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Palmer Cemetery and the Historic Burial Grounds of Kensington & Fishtown



Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011, 143 pages, illustrated.

Table of Contents: 

Chapter 1: Anthony Palmer - Founder of Kensington
Chapter 2: The Founding of Palmer Cemetery
Chapter 3: The Original Palmer Trustees and the Revolutionary War
Chapter 4: The Yellow Fever Visits Palmer Cemetery
Chapter 5: The 19th Century History of Palmer Cemetery
Chapter 6: Palmer Cemetery in the 20th Century
Chapter 7: Hanover Street Burial Ground
Chapter 8: Union Burial Ground of the Northern Liberties and Kensington: A Place of Many Names.
Chapter 9: Other Historic Cemeteries of Kensington & Fishtown
The first 6 chapters are about the history of Palmer Cemetery, a.k.a. the Kensington Burial Ground.
Chapter 7 includes the history of Hanover Street Burial Ground, which included three separate cemeteries: Kensington M.E. Church (2nd burial ground), Union Wesleyan Church Burial Ground, and Union Harmony Burial Ground.
Chapter 8 contains the history of the Union Burial Ground of the Northern Liberties and Kensington. This cemetery was also known as West Street Burial Ground, a.k.a. Union Burial Ground of Kensington, a.k.a. Malt House Ground, a.k.a. German Burial Ground, a.k.a. Thumlert’s.
Chapter 9 has histories of the Jew’s Burial Ground of Kensington (Congregation Rodeph Shalom’s Cemetery at Thompson & Creese Streets); Kensington M.E. “Old Brick” Church’s original burial ground at Richmond & Marlborough Streets; First Presbyterian Church of Kensington’s original burial ground on Palmer Street, above Richmond Street and their “new” ground on Palmer Street just west of Memphis Street; Salem German Reformed Church’s Jackson Street Burial Ground (Memphis Street between Palmer Street & Columbia Avenue; Mutual Burial Ground of Kensington, a.k.a Helverson’s at the northwest corner of Frankford Avenue & Berks Street; and to a lesser extant, very brief histories of the Peiffer Family Ground; Emanuel Church Grounds; and First Presbyterian Church of Northern Liberties Cemetery.


Hidden History of Kensington & Fishtown

The History Press of Charleston, SC, the publisher of my first three books, Remembering Kensington & Fishtown (2008) The History of Penn Treaty Park (2009) and The History of the Kensington Soup Society (2009), has released my fourth book, Hidden History of Kensington & Fishtown (2010). It is now available for sale.



Foreword, by Brian Rademaekers 9
Acknowledgements 13
1. Kensington in Olden Times
Origins of the Word Shackamaxon 15
Point Pleasant, Terminus of Ancient Native American
Transportation Routes 18
Window to the Revolution: John Hewson, Elizabeth Farmer,
Robert Morton and Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe 20
Captain Peter Browne, Revolutionary War Blacksmith 28
Kensington’s Protest of Jay’s Treaty, 1795 30
Batchelor’s Hall Revisited 32
John Fanning Watson’s Description of Kensington 39
2. Industry and Labor
The Johnson Brothers and Frederick Sanno, Early Kensington
Steam Engine Builders 43
John Bromley & Sons, Carpet Weavers 47
H.W. Butterworth, Hero Fruit Jar Company and the Founding of
the Riverfront Railroad Spur 55
Uriah Smith Stephens and the Founding of the Knights of Labor 63
Frederick W. Fritzsche and the Philadelphia Labor Lyceum 66
The Violent Cramp Shipyard Strike of 1920–1921 68
3. Crime, Politics and Social Disorder
The Great Kensington Bank Robbery of 1871 87
The Brazen Rusk Twins and Their Destiny with Death 91
Fraud and Failure at the Shackamaxon Bank and the Founding
of the Ninth National 97
The A.C. Harmer Club, Kensington’s Forgotten Political History 99
Kensington’s Speakeasy Wars 101
Port Richmond’s Bloody William Street 104
4. Medical, Health, Hygiene and Social Work
Cholera Comes to Kensington, 1848–1849 107
The Civil War and the Founding of the Hospital of the Protestant
Episcopal Church 109
The Public Bath Association Comes to Kensington 114
The Kensington Temperance Society 116
Social Work and Recreation in Kensington 118
5. Little-Known Kensington and Fishtown Celebrities
Alexander Adaire, Lumberman, Advocate for Night School
for Working Men 121
“The Rose of Tralee” and the Cruice Family of St. Anne’s 124
Lieutenant Colonel Peter A. McAloon, St. Anne’s Civil War Hero 127
Billy Sharsig, Early Baseball Man of Kensington 130
Eddy Stanky, Professional Baseball Player, “The Brat
from Kensington” 132
Joseph T. Verdeur, Cedar Street’s Gold Medalist Swimmer 134
Bibliography 137
About the Author 143

The History of Penn Treaty Park


The History of Penn Treaty Park was my second book. It is in its second printing.












Chapter 1: Penn’s Treaty, Benjamin West and His Followers

Chapter 2: The Fall of the Treaty Elm, Elm Tree Relics, the Penn Society and the Treaty Monument

Chapter 3: The First Decline, Fernon’s Attempts and the Founding of the Park

Chapter 4: Penn Treaty Park: The First Sixty Years, 1893 to 1954

Chapter 5: The Bicentennial, Tercentenary and the Park Expansion, 1955 to 2008

Chapter 6: The Artwork in the Park


For Further Reading



From the “Preface” of the book written by the Penn Treaty Museum founder John Connors:


“In 1682, along the gentle banks of the Delaware River, under the shade of a great elm tree in an area then known as Shackamaxon, William Penn is believed to have made a Treaty of Amity and Friendship” with the Native Americans.

