Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lost Cemetery on the Braddock Road

   I want to welcome everyone back to the blog with a post about a mostly forgotten cemetery and an old historic road, including a famous stretch of lost road, to boot.

  There is a tendency here at Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History, to leave the more beaten path and some of the mundane concerns of modern industry and packed up businesses for the elevation of older material. I hope this is not detrimental for most visitors. The blog does also cover recent history when required, and it is very interesting as well. This older habit is more intended to bring out the 'origins of things' and to grant a unique niche some added flavor for a larger recipe.

  Although, St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery was begun near 1913, this article is endeavoring to highlight one much, much older. The Alte Menist Cemetery east of  Owensdale toward the southeast of Everson or to be more formal, South Everson as a more exact description. Technically, it is in Bullskin Township, and very  near the border with Upper Tyrone. Right on the township line. So, by all means, please keep reading and to discover for yourself what I've learned while not sleeping much thinking about all the possibilities. This place is historically significant in triplicate, as you will see for yourself!

   It does appear the cemetery is mostly in Upper Tyrone by a few maps I've looked at, though the township line has seen adjustments. As reported in the "Entering Everson" article, it is looked after by the Scottdale Mennonite organization. Abraham Stauffer, the patriarchal reverend, owned much local land and lived in Kingview, but he bought a large parcel of the region that became Everson very early on. Stauffer kept a grist mill and possibly a distillery, and is prominently buried here. It has been claimed, or more to the point, rumored, there was an Indian burial ground very near here. This wouldn't be a real surprise. Many of these old traditions have a ring of truth to them. More on that further in a minute.

   On a personal note, I am continually learning all the time in continuing investigative research for these posts.

   This is a good place to add a word about Daniel Boone, who occasionally made return visits to his family on trips from the south. He was related to the Sterretts of Fayette County, especially in Owensdale, south of Scottdale. Of course Boone also traversed the Braddock Road with the British army, and was said to of passed through here when he lived in the Carolina's. He first visited some members of his extended family in Pennsylvania in October of 1781. Once again in the winter of 1787, and possibly in later years, although this may not be confirmed. This according to "Daniel Boone: The Life And Legend Of An American Pioneer", by John Mack Faragher. 

   I would like to relate there is a theory and a sort of tradition the colonial militia crossed at Broadford and met up with the Virginia Regulars at either Mt. Pleasant or Sewickley. It appears there is a mystery here. This idea might take on significance on this site as I add further material in blog posts yet to come.

   The story that in the summer of 1755 George Washington, on returning from his sickness in trying to catch up to the main military body under Braddock's command, had a small contingent that supposedly did cross as Broadford instead of Stewart's Crossing. And while this is an intriguing suggestion, it is unsubstantiated to my knowledge. Again, this concerns the report of a division of Braddock's army near New Haven. On the old surveys and maps, the area is listed as Stewart's Crossing only, leaving us much in the dark to the other claims. The mix up could of come from a road on one map that traversed from the traditional crossing location toward Broadford. There is also the fact that later, before the battle at Braddock's Fields, they did cross the Monongahela twiceand, of course, the Yough river was also twice forded. It would be appreciated if a scholar or member of an historical organization will be able to shine more light on this, or point out a topical reference.

   The Mennonite Cemetery and Braddock's Crossing

    Earlier this spring, I took a trip to South Everson to the old Alte Menist Cemetery by way of Mt. East, which I thought was an important subject matter documented here with photos included.

     Every other year on All Saints Day, it was said they have a picnicking celebration, though it is uncertain that is still the situation. It appears this is only done every so many years as of late, according to an informative South Everson resident, Scott Noss. The Scottdale Mennonites have taken over the upkeep. This is the statement according to this informative Daily Courier article which I found long after starting this one.

    So, see for yourself, the cemetery may not be quite so lost, but, in many ways, it is forgotten. There is some interest in the name of the 'Pennsville' Cemetery', the first I actually noticed the description, which could be confusing as to the relation of the Baptist Cemetery and old parsonage in Pennsville proper, across Rt. 119 to the east.

