I tried to track down this cemetery and headed to the Presbyterian church in Newberry, no graveyard around, but I soon found out I was much closer than I thought. In the office I asked the helpful administrator about the cemetery and she advised it was now a park, some of the headstones were in the basement (which I got to see, but not go through them as they were stacked and many were broken, and they are awful heavy). When she showed me the "park," I learned it was just an open ground next to the park nicely landscaped with a monument. About a half dozen of the headstones are laid in the ground face down sort of like a path / walkway. I understand some, but probably not all of the burials were relolcated, some I know to Washington Street Cemetery around 1910, which I believe is operated by the city of Williamsport now. I will be following up on that in the future.
The administrator shared the
article below and it is an excellent tribute to the cemetery and has a lot of
information on the burials based on the markers that were readable back in the
day. I double checked my work, but if you want me to verify a particular
please let me know .
PIONEERS HAVE FOUND THEIR LAST RESTING PLACE THERE -- SOME EPITAPHS AND DETAILS
By C. LEE BERRY
(Of all the work which Mr. Berry has contributed to the Shoppers Guide during the pas year, we consider this present story his finest. It is a gem in research, in subject and in literary qualities. We recognize the silent but essential part which C. C. MacMinn exercises in the publication of this story, because were it not for his "scrap-book" the full details of this historical episode might never have been unearthed.)
Many of the readers of the Shoppers Guide recall the old graveyard adjoining the Presbyterian Church on Arch street. It was a place as rich in historical interest as the church itself. Its history dates back as far as that of the church, and it is certain that the spot was used as a burying ground ever since the first minister passed through this section, which was as early as 1746, when the Rev. David Brainard preached to an assembly of people on the west bank of Lycoming Creek, and in 1775 when the Rev. Phillip Fithian, another Presbyterian missionary, went on a preaching tour up the West Branch Valley.
Today, as well as in the pioneer days, circuit riders still preach the gospel in some of the remote sections of our country.
The date of the first grave is unknown as all the older graves were unmarked, or if they were marked, the tablets have yielded to decay. It is due to the thoughtfulness of C. C. MacMinn that I am able to give you the names of those who were buried here, as it was he who copied the names from the markers in 1890.
Oldest Marked Grave
The oldest grave which still retained its marker was that of John McKeen, one of the first members of the old church. He was buried at the foot of the big tree that many of you recall. A wooden tab was tacked against a tree, then a young sapling, to mark the spot of his last resting place. And as the tree grew, this marker was encased in the trunk. It was impossible to read the inscription on the board although here and there letters were plainly visible. For this reason, the exact date of his burial is not known, but it can be closely estimated as between 1790 and 1800.
Years before the birth of Newberry this "city of the dead" had established its grim citizenship. Back to the twilight of our local history its uncertain origin went to those days of stress when a daring band of men came to the western bank of the Lycoming and essayed to settle. It was the disputed side of creek, for that being supposed Indian reservation it was outside government protection. So they set up their own local government and Fair Play tribunals. Eight years before the laying out of Newberry (Newgarden) this plot had been set aside as a public burying ground.
Fair Play Men Buried Here
One of the Fair Play men, Ferguson, reaped the harvest of his hazard one day on the highland to the north of the present town, where the red men slew him. His body was brought to this spot, a veritable wildwood then, and before the formality of a cemetery was thought of. This was in 1777. Few who pass and repass this cemetery today realize that its story is as the story of Valley Forge, and we know not if Ferguson's grave was the first one. However, there is no doubt but that Indians saw to it that he was not long alone in his new home for they were quite willing to give six feet of their ancestral territory to any white man around. Death came to these Fair Play men, both by disease and the Indian's arrow, and after the treaty at "Fort Stanwix," when the red man retired to the pines of Pine Creek, taking one more pace toward the setting sun, and John Sutton secured his government grant after much friction with the Fair Play court, this piece of ground, which was part of the grant, had already taken status as a God's acre. So that in 1784 when Sutton sold out town lots and Newberry was incorporated, there was a read-made graveyard which it was a mere formality to set aside for that purpose.
