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Grove Cemetery: Its Beginnings and Inhabitants
Part One of Two Parts

By Mark Barnes

Milestones Vol 32 No. 2

The entrance to Grove Cemetery, New Brighton.

150 years is a long time! That's 54,750 days! Not too many things can lay claim to the fact that they've survived 150 years. In this case, "survived" is an accurate, yet ironic choice of words, as in the year 2009, Grove Cemetery Inc., in New Brighton, PA, will celebrate its
Sesquicentennial Anniversary.

Founded in 1859, and having served the community for 150 years is quite an accomplishment that speaks for its self as far as longevity is concerned. Let's think back... what was happening in the year 1859, let's see... James Buchanan was the President of the United States; Abraham Lincoln still had two more years before he would see the Presidency, and the Civil War hadn't yet happened; Big Ben, the famous clock at the House of Parliament in London, was first activated in 1859; Ground was broken for the brand new Suez Canal; George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel, and Billy the Kid, were both born in 1859; John Brown, the noted abolitionist, was hanged at Charles Town, WV; Charles Blondin was the first to cross Niagara Fall on a tightrope, and the first successful American oil well was drilled in Titusville, PA.,
...Oh yeah ...and Grove Cemetery was founded 1859.

The Beginning Of Grove Cemetery

In the late 1850's, burial space in the New Brighton area had become scarce, as the cemeteries in that area were nearing capacity. This lack of burial space resulted in a preliminary meeting of concerned citizens, at which the establishment of a new cemetery was discussed. A committee was appointed with the intention of seeking out possible sites for the purchase and improvement of suitable grounds on which a cemetery could be erected. This meeting was held on July 12, 1858, with the Reverend Joseph Taylor, Rector of the Christ Episcopal Church, as Chairman, and R.E. Hoopes, as secretary.

At the second preliminary meeting, the committee presented the results of their findings, but as further examination and consideration was needed, they were instructed to continue their investigation.

After a series of preliminary meetings, the committee gathered on August 21, 1858, where they presented their findings on an attractive 32-acre tract of land that adjoined Blockhouse Run. This tract was owned by Silas Merrick and John Miner, two local entrepreneurs who had ventured into the "bucket and tub" business. The natural beauty of this parcel, combined with proper drainage, good accessibility and best of all, a reasonable price, was found to be satisfactory to the committee, so at that same meeting of August 21, 1858, the committee formed an organization that was known as the "New Brighton Cemetery Association". This new association then adopted a listing of Articles of Association, which placed them in position to move forward with the purchase of the land. Most of the purchase price was raised by subscription.

The committee held meetings regularly for about six months, after which, a charter was drawn up under the name of Grove Cemetery. This charter was then presented for approval to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and on March 19, 1859, Grove Cemetery was incorporated by an act of the Legislature. A deed was made, and by September 20, improvements had commenced on the land in order to make it suitable for a burial ground, including an access road that crossed over Blockhouse Run.

Grove Cemetery had 21 original charter members, they were; Joseph P. Taylor, Benjamin Rush Bradford, William Penn Townsend, Edward Hoopes, William Ely, J.W. Wilson, Henry T. Reeves, R.E. Hoopes, Benjamin Wilde, James Duncan, M. Gilliland, B.B. Chamberlain, John Cuthbertson, Thomas B. Wells, Isaac Winans, Edward Warner, George S. Barker, Charles Lukens, E.J. Henry, B.C. Critchlow and John Miner. From this board, seven managers were chosen with William Penn Townsend named as President, George S. Barker, Secretary and M. Gilliland, Treasurer.

This new burial ground was dedicated as Grove Cemetery on October 13, 1859, with between two hundred to three hundred people in attendance. Rev. B.C. Critchlow, of the Presbyterian Church, recited the opening prayer; Rev. Joseph P. Taylor was the main speaker and Rev. William Reeves, of the M.P. Church, gave the benediction. After the ceremonies, the managers offered lots in section A on sale, but no bids were taken. They then proceeded to Section F, where spirited bidding took place for these choice lots, The managers received about $120 in premiums, selling about 40 lots.

On October 20, 1859, the first interment was made at Grove Cemetery. James Magaw, the owner of a 160-acre farm in North Sewickley Twp., had passed over to meet his Lord and Savior. James was buried high upon the hill in Section E, where a breath-taking view of the middle and lower falls area of New Brighton could be taken in. Because of this view, Section E and F contained some of the choicest burial plots in the cemetery. Families such as the Merrick's, the Miner's, the Townsend's, the Rush's, the Sourbeck's and the Reeves' all purchased plots in these sections.

