Last summer Matt and I spent a week back east and explored one of the most amazing cemeteries I’ve seen so far. Mount Moriah Cemetery is a vast abandoned cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My favorite part of this cemetery is the area called Mausoleum Hill.
On this hill that you can see in the distance in the picture above are a handful of large mausoleums. The entire area was completely overgrown which only added to the creepy factor of this cemetery. We parked our car at the bottom of the hill and I climbed through the tall grass up some stone steps to get a closer view of the mausoleums. When I got to the top of the hill I saw a very large groundhog which scared the crap out of me for a second until I realized what it was. He quickly ran off into the undergrowth and I tried not to spend too much time wondering what other critters were hidden by the grass.
When I got to the top of the hill and looked around I saw one of the most unusual mausoleums I’ve ever seen. However, I was looking at the back of the mausoleum so I ran back down the steps so I could get around to the front and get a better view.
It’s pretty amazing, right? I told Matt that it reminded me of the Temple of Doom from Indiana Jones and that’s how I’ve referred to it ever since. I can only imagine how it must have looked when it was new and the cemetery was still being looked after.
So Who’s Inside?
Having absolutely no idea who was buried here, I assumed that it must be more than one person simply due to its size. And I figured it was probably a man, and his wife and children. Maybe even extended family. I was wrong on all accounts, and this is where the story gets interesting.
With just a little bit of Googling, I found that Mrs. Abigail Ann Hoeflich was buried in this mausoleum. I also found that she is all alone. I thought this seemed odd. Why would a married woman be buried in such a large, ornate mausoleum all alone? Why was her family not buried with her? Did she not have any family? (You can see how I end up chasing these questions down one rabbit hole after another)
I must find out more! And boy, did I ever. And in my mind anyway, the story of this mausoleum got even more unusual.
Abigal Ann Hoeflich
Abigail Ann Hoeflich was born Abigail Ann Hampton on the 24th of March 1824 in Salem, New Jersey. At the age of 24 in 1848, she married Jacob Nathan Hoeflich in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jacob Hoeflich was a confectioner and then later sold furniture. He even held a patent for a life preserver. Needless to say, the Hoeflich’s were quite well off.
Image used with permission. © Historical Society of Pennsylvania
By 1853 the Hoeflich’s were living in Richmond, Virginia. The reason I bring this up is that a Jacob N. Hoeflich was tried for the murder of an African American girl that “belonged” to him in November 1864. Numerous witnesses were put on the stand and testified that both Jacob and Abigail were “in the habit of inflicting cruel beatings upon the child.” Jacob Hoeflich’s lawyer rebutted the accusations by claiming “the cruel treatment was inflicted by his client’s wife, who had already escaped to the Yankee’s and was beyond the jurisdiction of our courts.”((The Daily Dispatch, Richmond, VA 30 Nov 1864)) While I couldn’t find an account of the outcome of the trial, Jacob Hoeflich was back with Abigail in Philadelphia by the next census in 1870.
Mr. Hoeflich died in 1895 and left very specific instructions in his will as to what his mausoleum should look like. He stated: “including vault to be built in Mt. Moriah to cost about two thousand dollars facade similar to Ashworth in West Laurel Hill with wall in center as plan, polished name over door, and brass ventilated doors.” To give you an idea of how much money that was in today’s day it comes to about $58,000. I didn’t see Jacob Hoeflich’s mausoleum while visiting Mt. Moriah, but you can see it here. His instructions also included that Abigail, their children, and grandchildren be buried with him.
Abigail’s Last Wishes
However, shortly before her death on June 15th, 1912, Abigail made her will and left instructions for a mausoleum of her own.
Her will was one of the most detailed, and harshest I have come across in my years of genealogical research. According to her estate, she left $5,047 ($127,310.04 today). Instead of splitting up her estate amongst her children, they each got $1 because of the “unkind manner” in which they treated her.
Abigail was entombed on June 19th, 1912. According to her burial bill, she was dressed in a gray silk dress and buried in a solid oak casket. Just slightly different than the instructions she left. Why she chose to be separated from her husband we’ll never know. But despite their differences, it appears that two of her sons are buried with her. Her daughter chose to be buried in Jacob Hoeflich’s mausoleum.