Headstones inside the Palmer Cemetery.

The cemetery is a melting pot of ethnicities that have culminated over the past 250 years, including English, German, Irish and Polish.  Famous inhabitants include John Hewson, a revolutionary war hero and Emmanuel Eyre, a shipbuilder for the Continental Army. Members of the Cramp family, soldiers that served in the Revolutionary and Civil wars and ordinary neighborhood residents are all buried together at Palmer Cemetery.

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