   Braddock's Road crossed smack through this place, this according to many reseachers, including Professor Laycock in the early 1900's. This was further said to be on a branch of the Catawba Path. There is no sign of the old Mennonite meeting house any longer and the story of a possible Indian burial ground on the north side, if there is any substance to that, has long passed away, possibly from any living remembrance. An old map clearly demonstrates the Mennonite Church was on the northwest of the cemetery in question, which does appear plausibe. I haven't located this map for some time and it is not included here.

   As to the legendary Indian fort or burial grounds I've mentioned briefly on other posts, little in the way of evidence is apparently known or the exact place where the small Indian community was, only a few stray clues so far. For now, I won't be quoting information that I am not sure of, or is copyrighted. One idea in particular, is the intriguing old stones without any perceptible inscriptions on the northwest side of the cemetery intersection. There may well be another simple explanation for the stones. Could it be just wishful thinking that these are old Indian grave markers of some kind? A conjecture worth something, although maybe nothing beyond speculation.You can find some general information about the Indians in Fayette and Westmoreland counties here on the subject of 'Sacred Ground'. A plan is in the works to have a good post on Native American places near the borders of Westmoreland and Fayette and at this time in the form of an embyonic kernel of an outline to hopefully grow to fair sized proportions. I want to bring together what basic information there is available and hope that will be helpful. The cemetery is a fairly peaceful place, yet it holds an air of mystery. I decided to highlight it for the article as to its surprising interest, and that will continue to unfold.

   Here are some views of the old cemetery and further down you will find photos of the surrounding directions:

Braddock's route, Mt. East street, or road, going south

Mt. East Rd. facing toward Owensdale

Tombstones in the Alte Menist or Sherrick Cemetery

  General Braddock, according to Captain Orme's journal and other sources, passed right through here with the large army of Virginia Regulars, volunteers, Indians, women and children, baggage handlers, cooks and guides.

Bradish-Sherrick intersection looking west, Here, tradition
says the Meeting House was located

Abraham Stauffer's newer grave marker

A view toward the south

   Pennsville, (and not Everson), was said to be owned by prosperous farmer, John Shallenberger, who bought 426 acres in 1791 near the time when Bullskin was a part of Tyrone Township. This was referred to before, so please excuse the repetition. I would personally have some doubt as to whether he actually possessed all of the hamlet in question. That is not so important here, but his farm took in much of the core of Pennsville, also it was claimed to originated near the cemetery here. (Information courtesy of Rachel Basinger of the Tribune Review).

south of Everson proper, overlooking Pennsville to the east

Pennsville Baptist Cemetery looking east not too far from where
another Indian site may of existed

     Location of the Mennonite Cemetery

    Further into South Everson, the main borough of which I recently did a post about, heading east toward Rt. 119 and across from the old Valley service station were the Valley Works. I am not that familiar with everything concerning this particular location, but from Mt. East Road going south past where the coke ovens were said to be, about a mile and a half is where we find the the quiet place referenced above. The Mennonite Cemetery, 'Alte Menist', is very old, just how old, it is difficult to be completely sure of. It is known to date back to the 1700's. This may well be the area of an old Indian fort mentioned by Veech, east of Pennsville. Then again, maybe it is not. I recall the statement of a mile in another report, again unconfirmed, and possibly a garbled account. Braddock's Road is also described as starting its descent through the Everson Valley about half a mile from the Valley Works. This is clearly accepted to be a corner near old Pennsville, a very old village indeed, perhaps only surpassed by Mount Pleasant. So, we'll just leave it at that for now.

