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Birmingham
Lafayette
Cemetery

Welcome to The Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery, located at 1235 Birmingham Road in West Chester, Pennsylvania. We are a non-profit cemetery in a rural, peaceful, country setting of Chester County, Pennsylvania. The treelined stone drives, memorial garden and abundant variety of trees throughout the cemetery provide a bucolic environment.

In-ground Traditional Lots

In-ground Traditional Lots

We provide a variety of burial opportunities including 1, 2, 4, and 8 grave lots as well as cremation sites. Perfectly located and impeccably maintained grounds make choosing Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery an easy decision

About Cemetery

About Cemetery

The Friends Meeting and Cemetery history has been provided by historian and board member, Don McKay taken from numerous sources and newspaper articles.

The origins of the present day cemeteries at Birmingham can be traced back to 1721 when a parcel of land was purchased from Richard and Elizabeth Webb to build a new Meetinghouse to be used by the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. The Meetinghouse at Birmingham would serve as a preparatory Meeting under the Concord Friends Monthly Meeting. The new building would be made of cedar logs and located east of Birmingham Road.A small burial ground was laid out within a stone boundary wall to the immediate north of the building.

By 1729 there was a religious conflict with the strict parent meeting that needed to be resolved. Many members of the trustees felt that Quaker cemeteries should not contain burials marked with headstones as they were considered superfluous. An agreement was worked out that the young preparatory Meeting could move forward with other business if their cemetery did not contain the headstones.

You can observe today that within the original section of the Friends cemetery that appears to be a simple open lawn with few headstones, the early graves in that section are mostly unmarked. By the 1760’s the membership had grown to a point where a new larger Meetinghouse was warranted. In 1763 a new stone Meetinghouse was constructed just east of the original cedar cabin. The new building, like its predecessor, was connected to the burial ground.

Meetinghouse

The Quakers enjoyed peace in their new building until events in early September 1777 would change their world as they once knew it. General George Washington led his Continental forces into defensive positions along the Brandywine Creek at Chads' Ford awaiting the British forces traveling down the Nottingham Road advancing towards Philadelphia. Expecting a conflict at the Brandywine, Washington ordered the Quakers out of their Meetinghouse so it could be prepared to be used as a field hospital for the sick and wounded in his army. The wooden benches were set outside under the trees to hold the mid-week Meeting.

On the morning of September 11, 1777 Generals Howe and Cornwallis led approximately 9,000 British forces on a flanking march around Washington’s defenses. In the afternoon the two armies would conflict just north of the Birmingham Meetinghouse at Street Road. The Continental forces took up defensive positions behind the stone boundary walls of the Friends cemetery. As the fighting passed through the property there were casualties on both sides. At the close of the day of fighting in what would become referred to as the Battle of Brandywine, the British would take control of the field hospital at the Meetinghouse. As typical with 18th century warfare, fallen soldiers were buried nearby where they fell. Some of the dead from both sides were buried in a mass grave within the walls of the burial ground nearby the Meetinghouse. This mass grave would be identified with a stone marker in 1920 by members of the Brandywine Valley Farmers Club. The original Friends burial ground would continue to be used into the 1840’s at which time an expansion would be necessary.

This mass grave would be identified with a stone marker in 1920 by members of the Brandywine Valley Farmers Club. The original Friends burial ground would continue to be used into the 1840’s at which time an expansion would be necessary.

Battle of Brandywine
The friends school at Birmingham meeting house

By 1842 a new burial ground would be opened for Quaker burials. There would be an entrance along the public road (now closed) running along the front of the Meetinghouse, running east past the octagonal schoolhouse. A stone boundary wall was erected on the south side of the new burial ground.

By the time of the opening of the new section of the cemetery, the Quaker traditions had evolved to allow simple headstones marking grave sites. The new section of the cemetery was, for a time, used by the Quakers in both the Orthodox and Hicksite branches of the Meeting (the split started in 1828 and lasted into the 1920’s).

In 1874 a plot of land for use as a cemetery was purchased by the Orthodox Meeting about 1/8 mile south along Birmingham Road. The Hicksite branch of Birmingham Meeting continued using the now expanded stone Meetinghouse adjacent to the original cemetery. The cemetery board was very strict on abiding by the customs of the Religious Society of Friends where large, superfluous headstones or monuments were forbidden. This practice would create conflict in the years to come.By 1890 the board of directors of the Birmingham Cemetery had decided to require the lowering of the gravestones to aid in the mowing of the lawns. This new ruling led to much dispute within families of those already buried within the cemetery. John Gheen Taylor, who had a wife and daughter previously buried in the cemetery led the opposition.

Taylor drafted and published a public criticism and filed a suit against the cemetery which ultimately reversed the gravestone decision. Taylor who had been stopped from constructing a granite monument on his family plot had been quietly buying up financial interests in the cemetery and had amassed a majority of the shares. This now gave him power to start to influence others who were of the same thinking to run for positions in the cemetery governing organization.

After an election in 1891, Taylor and many of his supporters had won positions on the board of directors of the lot holders of the cemetery. The new board would officially change the name of the organization to the Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery Association. It was during this same time period that the once Quaker burial ground was opened up to the public as a non-denominational cemetery.

RoadCemetery
Sign: Birmingham Lafayette Cemeterystorage building

The original section of the Friends burial ground adjacent to the Meetinghouse was sub divided and continued to be maintained by Birmingham Meeting. In 1892 a new cemetery entrance off of Birmingham Road was added. During the next decades an allée of cedar tees was planted along a new lane within the burial ground. By the mid-20th century, specimen trees and shrubs were planted throughout the expanded burial grounds, and a grid work of lanes were planned for future expansion.

The unused land within the plot was used as farmland for many years until additional expansions necessitated conversion into new burial plots.

The original 19th century caretaker’s storage structure was an earthen roofed mound with serpentine stone end walls with a set of hinged wooden doors located in the section of the cemetery closest to the octagonal schoolhouse. Equipment for digging graves, mowing the lawns, planting trees and shrubs, and caring for the headstones was kept within the structure.

As the years went by and the maintenance work required more modern equipment a new larger storage building and office was constructed within the cemetery.

The Taylor Monuments Visitors to the cemetery will notice a series of granite monuments near the Birmingham Road entrance. These monuments were constructed between 1893 and 1913 by John Gheen Taylor, a retired banker and broker in West Chester, using primarily his own wealth. With no family left living nearby, Taylor, the cemetery president had planned to spend his entire fortune by the end of his life creating monuments to his family and to the heroes of the Battle of Brandywine.

In the late 19th century Taylor began his monument building projects on his family plot. A granite monument was constructed topped with a white marble kneeling statuary of his wife who had died over two decades earlier. In addition to his wife, Taylor had also lost his 16 month old daughter in 1865. He created marble statuary to be placed on the grave of his late daughter.

Originally at the base of the monument were located white marble statues of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and of Lazarus. Within the family plot are the remains of Taylor’s parents, aunt and uncle, siblings, wife, daughter, and finally Taylor himself. Located nearby the Birmingham Road cemetery entrance, a monument was erected as a tribute to Joseph McClellan by his descendants.

The Taylor Monument
large granite ballgranite canopy

Located nearby the Birmingham Road cemetery entrance, a monument was erected as a tribute to Joseph McClellan by his descendants. McClellan who had served in the 9th Pennsylvania regiment on Birmingham Hill. The monument was dedicated on September 11, 1895, the 118th anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine.

The next monument was built by John G. Taylor to honor his great grandfather, Colonel Isaac Taylor who served in the 7th Pennsylvania regiment which guarded Pyle’s Ford below Chads' Ford leading up to the battle and fell back to defend Chads' Ford as the British advanced. Completed in 1898, the 12’ granite base is topped by a large granite ball.

Completed in 1900, a 45’ tall granite monument sitting on a pyramidal base was dedicated to the memory of the Marquis de Lafayette and Casimir Pulaski who fought at the Battle of Brandywine.

The original plan was to adorn the top of the monument with a bronze statue of Lafayette but it never was completed. On the monument are the engraved names of two of the foreign officers who fought in the Battle of Brandywine, the Marquis de Lafayette and Casimir Count Pulaski, as well as 3 other French officers who made significant contributions with the Continental forces in the American Revolution; Gen. Rochambeau, Gen. St. Simons, and Admiral DeGrasse.

Located between the Taylor and Lafayette monuments, started in 1902, the next monument built was in honor of Casimir Pulaski, Daniel Wells, and Henry McComas who fought at the battle. The granite canopy was completed in preparation for the statuary carved in Carrara, Italy to be delivered. There are two marble tablets on the rear of the monument honoring the three men.

At the time of Taylor’s death in 1913 he had spent over $100,000 dollars on the monuments and had set up perpetual care plans for his family plot and the cemetery for the next 100 years. Taylor had also petitioned the Pennsylvania State Legislature for funding in his monument project honoring the Battle of Brandywine.

Local legend states at the time of his death that he had spent his entire fortune and no money was left to engrave his own tombstone. In actuality his nameplate on the family monument was engraved by not the granite marker at his grave itself.

Local historian Christian Sanderson held annual Memorial Day services in the Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery from 1913 until his death in 1966. Sanderson's enthusiasm in local history is well documented and due to much of his efforts, the early knowledge of the events of the battle were passed down through the years.

Even in Taylor’s time, travelers from all over the region would stop to view the monuments, visit the Meetinghouse that was central to the Battle of Brandywine, and to walk in the tranquility of the cemetery

Contact Us

Ron Bowers photo
Mr. Ron Bowers Superintendant

For matters related to purchase of burial plots, scheduling funerals, cemetery regulations and policies, please contact Ron

James W. Serum photo
Dr. James Serum President Board of Directors

For matters related to the Board of Directors, Cemetery Policy, and ByLaws please contact Jim

1235 Birmingham Road, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19382

Our gates are always open to visitors who wish to quietly pay their respects to loved ones. The Cemetery is open all year long for visitation every day.

Cemetery office phone 610-793-1569