In 1860, more land was purchased on the west side of Blockhouse Run for the purpose of creating a new road. This property sat between the current Allegheny Street and the entrance of the cemetery. For many years, it was known as Cemetery Lane, but was later turned over to the Borough of New Brighton. This road is now called Grove Avenue.


Re-Interments Into Grove Cemetery

Upon the opening of Grove Cemetery in 1859, many families had the foresight to have their deceased re-interred from the crowded burial grounds of New Brighton, into the new and spacious Grove Cemetery. These old burial grounds were to eventually be converted to industrial and residential neighborhoods, which in turn, forced the removal of theinterred. When the Standard Horse Nail building in Fallston burned down in February 1886, the Merrick family purchased the old Quaker Meeting House in New Brighton as a new location for the company. When the land was purchased, the new owners were to remove the bodies that were interred there; these were re-interred into Grove Cemetery. There is an entry in the records at Grove Cemetery dated November 20, 1890, which includes 108 bodies removed from Friends burial ground.

The opening of Grove Cemetery also had an ill effect on the old Presbyterian cemetery, which was located at the intersection of 14th Street and Penn Avenue. The many early re-interments into Grove Cemetery, combined with a lack of burials had caused it to become abandoned and rundown, and many of the neighbors complained that the place had become nothing more than a nuisance. In 1891, a quitclaim deed was finally secured by the First Presbyterian Church, which gave them full ownership of the property. A mass re-interment took place not long after. An entry in the records of Grove Cemetery, dated May 22, 1894, states 403 remains in boxes placed on the south side of the Presbyterian purchased lots. These remains are burial numbers 3694 through 4096.

There are many, many entries in the records of Grove Cemetery for re-interments from both the Friend's burial ground, and the old Presbyterian cemetery dated between 1859 and the 1890's. A common stone has been placed in Section A, which reads: "This memorial is raised to honor the memory of early Christians who slept in the old Presbyterian graveyard on Penn Ave. Those who rest here testify to the early Presbyterian and Quaker strength of this community".


Civil War Monument At Grove Cemetery

A meeting was held on October 24, 1861, which presented the first reference to the Civil War. A motion was made to set apart "Lot 24, Section A", and the grounds adjoining thereto, to be used for burials, free of charge, for the volunteers from Beaver County, who may die or be killed in the service of the present war.

Also in 1861, Edward Dempster Merrick, through the proceeds of the Philharmonic Society, presented $50 for the purchase and installation of a soldier's monument. After the passing of a several years, the monument was finally erected in 1883.

On Decoration Day, May 30, 1883, the whole town of New Brighton closed its doors to business, and the merchants and citizens of the vicinity focused their attention to the veterans of their community with the unveiling and dedication of the Soldiers Monument at Grove Cemetery. The high level of local post-war patriotism during this era made possible the collection of funds for the erection and dedication of this monument on that so befitting holiday.

The soldiers, whose names are engraved on the monument, are not buried in Grove Cemetery, even though they are local soldiers. These men didn't come home. Some sleep where they fell on the battlefield. Others rest in National cemeteries, southern prison graveyards or may be buried as unknown southern trench burials. These local soldiers, also, did not necessarily fight or die in the battles that are engraved on the four sides of the monument, being: Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Appomattox. To etch the names of significant battles into the sides of Civil War memorials was the trend of the era, even though the local soldiers may have not participated.

The granite portion of the Civil War monument at Grove Cemetery was manufactured by R.F. Carter of South Ryegate, Vermont, and is made of Ryegate granite. The column is 21 feet tall, and weighs over 5 tons. A representative from R.F. Carter came to Grove Cemetery to assist in the erection of the granite column. Grove Cemetery furnished the stone for the base of the monument, which is 7 feet square, and at one time was surrounded by a nice concrete walkway. The cemetery also made the
excavation and built the foundation for the monument. While transporting a portion of the column to the cemetery, Dixon and Molter, the haulers, broke through the bridge on the cemetery road, but no serious damage was done.

The soldier statue was 7 feet high and was manufactured by J.W. Fiske, of 21823 Barclay St., New York. It was made of zinc, as were many memorial statues of the day. Zinc soldier statues were cast in many pieces, and then attached to a metal sub-frame underneath, resulting in a
finished statue when all the pieces were joined together. Different finishes were available for zinc statues, a couple of them being a faux bronze or a faux granite finish.

Zinc has a tendency to "creep upon itself" and as a result, the
soldier statue had become so unstable that he was deemed unsafe.
Therefore, sometime between the 1970's and 80's, he was taken down. The Civil War monument still has no soldier statue on top to this day.

