WAYNE, PA — During its meeting this past Tuesday at St. David’s Church, Wayne, PA, the Jeptha Abbott chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) presented a check for $6,500 to Pennsylvania State Regent Marguerite Fritsch to be used towards her state project—the restoration of Old Swedes Burial Ground, located in Chester, and filled with a wealth of history. The money came from the proceeds of the Jeptha Abbott DAR Patriots Ball.
Old Swedes Burial Ground, founded in 1643 by Swedish settlers, is situated just across the street from Chester’s City Hall. It is also located along one of the stops of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, the National Historic Trail that General George Washington and French General Jean Rochambeau took in 1781 when they joined forces to fight the British Army in Yorktown, Virginia, during the last battle of the Revolutionary War, securing America’s independence.
John Morton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1725 in Ridley Township, and is among the over 275 buried at this cemetery. Morton was a descendant of the early Finnish-Swedish settlers of the Delaware Valley. His father died the year he was born, and his mother remarried to an Englishman, John Sketchley. Sketchleyschooled Morton in surveying, reading, math, and moral training, and Morton became known for his intelligence, hard work, and integrity.
Morton was elected to the Colonial Assembly in 1755 and served 19 terms. During this time, he helped write 72 bills, 50 of which became law. In addition to his service in the Assembly, Morton served as justice of the peace from 1757-1764, road commissioner in 1762, and sheriff from 1766-1769. In addition, he served as provincial commissioner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1762 and from 1771-1774. He was also a delegate for the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and associate justice for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1774-1776.
Morton represented Pennsylvania in the First Continental Congress in 1774 and again at the Second Continental Congress from 1775-1776, where he signed the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, and helped draft the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s first form of government. During his long tenure as a public official of Pennsylvania, he was also very active in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chester, which is why he was buried in the adjoining cemetery.
As one of nine men who signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Pennsylvania, Morton’s decision to vote for independence helped tip the decision and gave the colony its freedom. Although most Pennsylvanians in John Morton’s home area of Ridley Township were Loyalists then, Morton favored independence. As a result of his vote, friends, neighbors, and even relatives turned against him. By early 1777, he became extremely ill with tuberculosis. As he lay dying, he predicted that one day, people would realize that voting for independence was the most glorious service he ever rendered his country. He passed away on April 1, 1777, and was interred at the Old Swedish Burial Ground. A memorial obelisk marks his burial site with inscriptions on all four sides, and three plaques, one placed by the DAR.
Old Swedes Burial Ground, also known as Old Swedes Cemetery and St. Paul’s Cemetery, was deeded to the city of Chester in 1957 by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which was initially located on the cemetery grounds. In recent years, this historic cemetery has fallen into disarray and is in dire need of preservation. Pennsylvania State Regent Marguerite Fritsch has a personal connection to this cemetery, so she chose the historical preservation of Old Swedes Burial Ground as her State project.
The Jeptha Abbott DAR held a Patriots Ball this past November to help fundraise for the cemetery and raised $6,500. Those on the Ball committee included Regent Teri Fischer, Ball Chair and First Vice Regent Amanda Quinn, Second Vice Regent Karen Franks Zetterberg, Chaplain Lisa Gresh, Cindy Gerson, Pamela Hackett, Anne Vickers Greene Hain, Lynn Marinchak, Gayla McCluskey, Kim Petrucci, and Anita Visalli.
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