In1832, John Tatum donated the land to the black community as a burial place under the following conditions: The land must be enclosed with a good sufficient fence at their own expense; it must not be sold or used for any other purpose; it must not be unoccupied for a period of longer than seven years; and meetings are to be held at seasonal hours, not later than 10 o’ clock in the evening.
Among those laid to rest was African Methodist Episcopal bishop, Rev. William Fisher Dickerson. At 35 years old, Dickerson, a Lincoln University graduate, was the city’s youngest AME bishop. He traveled around the globe with his ministry and assisted in the opening of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina.
For 80 years after its dedication, black families buried their loved ones, until around WWI. The cemetery was abandoned and the grounds were left unkempt. But despite its lack of physical care, military veterans would gather each Memorial Day to honor the 11 black war veterans buried at the site. That ended in 1962 when the government took over the land and the bodies were transferred to their new home on Broad Street.