A half-acre cemetery lies next to the church. The original graveyard lot was purchased from Thomas Atkinson in 1860 for one dollar and an addition was purchased from Thomas Leary in 1909 for twenty dollars. Hundreds of graves are located there—including recent ones—and an effort is currently underway to map the plots in order to see where there might be available space. Of the gravesites, 243 are marked, but twice as many were buried there.
The earliest grave with a legible marker is from 1861 and contains the remains of Ann Hartless. The Hartless family is found in the historical record: Andrew Hartless is mentioned in a newspaper article as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Census records from 1830 list him as the head of household for nine free blacks. The age range of these individuals—and the fact that they were not mentioned in the subsequent census—suggests that they could have been escaped slaves who moved on.
Multiple generations of the Hopkins family are found in the cemetery. The Hopkins family’s contribution to the church has been priceless (see “Church Caretakers” below). Also buried in the cemetery is William E. Teat (1914-2001), a baseball player from the Negro Leagues whose gravestone is etched with a ball and bat. Another grave belongs to the bake sale lady, Margaret Johns.
Mount Gilead’s cemetery and historic congregation have been the basis for a master’s thesis. Meagan Ratini, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, along with a team of fellow students and professors analyzed the cemetery with ground penetrating radar in March 2013. Their survey showed that the grave markers are in their proper locations, but revealed there are many more graves lying unmarked.
The ground penetrating radar that Ms. Ratini and her colleagues utilized on the site detected grave shafts and coffins. The dead were buried with their feet facing the church, which was not a typical pattern among AME Churches. The researchers could not find any graves that dated to within 40 years of the church’s founding, but since deeds to the cemetery were only traced back to 1860, they were not surprised that the first marked graves were subsequent to that date.
The Reverend David Jackson of the Second Baptist Church in Doylestown was part of a group that used the map that Ms. Ratini created, plus another from 1985, to calculate that the cemetery contains approximately five hundred bodies. Without the use of the ground-penetrating radar, this mapping effort would have been futile.
According to former caretaker John Reinhardt, some of the graves contain the remains of run-away slaves, black Civil War veterans and their descendants. Census records of the marked graves show that the majority of the nineteenth century dead were listed as having been born in Pennsylvania or nearby states, indicating either non-transient residence or a legitimate fear of slave-catchers.
Grave markers range from traditional granite tombstones to legible marble stones, to illegible marble stones, to broken illegible stones, to local rocks from Buckingham Mountain. An inventory from the 1980s mentions wooden markers, but none have been found to still exist.
The cemetery was vandalized in the mid-1970s, causing many of the markers to be broken, defaced or stolen. However, in June 2012, then-caretaker John Reinhardt received a telephone call from a southern Bucks County man who claimed to have a tombstone belonging to Mount Gilead. He had found it at the bottom of a trash pile some thirty years previously in Middletown. Through a diligent search of the Internet, the man located the origin of the stone. Mr. Reinhardt found that it had marked the grave belonging to a possible former slave named A. Jackson Quocko, who was born in 1830 and died in 1874. The stone fragment matched the broken half at the gravesite and corresponded to the cemetery map. It was reset in 2013.