A LIVING HISTORY CLASSROOM
Historic Bucktoe Cemetery is the final resting place of approximately 120 local residents including at least nine members of the United States Colored Troops who served in the Civil War. The Cemetery property was purchased by members of the African Union Church in 1824 for $50. The original church building was log, but burnt around 1850. The church was replaced by a stone building, which was identified in an 1885 newspaper article as being the largest church in Kennett Township. Bucktoe Cemetery is owned by the New Garden Memorial UAME Church who relocated to Kennett Square after the stone church burned down around the turn of the 20th century due to reported “white lightning”, also known as the Ku Klux Klan. The church bought the land on which they are currently located on East Linden Street in 1907 and built the church that stands today.
The cemetery and church were also in an active corridor of the Underground Railroad. Click Here to see a map of the Chester County Underground Railroad.
Located minutes off Route 82 in Kennett, and adjacent to the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, the Bucktoe Cemetery is part of the west branch of the Lower Red Clay Creek Historic District, which is a locally designated historic district and is currently being prepared for nomination for the National Register. TLC, in partnership with the Church and area residents, began the process of restoring the cemetery in 2010 in preparation for the Pennsylvania Grand Review’s Hallowed Grounds Project, which honored a handful of Civil War cemeteries across Pennsylvania. When we began Phase I of restoration, the cemetery had long been neglected, with almost no gravestones or markers of any kind. Although we began with so little to work with, we partnered with local schools, historical organizations, and restoration specialist Eugene Hough of Heritage Guild Works to begin the process of restoring the cemetery and honoring those buried there. Professional restorationist Eugene Hough, by taking a mold of one of the few remaining headstones, has created replica markers for all the United States Colored Troops buried in the cemetery.
Each fall, TLC hosts our annual Bucktoe Chronicles Day, to share this resource with the public and honor those buried there. Past Chronicles Day activities have included military salutes by the Bradbury Camp Sons of Union Veterans, historic storytelling, living history interpreters, students from Cheyney University portraying U.S.C.T. Soldiers, an archaeological dig of the original church foundation, and memorial ceremonies for the troops buried in the cemetery.
Members of the Church and TLC staff spoke at the Hallowed Ground Annual Meeting in October 2013 to update community members and other organizations on the accomplishments, ongoing projects and future goals of the Bucktoe Cemetery. For an overview of our presentation and goals of the cemetery project, click here to view.
We currently work with local school groups to host Archaeology Education programs in the Bucktoe Cemetery, exploring the original church foundation and nearby ruins. Our archaeological programs are part of our initiative to share the cemetery’s story with the public and utilize the site as an outdoor classroom. Programs are led by TLC’s Preservation Director and resident archaeologist Abbie Kessler with assistance in the cemetery from Eugene Hough. Eugene spearheaded the Bucktoe Cemetery Restoration in 2011, and since then has brought his expertise to our educational programming at the cemetery.
Workshop participants learn how to use professional archaeological tools to explore the foundation of the burned-down church, the church outbuildings, and the outskirts of the cemetery. Students are also guided in a discussion about the cemetery, local history, and the importance of preserving history and land alongside each other. So far, students have made many interesting discoveries, including bricks, pottery sherds, coins, plaster, tile, and the foundation of what we believe was the front porch of the church.
A special thanks to Jane Dorchester, Architectural Historian, for her research for the Lower Red Clay Creek Historic District.
TLC’s Bucktoe Cemetery archaeology programming is supported in part by the generous funding of the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival and CCRES. Additional funding over the years has come from the Welfare Foundation and Starrett Foundation as well as numerous private donors. Thank you to all who have supported the Bucktoe Cemetery!
No dogs are allowed at the Cemetery.