Zion Hill Cemetery

Opened at a time when Blacks and Whites legally could not be buried next to one another, Zion Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of countless African American wives and mothers, husbands and sons, chambermaids and schoolteachers, and valiant soldiers.

In 1863, the man who would become one of the first Black officers in U.S. history, Columbia native Stephen A. Swails, enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was one of 18 Columbians in the all-Black regiment, memorialized in the movie Glory. Although the Zion Hill Cemetery does not hold Swails's remains, it is the final resting place for many who served with him. Buried here is Robert Loney, a conductor on the Underground Railroad and a soldier with Company I of the 32nd United States Colored Troops (USCT) Regiment that was raised in Pennsylvania.

Zion Hill had fallen into ruins by the late twentieth century, a victim of neglect and nearby road construction. In 1997, funds were raised for permanent improvements. Community volunteers cleared brush and installed simple wooden crosses to mark the probable locations of graves. Today, the cemetery is lovingly cared for by volunteers.