Underground Railroad At Grove Cemetery

Grove Cemetery is the final resting place of numerous abolitionists and conductors from the Underground Railroad. They hid, housed and fed the long-suffering slaves of the South, and contributed to their safe passage to Canada, where freedom would eventually be gained. The New Brighton Quakers (and many others) were the abolitionists and
conductors of the local Underground Railroad, and subjected themselves and their properties to possible injury, loss and/or fines due to their strong moral belief. The "Fugitive Slave Law", which was passed in 1850, provided a penalty of $1000 to anyone aiding in a slaves escape, and required Federal agents to find escaped slaves in the North, and return them to their owners in the South.

Below is a very small list of the many families and individuals, who contributed to this moral cause, and chose Grove Cemetery as the location where dust returns to dust:

* The Townsend family. Milo Townsend had played a big part in the logistics and planning of many anti-slavery rallies, was a leading abolitionist and had been in correspondence with Frederick Douglass. He wrote letters to President Lincoln urging the passing of an emancipation of the slaves, which did eventually happen. Milo Townsend was one of New Brighton's leading abolitionists, and is buried in Grove Cemetery. Robert, Benjamin and William Penn Townsend, along with many other Townsend's, were
also deeply involved within the Underground Railroad. All of these Townsend's are buried in Grove Cemetery.

* The Clarke family. Sarah Jane Clarke lived in New Brighton, with her parents Thaddeus and Deborah Baker Clarke. Thaddeus was the great-nephew of Jonathon Edwards, President of Princeton University. Sarah Jane was a correspondent for the New York Times, and was the first American correspondent in Europe. She also wrote poems and articles for many different magazines, and was the author of a series of children's books. She wrote under the pen name of Grace Greenwood, and later married into the Lippincott Publishing family of Philadelphia. Sarah, now known as Grace, had began writing and lecturing on abolition, as she had long been interested in the anti-slavery movement, and when William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas lectured at New Brighton in August of 1847, they visited with the Clarke's. During the Civil War, she supported the North's cause by helping to raise money and lecturing on patriotic themes. She lived in Washington, D.C., continuing to write for the New York Times and other newspapers and contributing to the Ladies' Home Journal. Her reports from Washington so helped the Northern cause, that President Lincoln
called her "the little patriot". Sarah Jane Clarke is buried in Grove Cemetery, along with her parents and her brother, Charles Clarke, who was a soldier in the Civil War, and later a Major in the U.S. Army.

* Timothy Balderson White. Timothy White owned a planing mill, and a sash and door factory, on the canal in New Brighton. It was Timothy who completed the unfinished Merrick House (hotel) in 1851, and also built the Beaver County jail, in Beaver, in 1856. He began production of wooden bridges, but switched to iron bridges in 1868, and built the first iron bridge in Beaver County. Timothy B. White belonged to the Society of Friends, and was such an extreme abolitionist that he refused to vote until 1856, when Abraham Lincoln became a candidate for the Presidency. His home was used as a station on the Underground Railroad, and he helped many run-away slaves who were on their way to Canada. Timothy White and John Collins, at the insistence of the Anti-Slavery Committee, went to
Kentucky and rescued two black youths who were kidnapped while on their way to freedom. One of these youths was named Lem Dawson, who was familiarly known as "Lemmons". Timothy made his home in New Brighton, and is buried in Grove Cemetery, as is "Lem" Dawson.

* Dr.David Stanton. In 1850, David graduated from the Western Reserve Medical College in Cleveland, and then returned to New Brighton to begin practice. Dr. Stanton hated slavery, and later enlisted in the Civil War. The Governor appointed him as Surgeon of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry. In accordance with his outstanding performance, the President appointed him Surgeon of the United Volunteers on February 28, 1863. After several other official appointments, each increasing in responsibility, he was stationed at Detroit, and made the "Acting Medical Director of the Northern Department of the Ohio" in November 1865. He was brevetted by the President, to Lieutenant Colonel in 1865, and to Colonel in 1866.

As a part of the Underground Railroad, Dr. David Stanton took in fugitive slaves who were sick or injured, sometimes keeping them for days until they were healed and feeling better. In October 1871, David was elected Auditor General of Pennsylvania, but died less than a month later of a short illness in New Brighton. Dr. David Stanton is buried in Grove Cemetery.

The list of people who were involved in the Underground Railroad, and are buried at Grove Cemetery, could go on and on. They symbolize the moral value that the local citizens of that time placed on life, and would gallantly place their lives and families in jeopardy, that others could have a better way of living.
Grove Cemetery
To Be Continued