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Chester County Press

A sleepy town and a resting place for heroes: Unionville and its cemetery

12/06/2023 09:45AM ● By Gene Pisasale
A sleepy town and a resting place for heroes: Unionville and its cemetery [7 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Many people drive right by cemeteries without thinking about all the people who were laid to rest—about their lives and accomplishments, whether they were well known in the community or lived lives of obscurity. 

It seems fitting to consider some of the names on the gravestones—whether they were members of your own family, a friend or perhaps simply a local resident who chose the spot as his or her last home. Walking through the Unionville Cemetery in southern Chester County, one comes across names of persons who had an impact on our society through their work and bravery, but who now rest without fanfare in a quiet field near a busy village crossroads.

According to the East Marlborough Township Historical Commission, Unionville’s roots go back to the year 1706, when Henry Hayes purchased an 1,100-acre tract of land from William Penn. John Jackson built a log house on the northeast corner of Doe Run and Wollaston Road. Jackson married Henry Hayes’s daughter Mary and built a large brick house on the southeast corner in 1751. It subsequently became the Cross Keys Tavern in 1808. The Crosson (sometimes spelled Crossan) family had several members living in the area, as did the Jackson family, who became well known. The village was actually called Jacksonville for many years. Its name was changed to Unionville after 1820 when the town got a Post Office, which operated in the general store.

The Unionville Cemetery mentions the history of the final resting place for dozens of heroes who served our country from the Civil War up through the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War and other conflicts. 

The Unionville Cemetery Association was formed in 1846 by six residents “…who invested $50 each to purchase property: Joseph Dowdall, C.S. Seal, Elisha Phipps, John Walton, William R. Chambers and Isaac Smith.” A lovely wrought iron fence rings the property. It was donated by Anna W. Seal in 1860. A large granite obelisk honors her contribution. 

Adjacent to the cemetery is a building which was used as the Indulge Quaker Meeting House. 

The Dowdall family was prominent in the area and instrumental in setting up the site. A gravestone reads: “The Cemetery of one acre and the adjoining Meeting House and Grave Yard lot of the Friends were donated by Mary Ann Dowdall and the other heirs of Thomas Wilson deceased for the purposes for which they are now used.” 

One might think with its relatively recent origin the Unionville Cemetery’s roots are firmly in the mid-19th century, but John Walton, one of the founders, was born in 1795 and he passed away in 1874. Walking among the gravestones, one is amazed at how many veterans are buried here. The letters “G.A.R.” may not be familiar if you’re not a history buff, but the cemetery holds numerous graves of men who fought or served during the Civil War. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was a fraternal organization of veterans who served in the Union Army, Union Navy and U.S. Marines during that conflict. It came to life in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois and eventually had hundreds of chapters all around the nation. It was finally dissolved after the death of its last member, Albert Woolson, in 1956.

GAR markers are ubiquitous at the Unionville Cemetery. One honors William Sheward, who died in the final year of the war, 1865. James Thompson is another GAR veteran; he served in Company A of the 21st Regiment. Thompson passed away in 1916. One type of marker you rarely see is next to Ira N. Jefferis’s (1859- 1914) grave. He served in the Spanish-American War. His brass plate stands out as unique, stating: “Spanish War Veterans 1898- 1902- United- Army Navy- Cuba- Philippine Islands- Puerto Rico- USA.” 

Several members of the Crosson family are buried here. E. Webb Crosson was Constable of Unionville and also served as Sheriff of Chester County. At least four generations of Crossons have their final resting place at the cemetery. One of them lived for quite a long time. His gravestone states: “Crosson, Charles W. 1911- 2014; CMDR USN Retired- A good man.”

Perhaps historians have a different view of sites like the Unionville Cemetery, not simply as an extant memorial, but a testament to the efforts of hundreds of people who helped create, support and defend our society. We can never forget our veterans. They gave their efforts and sometimes their lives to making sure we all appreciate the many blessings of the country we live in. 

If you find yourself in Unionville, stop by the cemetery. The gravestones and markers are worth a look—and will likely spark a feeling of gratitude for the selfless devotion of so many to protecting this place we call… America. 

Gene Pisasale is an historian, author and lecturer based in Kennett Square. His 11 books focus mostly on the history of the Chester County/mid-Atlantic region. Gene’s latest book is “Heritage of the Brandywine Valley”, a beautifully illustrated hardcover book with over 250 images showcasing the fascinating people, places and events of this region over more than 300 years. His books are available on his website at and also on Gene can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]