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Slave Burials at the Hanover Cemetery
Dauphin County, Pennsylvania


This cemetery is also known as the "Old English Graveyard," in reference to its connection to Hanover Presbyterian Church. The church, which no longer exists, was first established in 1739 to accommodate the settlers of the region, who otherwise had to travel between 15 and 20 miles to attend either Derry or Paxton Presbyterian churches.


Photo of the front gate of Hanover Cemetery d

Photo by George F. Nagle, 1997.

Slave Burials

According to a locally published township history book, there are 1157 graves in this cemetery, of which 879 are, or were at one time, marked. Many of the known slaveholders for East and West Hanover Townships are buried here. The township history book reports that there are fifty slaves buried here, although it does not identify the source of that information. Local lore holds that more than 100 additional slaves are buried outside of the cemetery wall, which was constructed in 1797. For this reason, according to tradition, no one was permitted to plow or dig around the wall. Today, the wall is surrounded by grass at the front and woods around the remaining sides, which seems to indicate that there is some truth to that belief.

Of the 150 slaves believed buried here, none have yet been identified.


East Hanover Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania: Bicentennial Celebration 1776-1976. Locally published.

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This page was updated on March 20, 2005.

d A detailed description of the photo above: The photograph depicts the entrance to the Hanover Cemetery in East Hanover Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. A four-foot fieldstone and masonry wall surrounds the cemetery, broken only by the slightly higher entrance pillars, which are also of fieldstone and masonry, and from which the iron gates hang. The gates are closed, but through their widely spaced bars the viewer can easily see numerous rows of old tombstones stretching to the rear of the cemetery. On the left entrance pillar hangs a memorial plaque listing some of the notable persons buried here, although the names are not readable from the distance that this photograph was taken. Further to the left, on the wall, hang two more older and smaller plaques noting the historical significance of this old burying ground. Below them someone has placed small American flags which lean outward, framing this patriotic tableau. A third small flag has been placed at the base of the right entrance pillar.

Grass covers the ground around the front entrance. The ground is uneven and slopes noticeably downhill at the left edge of the photograph. The path between the entrance pillars has been worn lower by countless somber funeral processions, but the infrequency of modern traffic through the gates has allowed the grass to reclaim this ground, too. Inside of the walls the burial ground slopes gently uphill and away from the viewer toward the rear of the cemetery. A line of tall leafless trees marks the boundary of the cemetery at the back wall. The sky is blue with a few small clouds which seem to hang near the distant mountains, and sunshine highlights the stones of the entrance, giving this scene a deceptively warm look on what was actually a very cold winter day.

Return to the cemetery history.