The Midland Cemetery, which dates back to the Civil War period, is located in Swatara Townhip, just outside Steelton, PA. The larger part of Midland had been buried under weeds and brush for 35 years before Barbara and her 11 year old son ventured into the cemetery in 1993. Barbara recollected: “When I was a little girl, my parents would come here after church on Sunday. Because I had allergies, they’d roll up the windows and leave me in this hot car while they disappeared into the brush–I’d sit and wait. Well, I was 35 when I came back here to see where they had gone on these Sunday afternoons to visit with Grandpa–and here I am…I thought was just that little corner of a cemetery…I started researching and pulling up the old deeds from 1932. And it just expanded. Thank God it expanded without my knowledge, because I don’t know if I would have been able to stand out here right now and talk to you. Because I didn’t know it was this big. And I didn’t know what kind of work I was getting into, and what kind of history I was going to open up.” Many of the neighbors did not even know that the cemetery was there. At this ti me, Barbara decided to clean up this “corner cemetery” a little every day and figured that it would be in good shape by Spring.
Barbara had no idea of the immensity of the project that she had begun. Some of the headstones were impregnated within roots of the trees, trees so large that one could not fit his arms around them. Also, to Barbara’s surprise, the cemetery was actually three and one-half acres large. It holds the remains of many African-American ancestors from this area, including Barbara’s grandfather. Over 70 American war veterans’ names have been recorded, dating back to the early 19th century. This cemetery holds the history of the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Behind or under every tree is more history. Midland also holds the remains of Steelton’s first black Ministers, Doctors, Steelworkers, Teachers, and Parents. It is a place of heritage–a sacred place of heritage–and one that offers valuable information both to the immediate community and beyond.
“Everywhere you see a headstone, you know a whole life story is buried.”
The Midland Story, Its History
The history of Midland Cemetery is a simple one. The burial site was started circa 1795 for the purpose of burying those who were working on or near the old farm which later became known as the Kelker Farm in the 1800. Midland did not actually get its legal name until around 1877. Midland Cemetery holds the remains of those who once were in servitude bondage either from another state or Pennsylvania and became free. Reading of the various headstones and in research we have noted veterans interred in these hallowed grounds are the United States Colored Troops, which were the Black men who volunteered to serve during the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers, who fought in and open up the West (Campaign). Headstones show soldiers of World War I and II, followed by the Korean War.
Aside from the various military men and possibly a few women (still researching), there are also the many leaders of the community. Ministers of churches which are still functioning in the Steelton, Harrisburg and Swatara Township area such as Monumental AME, Mt Zion Baptist, Goodwin Memorial, Beulah Baptist and the First Baptist Church to name a few. They are buried alongside of their deacons and deaconess and many of their church members.
Friends of Midland
P.O. Box 7442
Steelton, PA 17113-0442
206 Kelker Street
Swatara/Steelton, PA 17113
Phone: (717) 939-0242
Cell: (717) 579-0003