At First Undenominational
Such was the historic origin. Many years later a strip of land bounding the west and south was deeded from the Cummings estate but as a gift to the church. Herein lies the complication, to call it the Lycoming Presbyterian cemetery, though it was undenominational in origin and purpose.
In the year 1792 when the meeting house sidled up to the graveyard to keep company with it, the horrors of the French Revolution were already prefigured, sending thrills through the new states, and the early divine in this pulpit must have pointed out to his stern-faced congregation how much more desirable was their sanctuary than a cathedral under the shadow of the guillotine. Down the path of years they travel, hand in hand, little log church and Fair Play graveyard. Henceforth the history of the congregation becomes the history of the cemetery largely, for the registry of names show that three-fourths of the occupants of the latter were members of the former.
Stuart, McKeen, Caldwell, Cummings, Armstrong, Bennett, Torbet, Hayes, Carothers, Mahaffey, Thompson, Allen, Reighard, etc., we find both on book and tablet.
The years rolled by. Generations passed into its bosom. Then one day the graveyard lost pace. It felt the sad concourse move past. A few more years and the last chapter had been reached -- it was not longer the trysting place of love and sorrow. Today the contrast between its abandoned, unkempt, desecrated condition and the handsome church by its side is painful. As we look at it we wonder how it appeared in its prime, when the church was the mecca of the denomination from a countryside extending as far as Pine Creek. We try to imagine the scent of honeysuckle and rose breathing over this spot through the long quiet summers of the past, but winter of its neglect has frozen them out, or they were never there. Even the historic stone wall that ran along the Arch street side is gone. Neatly kept, the place must have once been, but rugged and unadorned like its pioneer character.
Markers Were Slate
Many of these pioneer graves were marked with early slate stone markers. A few were shapely and well cut; others were crude as nature chiseled them. Some of the latter were nameless, and some were fallen forward and their story hidden. Even those which were inscribed were apt to look blank in certain lights, but if thrown into shadow, inscriptions came forth like secret writings and the records of a vanished century appear.
How much unwritten history of a community lies in the simple annals of its old graveyards, especially if one can read between the lines. The largest and handsomest of these slate stones was "In memory of James Stewart and Mary his beloved wife."
One hundred twenty-four years ago last February, Mary Stewart was buried here, having died at the age of twenty-seven. Ranged side by side were four graves with little nameless markers at head and foot. The Stewarts were pioneers of Long Reach, as also were the McKeens, whose plot is nearby.
A Few Burials
One hundred twenty-six years ago William McKeen's body was born down the Reach road while the crimson and gold leaves of an October day fluttered down around it. In the same month and year John Stephens, a young man of thirty-six, was laid here to rest. In the same year, Henry Daugherty, representative pioneer and son of Erin, was laid to rest. The smallest slate stone marker in the cemetery, twenty inches by six, and "Sacred to the memory of Danforth Bowen," has weathered the gales of one hundred four winters leaning just a little like a miniature tower while around it the heavy marbles of a later day have succumbed to the blasts. Bowen died just shortly after he had gotten the title deed from John Sutton to a tract of land north of Newberry. His widow's body also lies beside him.
One hundred twenty-one summers have lapsed since Rachel McKeen was buried here beside her father. Her life spanned the interim between the Revolutionary and the War of 1812. Born in the close wake of the one, she passed away on the eve of the other, in the year 1810. Ere the guns of 1812 had ceased John Hayes, James Thompson, John Carothers, James Stewart and Jacob Reighard came no more to the little church militant, but were with company in the graveyard. The stern tenants of the faith enabled the friends of these buried ones to pass their graves to and from service with calm and stoical countenance. This spirit from service of religious stoicism is illustrated in an epitaph found here:
Go home, my friends
Dry up your tears;
I must lie here
Till Christ appears.
