Burials commenced on the east side in 1764 as soon as a grid plan was drawn up. Each plot in the 14 rows permitted 3 stacked burials at 9, 6- and 3-foot depths. Two more rows were added on the west side of the building after the church opened in 1768. By 1782, available grave space was limited. To complicate matters, the convivial relationship with the First and Second Presbyterian churches cooled when the Third hired it first minister, Rev. George Duffield.
A “land grab” to expand the graveyard ensued. Third Church purchased a narrow parcel the length of its southern boundary. First Church bought the large lot adjacent to and west of the Third Church property. First Church, however, restricted burials to their members only. Both the burial grounds were united as one by a 1980’s ruling of the Philadelphia Presbytery.
Closed by mid-19th c., the graveyard is the resting place for a diverse population: artisans, craftsmen, elected officials, sea captains, merchants, doctors, lawyers, and members of Provincial Councils, State and Continental Congresses. The listing of 1793, 1794 and 1798 Yellow Fever victims is lengthy. Over 235 men of the 672 Third Church members who served (and counting!) in the Revolution are buried here…each grave marked with a 13 star flag.
Noteworthy people include: a signer of the U. S. Constitution; a captain of the First City Troop; Federal and State attorneys general; sexton/official bell ringer of the State House; Philadelphia’s oldest citizen (age 122); and a man who died, age 108, in 1792 leaving 121 living descendants. Also two notable 18th c. women: one a playmate of George III’s children, who also became the War of 1812 Keeper of Philadelphia’s powder magazine when her husband died; the other whose business became the official printer of legal forms in Philadelphia for over 50 years. We are discovering and documenting history daily.