Washington's Importance and his Famed Associates of the Braddock Road March

   To top things off, in a somewhat more steady historical vein,  this was rumored to be, and very likely was, a traditional route traveled by part of the old Catawba Indian Path. A branch was claimed to go toward Laurelville and a small branch may of traveled past Walnut Hill toward Kingview and the Dexter area crossing Jacobs Creek there. This could also coincide with claims made of the old Turkey Foot Road. This leads to some heady speculation. Washington, although of a robust constitution, suffered much from maladies like diphtheria, malaria, smallpox and pneumonia. We know Braddock's Army certainly bustled through here on their way to Braddock's Field with a young Major George Washington at 23 years of age following up the rear, so to speak, because of sickness amid a destiny of bullet holes in his clothing and death surrounding him, where he barely escaped,  except for God's good graces with horses shot out from under him. After the brazen defeat by the French and northern Indians to undertake the ceremony of the General's eulogy near Fort Necessity and to fight another day, entering the realm of our greatest heroes. As mentioned above, Daniel Boone and other men soon to gain fame, was a part of this journey as a wagoner. He ived through it as well to assume a place in the backwoods canon of historical tales and truths. The great army arrived here, and those left after the bloody and confused massacre retreated back the same way of the Narrow's Road area to Mt. East Road, which later cut off the through road by a railroad, roughly half the distance from Stewat's Crossing. The  road deviated toward the Valley View Road near Walnut Hill and then on toward Prittstown to the north.

    This is undertaking an exciting endeavor when we are considering George Washington received so many of his impressions of the countryside of old Bedford County through his travels at various times, conoeing the rivers, fording streams, riding the ridges of Chestnut and Laurel, and in congenial and inclement weather, journeying much of what became the Braddock Road at least four times. His first two war experiences in battle, we might add, came from Fayette County, regardless that the area was connected, indirectly to a part of his homeland, then considered by Virginia as the District of West Augusta, and maybe parts of Maryland. This was the pivotal early history of Pennsylvania, comparing favorably well, especially to most events happening in other states of the Union. This should give us some pause in our daily rounds and toils, a foundational source of great remaining  heritage, locally, statewide and nationally. A boost of well deserved civic and patriotic pride is due.

   Indeed, it must be remembered, he was a loyal Virginian in all matters. Washington was one of the main protagonists of our finely threaded, multi-layered culture and an intelligent strategist, commander, and our first President and the first in many things in so boldly paving the way, when stories of the same ilk are now more scarce. He developed many of his early ideas and received much of his education on the governing of the Army, the state of American affairs. most importantly, much of his own life and attitudes were formed in the region round about this territory in what was Cumberland and Bedford and soon to become Westmoreland and Fayette County, (not to leave the original counties completely out of the equation), and to a lesser extent, with Greene and Allegheny counties.

   From his surveying days, with a keen eye to the land here, certainly in what became Perryopolis. The man passed through the Indian paths and small and large villages, meeting some of the pioneers on the frontier. Scouting with Christopher Gist and George Croghan, gathering land grants, delivering orders, seeing the same views and vistas as we do every day, with less of the trappings of industry and civilization and so much more of the old wilderness. Here, where our mothers gave birth and grandfathers lived, worked, fought and died; sleeping and eating his breakfast and dinner, telling tales, listening to the stories of the Indians, staying at the frontiersman's cabins and eventually plotting courses and events around the fires long into the night. He was experienced at dealing with the traders, like Henry Steward and William Jenkins, Colonel Crawford, Zachariah Connell. His family. His brothers, Valentine and Augustine, and their interests and letters; the wagoners and their craft, meeting with Trent and Dunbar; slowly gaining the trust and confidence of the militia as envoy to the French to the north and as a colonel, major and on up the ranks.

  George Washington truly endured and survived everything in his path; the inglorious defeat of Fort Necessity and retreat at Braddock's Field, sickness and attempts on his life, minor, and major battles of the Revolution. Intrigues and conspiracies were no stranger to his life. He also did not succumb in relations with his Congress. He held his reputation high and with every aspect of the places we have grown so accustom to, steeped in such unique history, the future Commander-In-Chief was an originator so very familiar in many ways, and yet keeping an aloofness and professional quality that was all his own.