It was on the gravestone of Isaac Smith. He was one of ten who, in lieu of sanctuary or domicile, gathered under the kindly roof of a pine tree along the beautiful Pine Creek in the year 1780 an organized the first Presbyterian congregation in the West Branch Valley.
The year 1817 came on apace -- memorable, indeed, for in that year the little log church went up in flames. Over its ashes a stone one was reared soon afterward, for the material was close at hand and plentiful. John Allen and Thomas Mahaffey, aged men and elders, did not long survive the old church, but following year became, like it, a memory, and went into the graveyard to return no more. A marker which told of the last resting place of one of the first couples to settle west of the creek, and who were faithful members of the church, read:
The age of the couple could not be read, but enough of it could be seen to show that both were in their seventies when they died. Another grave which was of interest to the older readers of this paper was that of "Isabella, the wife of John McBride; assassinated July 22, 1873." Aged 70 years.
Twins Die Same Day
Another little marker records the deaths of Mary and May Dalner, who were born and who died on the same day, at the age of two months. Under this statement was the line:
"They came together and they went together."
Another remarkable thing about this cemetery is the very large number of old people who were buried there; in fact nearly all seem to be old people. Seventy-five per cent of the graves still marked are those of people over 40 years of age, and fully half of them are those of people over 60 years. The average age of 80 persons whose graves were marked by tombstones is 67 years. By the records of the tablets still standing the oldest person buried in the graveyard is Mrs. Elizabeth Whiteman, who died in 1851 at the age of 93 years. Following her is John Carothers, who died in 1845 at the age of 90 years, and his wife Phebe, who died in 1845 at the age of 89. There are 14 other persons buried in the cemetery who are over 80 years old, and 18 who are over 70. Those between 60 and 70 number 23, and those who died in their fifties number 13. There is an extremely low number of children buried in the cemetery, and it would be difficult to find over 20 graves. The grave in the best condition was that of Jacob Reighard, who died in 1813 at the age of 50 years. Two other old graves were those of Thomas Mahaffey, who died in 1813 at the age of 79, and his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1819 at the age of 88. Then there were two stones that were erected in 1805, one in 1807 an one in 1810. But the graves were fast going into decay. Here we leave it. Another epoch closes. John (Daddy) Shaffer, the sexton, has dug his last grave. The day of the pioneer is indeed no more. The following is a partial list of those whose bodies lie reposed beneath the briar-covered ground, that was once white with marble. Doubtless some of these graves hold the dust of Revolutionary soldiers. Many of these bodies have been removed to other burial grounds.
John Hayes, born Oct. 31, 1766; died Mar. 6, 1844; Annie Hayes, died
May 17, 1853, age 83-11-4; James Hayes, died Feb.. 20, 1847, age 70-1-14;
John Hayes, died July 24, 1847, age 48-5-22; Sam Hayes, died March 27,
1863, age 68-10-3; James Hayes, died May 14, 1866, age 74-3-16; Mary Ann
Morrows, wife of John K. Torbet, died Jan. 15, 1850, age 59 years; James
Torbet, born Aug. 27, 1721; John K. Torbet, died Nov. 12, 1837, age 40-7-24;
Mary, wife of Danforth Bowen, and lately wife of Samuel Torbet, died June
29, 1847, age 80-1-10; Rachel, wife of William Clark, born April 10, 1805,
died Feb. 2, 1891; George Caldwell, died Feb. 6, 1829; Thomas Caldwell,
did Aug. 6, 1847, age 67; Martha Caldwell, died Feb. 4, 1851, age 82; John
Bastian, died July 27 1857, age 60-0-23; Elizabeth, his wife, died
Aug. 17, 1851, age 55-6-9; William Berry, born Jan. 9, 1808, died May 12,
1838; Sobinia, wife of Ephriam Flexer, died July 24, 1849, age 23-10-10;
Jacob Bomgardner, died Aug. 24, 1827; John Fessler, died Feb. 21, 1859m
age71-2-12; Rachel, wife of John Austin, died Jan. 31, 1869, age 82-5-7;
Margaret Blair, died Oct. 10, 1854, age 67-0-10; Henry Reigert, born Aug.
