“Nimely Desecration” of Liberia’s Pioneer Grave Yard: “PINE GROVE”—NEVER “PALM GROVE”

Photo: Liberia’s pioneer (historical) public burial ground (“Pine Grove”) in the Capital—popularly called “Center Street’s Graveyard

The second Wednesday in March of each year is celebrated as a National Holiday (a Presidential Proclamation based on the Country’s Constitution) to memorialize our dead relatives, friends, and colleagues. The name of this Holiday is “Decoration Day” set aside to show respect for these departed persons through clearing bushes/grasses around or covering their tombs, as well as paint/decorate their tombs.

By: John Freeman Zurbah

On this day, thousands of Liberians, and some foreign friends to some of these dead Liberians, gather at various grave sites across the Country. Some relatives lay new wreaths over the graves or tombs.

It is only on this day graves in Liberia are given facelifts.

The grave site that receives the highest number of these living relatives or friends to these departed Liberians is the Center Street’s cemetery in Liberia’s Capital City (Monrovia)

However, majority of Monrovia-based cemeteries have been turned into “permanent homes” by  drugged youths (Liberians and foreigners) called “Zogos”. Some of them sleep in tombs once being occupied by corpses or bones of persons once in these graves. Some of these grave sites dwellers are there with their children! The urban area most popular for the highest number of “zogos” (permanent residents) at cemetery is Center Street’s grave yards—containing the tomb of Liberia’s first President (Joseph Jenkins Roberts) and other prominent Liberians.


When the settlers/pioneers arrived here, in what is now known as “Monrovia”, over two centuries ago, there was no “palm” tree available in such area. Only “Pine” was present.

But, because the two words almost sound alike, many Liberians go for the “palm” (wrong word), instead of “pine” (right word)

The story of “wrong pronunciation” is also common in the community of Liberia’s Journalists—during their pronunciations of Decoration Day (during the National day for homage to the dead) on Radio, or in the spellings of published stories by newspaper-Journalist! Each of these categories of Journalists hears the “wrong word” from persons they consider or believe are “more informed” about the right word—due to the informed pronouncers’ relative deeper knowledge of the  memories about the creation of the Center Street’s grave yard.

A lie does not become truth. Wrong does not become Good. And evil does not become good. Just because it is accepted by the majority”—Booker T. Washington (American Civil Rights Activist) in whose memory the Booker Washington Institute, in Bong County, was named.

Even so-called learned Liberians, from the academia, ignorantly call it “Palm Grove”!

These professional Liberians—Journalists and Academics—had heard the word (“palm grove”) from some persons who were alive when the Monrovia’s cemetery was being laid out, and they think (“borrowers” of the wrong word) think—while some would argue—they are “right” in the pronunciation.

Please do research on or read History Books about Liberia to know the right word. When you check Liberia’s History Books, you will NEVER see “Palm Grove” Cemetry! You will see only “Pine Grove” Cemetry.

“Decoration Day” has taken momentum in many of Liberia’s rural areas (Villages)—as it in urban areas! Urban dwellers, whose parents or other beloved relatives had died in the rural areas, start get on the roads to the rural areas one or two days before “Decoration Day” In majority of rural settings, rituals—pouring of libation and incantations—precede or succeed cleaning of graves. 

 Like those in the urban areas, many of the grave sites in the rural areas are “homes” to drugged youths called  “zogos”

The Declaration Day of the current Year (2013) falls on the eighth day of March. Like I had been in previous years, I am in empathy with everybody who will be at any of Liberia’s grave yards to pay “homage” to his/her loved one who had departed the physical World days, weeks, months, or years ago.

 This article is just my little education to the general public on one aspect of our Country’s History.

We will meet again on another educational issue on Africa’s oldest Republic (Liberia) Please join me in prayer for me to be alive for my next teaching-related meeting, which will be your next learning-related meeting through this medium or another.

About the Author:

John Freeman Zurbah is Chairman/Senior Member of the Supreme Council of Liberia.

He can be reached via: +231-777728556/886380684; [email protected]