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Mount Zion Cemetery
Shunpike Road
West Cape May
Cape May County
New Jersey  USA
Postal Code: 08204

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Cemetery notes and/or description:
Located next to St. Mary's Cemetery. There are many more burials here unmarked.

Updated 10/10/10: I have received many requests regarding this cemetery and I decided to post this article taken from the Atlantic City Press back in 2000. Hopefully this article will answer the many questions I receive about this cemetery.

Press of Atlantic City, The (NJ)
March 1, 2000
Section: REGION
Page: C1

Union Bethel Cemetery & Mount Zion Cemetery


BLACK HISTORY CARVED IN STONES

RICHARD DEGENER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6711

Jonathan Hartzog grew up listening to his grandmother's stories about ancestors who were slaves in Maryland. That's why Hartzog, an inmate working on a state Department of Corrections community service program, didn't mind putting on the bright orange prison garb Tuesday morning for a day of hard work. This day's labor meant more to him than cleaning litter from the side of a highway. The direct descendant of slaves would be helping restore an old black cemetery on the outskirts of Cape May. Working off a sentence for drugs, the 28-year-old Hartzog helped clear away brush that covered graves of former slaves, black Civil War soldiers and prominent members of his race from the 19th century.
There was even some folklore that some of the graves here off Shunpike Road might be of people involved in the famous Underground Railroad, which for years has been linked to this area because "railroad conductor" Harriet Tubman had a job at a Cape Island hotel. Hartzog, getting paid just a few dollars for a day's work, was downright happy about the hard work. "It gives me a sense of pride to do something for all the people who went through all the hardships to give us what we have today," said Hartzog.
The significance also wasn't lost on a member of the white race, Department of Corrections Commissioner Jack Terhune. He didn't even know such cemeteries existed. Actually, Lower Township has two of them. One off Tabernacle Road also has the graves of slaves, people linked to the Underground Railroad, and prominent members of the first black families to settle the region. "I think this is not only a significant part of black history but also of New Jersey history. I was ignorant of these black cemeteries that go back over 200 years," said Terhune.
That should be good news to Dorothy "Dot" Jarmon, a balck woman from Cape May who initiated the project two years ago. Now only is she getting the cemetery restored, she is also spreading the message about black history in the region. Jarmon said she hopes to rededicate the Mount Zion Cemetery on May 21. By then, the prison inmates will have spent 5,000 hours here. Gravel roads will be built, gravestones cleaned, stumps ground down, grass seed planted and benches installed.
This was a site that two years ago was a thick stand of trees with tombstones jutting from the forest floor. Jarmon initially enlisted locals to do the work. Lower Township did much of it, but other towns, Boy Scouts, churches, the Coast Guard, landscaping firms, community organizations and others pitched in. About 20 dumpsters of material have already been taken out. But this is a cemetery left untended for a half-century. There was still plenty of work to do. Jarmon called William Freeman, who directs the Department of Corrections Community Labor Assistance Program. It's a program that daily sends out about 1,400 inmates to work in New Jersey communities. The department offered to help and decided February, Black History Month, would be a good time to start. "As the nation celebrates Black History Month, it is a great honor to be able to clear away decades of neglect and honor the African-American citizens and fallen soldiers buried there," said Terhune.
The project could bring forth new history, especially if the foundation of the old Mount Zion Methodist Church, the predecessor of the Franklin Street Methodist Church in Cape May, is found. "We hope to find the foundation and maybe, with DOC help, put the meeting house back up," said Mayor Larry Starner. The history isn't just about who is buried here but about how a people settled the region. New Jersey abolished slavery in 1846, but Cape May County did not free its last slave until 1860. Freed slaves, and possibly runaways, created the Union Bethel settlement near the intersection of Shunpike and Tabernacle Road as early as 1831. The first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Jarena Lee, attended church there.
Union Bethel farmer Edward Turner, according to the history that was passed down, took his wagon to the bay to pick up fugitive slaves. He kept them at his farm until they could be shuttled north.
The Mount Zion settlement further south on Shunpike Road was probably an offshoot of Union Bethel. Maureen Savage, a historian with the Center For Community Arts in Cape May, said blacks moved south drawn by jobs in the growing resort of Cape Island (Cape May). Eventually there were five black-owned hotels on Cape Island, but that didn't happen right away. In 1850, there were only three black landowners in the township and 26 of the 30 heads of households were common laborers. The other four were mariners.
Another prominent man was the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, who preached at the Mount Zion Methodist Church in 1886-87 and went on to establish the Franklin Street Methodist Church in Cape May. He became famous for writing hymns and establishing a ministry in Philadelphia and Delaware that had 8,000 members when he died in 1933.

Illustration:{Note: Original Article Featured these grave photo's not posted here}
1. The headstone reads `Isaac W. Pepper, Co. B, USCI.' The state Department of Corrections is sending prisoners to clean up Mount Zion Church cemetery on Shunpike in Lower Township. The cemetery is the resting place of black Civil War veterans and other prominent area residents. The graves date to the 1700s. Color
2. Department of Corrections Commissioner Jack Terhune presents a commendation at Tuesday's ceremony at Mount Zion Church black cemetery. The department is sending inmates to clean up the site.
3. DOROTHY JARMON
4. Joyce Gooch-Dali, left, and Emily Dempsey walk through the Mount Zion black cemetery Tuesday looking at the headstones as the inmates continue to clean the grounds. Staff photo(s) by Dan Drake


Copyright, 2000, South Jersey Publishing Company t/a The Press of Atlantic City
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Mount Zion Cemetery
Added by: Celina (Jack) Pearson
 
Mount Zion Cemetery
Added by: Celina (Jack) Pearson
 
Mount Zion Cemetery
Added by: Celina (Jack) Pearson
 
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