29, 1767, died Dec. 26, 1850, age 83-4-3; Margaret Reigert, born Dec. 10,
1772, died June 5, 1853, age 81-6-5; Ann Margaret, wife of Jacob Reighard,
died Feb. 18, 1852, age 79-3-3; Charles Herman, died Feb. 3, 1842, age
21-4-22; Adam Hart, died Nov. 11, 1856, age 66; Maria, his wife, died Feb.
8, 1852, age 67; Michael Stolzm died Sep. 19, 1849, age 66; Sarah, wife
of Westley Moore, died Jan. 19, 1849, age 33-6-19; Adam Ault, died Dec.
3, 1871, age 72; Jane, his wife, died Jul. 22, 1871, age 86; Jacob Whitman,
born 1769, died 1851; George Kress, born 1799, died 1873; Mary Reiser,
wife of Jacob Lutcher, born Jan. 31, 1771, died Oct. 15, 1861; John Covert,
born Feb. 28, 1807, died April 20, 1880; Mary, his wfife, died Dec. 19,
1889; John Corkan, died Sept. 18, 1850; Margaret McBride, born Sept. 11,
1774, died Nov. 27, 1854, erected by son John McBride; Henry Hews , died
Oct. 6, 1815; John Allen, died Feb. 1, 1818, age 67; Thomas Barby, died
Jan. 16, 1855, age 69; Dr. Charles P. Fisher, died Aug. 2, 1855, age 80;
Paul Brewer, died March 1, 1856, age 33; Anna Eliza, his wife, died April
9, 1853, age 21; Oliver Cummings, died May 26, 1854, age 21; Margaret Cummings,
"Mother," died Feb. 26, 1859, age 64; Henry Lamp, died April 29, 1860;
Susan Lamp, died March 24, 1865; Eleanor Border, born Feb. 8, 1812, died
May 8, 1854; John Sloan, died Aug. 6, 1824, age 60; Rosanna McKeen, died
May 13, 1837, age 28; Rachel McMeen, died May 22, 1836, age 47; John McKeen,
died June 12, 1830, age 54; Eliza, his wife, died Nov. 5, 1827, age 45;
John Carrothers, died Feb. 3, 1813, age 21; Stephen Tennis, died Aug. 1833,
age 27; Rev. John Sharon, died April 18, 1843, age 68; Harriet Reed,
wife of Thomas Carter, died June 30, 1841, age 20; Anna Lusk, wife of J.
T. Greenway, died Aug. 22, 1847, age 55; William Lusk, died May 6, 1853,
age 55; John Bennett, died May 23, 1841, age 77; Mercy, his wife, died
Aug. 2, 1862, age 76; John Bennet, died Aug. 11, 1853, age 55; Sarah, his
wife, died Aug. 4, 1865, age 63; Thomas Bennet, born Oct. 8, 1825, died
May 2, 1864; Margery Bennett, born Aug. 12, 1822, died April 6, 1873; Nancy,
wife of William Mahaffey, died Aug. 1m 1828, age 41; William G. Dunlap,
died Dec. 8, 1843, age 52; Samuel Dunlap, died July 14, 1859, age 27; Samuel
Longan, died May 30,1859, age 62; Maria, wife of David Bryan, died July
27,1833, age 24; Thomas Maffet, died Feb. 20, 1833, age 22; Robert Maffett,
died Aug. 1, 1836, age 73; John Lusk, died March 6, 1859, age 70; Stephen
Smith, died Dec . 5, 1854, age 55; John McBride, assassinated July 22,
1873, by Nelson E. Wade.
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