   Few events in American history are noted for the just and fair treatment of peoples from different cultures. The legend of William Penn’s treaty with the Indians became a universal symbol of religious and civil liberties. Voltaire made reference to the event in 1764, and artists throughout Europe recreated the scene first painted by Benjamin West in 1771. Drawings of the transaction were used to promote commercial interest in the emerging land. American painter Edward Hicks created numerous depictions of the treaty meeting to promote social change. In the pre–Civil War era, artistic renderings of Penn’s Treaty were used to encourage political movements, religious agendas and social reforms.

   Most artists rendered Penn, the English Quaker, and the Native Americans as meeting in friendship and trust beneath the branches of a stately elm tree. The “Great Elm” as it was known, remained as a living monument to this event until it fell during a violent storm in 1810. Concerned citizens thought that the site, and perhaps the event itself, would be forgotten once the mighty tree had toppled. Much of the timber was salvaged, however, and many objects were crafted from the tree’s wood, ensuring that the significance of this unique event was not lost. The first public monument, an obelisk, was placed on what was then private property to mark the site of the historic tree.

   In 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall received a box created from the Treaty Elm from Roberts Vaux. Marshall replied:


The box is to me an inestimable relique. I know no inanimate object more entitled to our reverence than the tree of which it was a part, because I think few events in history have stronger claims on our serious reflection, on our humanity, our sense of rights, and on our judgment, than the treaty which was made under it, and the consequences which followed that treaty. The plainly marked difference of intercourse between the colonists of Pennsylvania and the aborigines, and that which other colonists maintained with them, furnishes a practical lesson on the influence which intelligence, real friendship, and justice may acquire and preserves over their untutored minds which ought not even yet to be forgotten.


   Interest in creating a permanent park and preserving the site continued throughout the years. Penn Treaty Park was officially established in 1893. Native Americans have always honored the location of this peaceful event along the river, handing down the story of this historic occurrence in their traditional oral history, and have gathered at the site on numerous occasions in the past 326 years.

   This book is inspired in part by Dr. Etta May Pettyjohn (1909–2005), who for many years championed the preservation of Penn Treaty Park and outlined a vision for a museum in 1970. Dr. Pettyjohn was a member of the tercentenary committee and often spoke of how this simple event had impacted political and social change in the young America. She believed that the story of Penn Treaty Park richly deserved a museum as a permanent tribute to the extraordinary message of Penn’s Treaty from long ago.

   Today, the Fairmount Park Commission maintains the grounds with oversight from the Friends of Penn Treaty Park.”  - John Connors, 2008.


The book is paperback and contains 160-pages with 60 illustrations and maps.



 The History of the Kensington Soup Society, 1844-2008

My third book published by The History Press and is also still available.

“Kensington Soup House. - This building, located in Allen Street, Eighteenth Ward, daily presents a scene of interest to all who concern themselves about the alleviation of human suffering. The society is now busy in dispensing its charities, and many a crushed spirit is the recipient of its bounty. Every morning hundreds of the poorest residents of the vicinity vie to the spot to have their kettles filled with soup, which is received with an eagerness which shows that want and hunger is pinching. The applicants are of all ages and of both sexes and colors. Ragged children come from squalid homes, but there are also some attired with comparative neatness, who show by their demeanor that their position is strange and unpleasant. Women approach at times timidly, obtain the relief and depart quickly, but with eyes that speak gratitude. Old men bowed with age and sorrow also come, and tearfully thank the dispensers of the nourishment which is to prolong their days of sadness. There is much distress in the vicinity of the Soup House, and the society well deserves the aid and co-operation of the benevolent in their good work.” - 2 Feb 1861 Philadelphia Inquirer







Chapter 1.                The Founding of the Kensington Soup Society

Chapter 2.                The Early Years of the Soup Society –Managers & Benefactors

Chapter 3.                Early Homes of the Kensington Soup Society and the Financing of the            

                                Crease Street Soup House

Chapter 4.                The Running of the Soup Society

Chapter 5.                The Soup Society in the Late 19th Century

Chapter 6.                The Williamson Family and Coal Fund

Chapter 7.                Word War I, The Great Depression, & World War II

Chapter 8.                Changing Shape of the Kensington Soup Society


The book paperback and contains 158 pages and over 70 illustrations and maps.


Remembering Kensington & Fishtown Philadelphia's Riverward Neighborhoods

Remembering Kensington & Fishtown: Philadelphia’s Riverward Neighborhoods. By Kenneth W. Milano. Charleston & London: The History Press, 2008. 128 pages, 36 illustrations (3 maps). Perfect bound, paperback. In-Print $19.99
Back Cover blurbs:
The Well-Known, the Obscure and Everyday Folks all have their Roles in this Panorama of the Past.
The Native Americans called it Shackamaxon, the “place where the chiefs meet,” but Kensington soon became a meeting place of a different kind. Ideologies and demagogues, industry and entrepreneurs all came together in Kensington and Fishtown. Kensington was the epicenter of the American vegetarian movement, and a decade later the area’s shipyards gave birth to the U.S. Navy’s first submarine. In Kensington & Fishtown, native son Kenneth W. Milano presents a collection of fascinating and diverse articles from his column “The Rest is History.” Relive the golden age of Kensington and Fishtown as you learn about their fascinating pasts.
Contents of Book: Part I: Olden Days of Kensington. Part II: Early Industry in Kensington and Fishtown. Part III: Recreation in the Neighborhood. Part IV: Interesting Nineteenth-Century Vignettes. Part IV: Stories of Cemeteries, Churches and Hospitals. Part V: Some Kensington Biographies 


All of these books can be ordered directly from the publisher (History Press) or online at Amazon.





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