Restoration and preservation of the Old Swedes Cemetery

The Fritsch Administration will focus on the historic preservation of the Old Swedes Cemetery located in Chester, Pennsylvania. The cemetery is the final resting place of John Morton, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. This historic cemetery is in dire need of preservation and PSSDAR will preserve this American treasure. In addition to the preservation of the cemetery, PSSDAR will also support educational programs for local school children to learn about this historic site and their community.

Immigrants from Sweden established Chester in 1643. Later, the English developed a dynamic community supporting maritime industries. Today, Chester’s population is 70% African American and exists as a cultural, academic, and healthcare hub in southeastern Pennsylvania. By all accounts, Chester remains proudly a “river city” defined by historic dynamism. The Old Swedes Cemetery, located just across the street from Chester City Hall, has fallen into disrepair. While major invasive vegetation has been mitigated, headstones have toppled, monuments are crumbling, and vital American history is literally being buried by rising soil. Included among the neglected grave sites is that of John Morton (1724 – 1777), an original signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Overall, the proposal includes the rehabilitation of over 180 monuments on the site. The cemetery is located directly on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, the National Historic Trail which traces the route French and American allied armies used to get to Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolution. Revolutionary War troops would have marched past the site on their way to defeat the British. The act of monument rehabilitationpresents a catalyst for community engagement, education, and celebration of the city. Furthermore, the project aims to creating broader educational and documentary content which will first serve the citizens of Chester, but also aims to empower other communities with a playbook on historic preservation and community engagement through historic preservation along the entire Washington-Rochambeau Trail as the country prepares to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Schools, students, and families are suffering due to COVID-19 related closures. A major challenge has been finding locally relevant, high-quality educational activities for students. One way schools are solving this is outdoor education activities. Our field based community engagement model focuses on preservation in outdoors settings, enabling a very engaging, but socially distanced teaching and learning platform. At its core, the educational program is designed for replication via an open-source project plan.

Madonna of the Trail Statue

Madonna of the Trail

The Madonna of the Trail is a series of twelve statues honoring the spirit of pioneer women in the United States of America. Commissioned by the NSDAR and designed by sculptor August Leimbach. They are a symbol of the courage and faith of the women whose strength and love aided so greatly in settlement of the frontier. The statues feature a pioneer woman clasping a baby with her left arm while clutching a rifle with her right—her young son clings to her skirt. Crafted from algonite stone, each statue stands ten feet high and weighs five tons. With the base, the monuments stand 18 feet high.

The Pennsylvania Madonna was dedicated on December 8, 1928, and was the tenth in the series. Located in Beallsville, Pennsylvania, on Route 40, the Old National Trails Road, the Madonna is a source of pride for all Pennsylvania Daughters. Our Madonna of the Trail Chair and her committee raise funds for the maintenance and preservation of this treasured monument.