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Chester County Press

Mt. Calvary Cemetery restored: 78th Eagle Scout project in Oxford area

08/09/2022 01:30PM ● By Steven Hoffman

It was 95 degrees in the shade on Sunday, July, 24 when a group gathered to praise God and celebrate the restoration of Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Thankfully, the gathering was planned beneath the shade of a tree.

Rev. Aliston Thomas, from Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church (Allen AME) located at 788 Market Street in Oxford welcomed all of those attending the ceremony. Thomas led the group in prayer followed by beautiful hymns of praise. He thanked all those involved in the project.

“This project benefits the entire Oxford community,” he said. “Many loved ones are buried here. We can now bring the next generation here and tell them, ‘your grandparents were buried here.’”

He added, “We give God the glory.”

The joyful noise of that day was not wasted on the generations of those in their final resting place. Nor, was it wasted on the crowd that gathered.

Mount Calvary A.M.E. Church and the Cemetery Mount Calvary African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church were erected on Bethel Road in 1852, and is one of the oldest Churches in Chester County. Like most churches at the time, particularly those where the dominant population was African American, a cemetery (Mount Calvary Cemetery) was built adjacent to the building. 

Reverend Henry Jones donated the land on which Mount Calvary A.M.E. Church and Cemetery were established. The only remaining evidence of Mount Calvary A.M.E. Church today is the cemetery, where members still visit their loved ones.

An article in the Oxford Press, commemorating the Church's 151st anniversary, stated that Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne dedicated the Church and appointed the Presiding Elder, Reverend Herbert of the Baltimore District, the first pastor. 

At that time, the membership consisted of 23 members. The congregation relocated from lower Oxford to East Market Street where the cornerstone was laid on August 8, 1884. Mount Calvary A.M.E. and the church then became Allen A.M.E Church in honor of the first bishop of the A.M.E. Church, Bishop Richard Allen. 

Sadly on May 23, 1935, tragedy struck a blow to all members of the church, as the second building was destroyed by fire. A new edifice was erected at Eighth and Market Streets (788 Market Street) and dedicated by Bishop Henry Sims in the fall of 1935. And it still exists there today.

Those buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery are Civil War, World War I, World War II veterans. Mount Calvary Cemetery is truly a treasure.

Rev. Thomas and some of his congregants gathered to thank Eagle Scout Mason Salve and his father, James Salve, the Boy Scouts of America (Troop 13) and scout leader Marcus Kellerman, Shiloh Presbyterian Church, and many others who contributed to this restoration of this valuable treasure.

For Mason Salve, his interest in the cemetery actually started in 2015. The project itself was two years in the making.

“I drove by the cemetery every day and always wondered why it was in such poor shape,” he explained. “When I decided to do my Eagle Scout Project, the cemetery immediately came to mind. I wanted to restore the tree line and the site itself. I was hoping to restore the grave sites and make the lawn-keeping easier for the landscaper. When I learned the history of the cemetery, it made the project even more special. I was very satisfied with the end result.”

Mason’s father Jim Salve did some checking and confirmed this is the 78th Eagle Scout Project for Boy Scout Troop 13, going back to 1926.

Mason, who graduated this year, plans to further his education at Shippensburg University where he will major in computer engineering. It was evident that this project left a lasting impression upon him.

Jay Eaton from the Oxford Historical Society, also spoke.

“My research of the deed for this property went back to the 1700s,” Eaton said. “Many people have passed by this small historic cemetery located in Lower Oxford Township. Today this hallowed ground is being re-dedicated. We have a document naming everyone who is buried here.”.

Dale Hardy from Shiloh Presbyterian Church also remembered his ancestors on his father’s and mother’s side. He remembered the Wolse and the Jones families. 

“When I was a teenager, I remember coming with my mom and dad and Shiloh Church members to clean up the cemetery and visit the graves of my ancestors,” he said. “I am overwhelmed to see what was done here today. It seemed like people were slowly forgetting. I appreciate the work Mason Salve put in here. I’ll be back and bring my family. My mom’s family dates back to the 1700s. They would be pleased to see this.”

The hallowed ground of so many in the community is restored and ancestors remembered because of the work on another Eagle Scout Project by Troop 13.

Allen AME thanked Mason Salve, too, plus Shiloh Presbyterian and all those in the community. 

“This is a part of the community,” Rev. Thomas said.

And just a reminder that Wreaths Across America has not forgotten the veterans buried here. They include this cemetery as well. This year, when they lay the wreaths for the veterans, they will see God’s will be done and say a prayer of thanks, too.