Rose Hill Cemetery
Lodi Street between Douglas, Highland, and Willow Streets
Syracuse, New York
Rose Hill Cemetery was the burial place of almost all African Americans who lived and died in Syracuse before the Civil War. Known abolitionists include Prince Jackson (indicted for his part in the rescue of William “Jerry” Henry) and Thomas Leonard, who assisted Harriet Powell’s escape in 1839.
Established in 1848 as Syracuse’s first cemetery, it remained the city main cemetery until the 1860s. Syracuse’s first mayor, Harvey Baldwin, was buried here. So was Oliver Teall, Erie Canal Superintendent. Part of the cemetery was also set aside as a Potter’s Field, where those without money could be buried. This section was divided into areas for Africans, Irish, English, and “Americans.” Although many people were buried without gravestones, many extant stones contain German names.
According to Dennis Connors, Curator at the Onondaga Historical Association, cemetery records contain the names of hundreds of African Americans. This is supported by obituaries from the files of the OHA, many of which were reprinted in Sylvester Clark, “Early Black Syracusans.” Significant people involved in the underground railroad movement include Thomas Leonard and Prince Jackson.
Clark, Sylvester, “Early Black Syracusans.”
Gramza, Janet. “City’s Rose Hill Cemetery holds history.” Post-Standard,
February 28, 2002.
A comparison of burials in this cemetery with databases produced by this project of names of Africans Americans in Syracuse would reveal exactly how many African Americans were buried here.
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