Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the second oldest rural cemetery in the nation. It was established in 1836 on 74 acres of land overlooking the Schuylkill River. Its lovely neoclassical gatehouse was designed in a Roman Doric style by architect John Notman (1810-1865). Laurel Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998.
Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer (1726-1777) was a Scottish-American physician who settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia and was a personal friend of George Washington. He fought in the French and Indian War and in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, where he was killed at the Battle of Princeton.
Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade (1815-1872), nicknamed the “Old Snapping Turtle,” is most famous for commanding the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg. He commanded the V Corps during the Battle of Fredericksburg and replaced Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker as commander of the army. His star faded after Gettysburg, however, as General Ulysses S. Grant personally directed operations in the Eastern Theater. He made Philadelphia his home and died of pneumonia brought on by his old war wounds.
Commodore Isaac Hull (1773-1843) was a hero of the War of 1812 and Captain of the USS Constitution. It was during a battle with HMS Guerriere when the Constitution, under Hull’s command, earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.” Hull had a long naval career and the U.S. Navy has named five ships in honor of him. His monument at Laurel Hill is topped with an eagle resting its talon on a cannon ball.
Mary Schaaff was the wife of Polish-American sculptor Henry Dmoghowski-Saunders. Their twin children died in a boating accident in the Schuylkill River in 1855, and this statue of a mother cradling her infants stares out over the spot where they drowned. After Mary died two years later, Henry went back to Europe and never returned. Her epitaph reads: “We Should Count Time in Heart Throbs. He Most Lives who Thinks Most. Feels the Nobelest. Acts the Best.”
William James Mullen (1805-1882) was a watch maker, philanthropist, and prison reformer. He advanced the temperance movement and founded the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1850. This monument, sculpted by Daniel Kornbau, depicts Mullen freeing a woman from prison. He advocated on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned, and is estimated to have helped free over 50,000 people.
Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton (1814-1881) was born in Philadelphia and fought for the U.S. in the Seminole Wars and Mexican–American War, but commanded Confederate forces during the Siege of Vicksburg. Pemberton surrendered nearly 30,000 starving men to General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. He spent the last years of his life in Pennsylvania and is the only Confederate general buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery.