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A Look Back

The History of Southwestern Burial Ground

Friends Southwestern Burial Ground was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1861, on what was then farmland in Upper Darby, PA.

FSWBG is affiliated with two Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends which are located in Philadelphia. They are Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, located at 15th and Cherry Streets (formerly known as the Race Street meeting house) and the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia, located at 4th and Arch Streets.

To date there have been more than 4,000 burials at FSWBG representing many faiths. Quakers urge all those who bury their dead here to conform to true burial simplicity. Green burials and use of shrouds rather than coffins are encouraged. All graves are dug and refilled by hand, and only Quaker style headstones or low flat grave markers are acceptable.

December 2023


William Penn deeded land at 4th and Arch Streets to the Quakers to run a burial ground for the whole city of Philadelphia.


Yellow fever epidemic killed roughly 5,000 of Philadelphia’s population of 50,000. Arch Street burial ground was the location of one of the city’s mass graves where several thousand were buried.


Arch Street Meetinghouse was constructed. Many of the remains buried there earlier were relocated to the Friends Western Burial Ground located at 16th and Cherry Streets.


Farmland was purchased in Upper Darby by two Philadelphia Quaker meetings to create a new, larger burial ground. Why did Quaker Meetings in the city purchase land for a burial ground outside Philadelphia, in the borough of Upper Darby? As the city grew, land became scarcer and more costly. It became more important for Friends schools, meeting houses and other Quaker organizations to occupy central locations in the city, rather than burial grounds.


Friends Southwestern Burial Ground was founded, open to people of any faith seeking a simple burial. Those buried here include locally prominent residents, as well as several people who had been involved with the Underground Railroad.


Additional adjacent farmland was purchased to enlarge FSWBG to its current 14+ acres.


Western Burial Ground was closed for the construction of the original Friends Select School building. Remains buried there were relocated to Friends Southwestern Burial Ground.

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