   When crossing the Allegheny, he met in councils with King Shingas, the Delaware Chief; Monacatootha ; his half-king friend Tanacharison and Queen Alliquippa There were meetings in the tents with the guides, Jeskakake and White Thunder. (as you read in the 'History of Bedford, Somerset and Futon Counties, Pennsylvania", by Waterman, Watkins and Company in 1884 on page 28, for instance). With dangerous defiles, weak horses, facing hostility and frequent hunger and mired in swamps, wading through the cold and snow, our first president, the victor of the Revolutionary War, explored our region up and down. His story can almost take your breath away.

    The region is clearly lacking in some major areas. In spite of this, our home region is particularly fascinating. Does anyone else agree?

  Abraham Stauffer, the Reverend of the Mennonite Church, (and surely, it is no coincidence, there is a church of that affiliation in Kingview), once owned land here, as did others, through Everson and most all of what became Kifertown and Kingview. He was the patriarch of a clan of distinguished gentlemen and gentle ladies. Apparently, he purchased much of his early tracts from Isaac Meason, who is listed as owning large parcels early on from the 1700's, as did his family members.The original survey for the cemetery property appears to be for Thomas Meason and the warrant  from 1785.

   I also want to add a link to a Tribune article of a local man with knowledge of Indian artifacts around the region, here. I recently was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with him which, when I can get to it, I do have plans to turn into two segments for the sake of the interest it holds. He made the statement to me of his strong belief that the Owensdale area had a number of Native American sites at one time. With his past discoveries, and local knowledge of traditions, this does hold some water. We can also read this in "The History Of Fayette County" and a few other books. I will address the quotes directly when I publish a post more concerned with the Native Americans of this region.

  We need to keep in mind that the Braddock Road did run from the Narrow's further south from Connellsville and came down near the Bullskin and Upper Tyrone township line to Mt. East. Whether this is a slice of the Braddock Road or, simply an antecedent or alternate road of disputable age, here is a 1939 Geo survey black and white photo taken from the Penn Pilot website. The area experienced much mine activity, and some farming, yet this photo appears to clearly show a road veering off from Mt. East north, crossing the modern roadway and railroad to the Valley View Road:

courtesy of Penn Pilot, GPS coordinates 40.081527, -79.57863
   The evidence from the Geo Survey photo of 1939 appears substantial, but is this really a likely place for an abandoned road trace? Well, it may not be a meaningful issue for this subject, but I've been looking into it. Let's check one older map here, which, as antique as it is, that depends on whether I am reading it properly. I trust that is so, and with the noticeable connection between Mt. East and Valley View Drive, this just might be some proverbial icing on the cake!

 A Local Mennonite, Ivan Moon

  Lastly, I don't think it at all out of range to add a small tribute to a great artist and a kind, sensitive and religious man, Ivan Moon, past President of the Laurel Art Club, who sadly passed on in 2011. He is interred here. Some of you will recognize the name.

  Back in the early 1990's, (when I somehow became Vice President), there was a real feeling of camaraderie with artists like Helen Alt, Dolores Malik and another past President, Don Randolph of Scottdale, among others. While I knew him, Ivan was a good adviser and friend, and I send a greeting to his family and any and all of the members out there that might read this. He was the best artist I knew personally, considering my somewhat limited abilities and all faucets of the hobby and trade; his use of oils on a large canvas, or delicate watercolors of a quality palette were really something wonderful to observe first hand. He was also a great person to all that knew him. This is where I learned the exactness of hanging a framed canvas to the point  that I still do it automatically. I fondly recall the years with exhibits in places as the Carnegie Library in Connellsville and the Fall Foliage festivals in Scottdale. Then, what eventually led to a lessening involvement, working 12 hour shifts, only being capable of attendance once every two weeks. It wore on me and the practice of painting slowed quite a lot from the late 90's onwards. Some day soon, I hope to rectify the situation. And when and if I do manage to find more time and lift a brush more frequently, it will be in his honor and in his remembrance.

  I am going to leave you for now to ponder this bunch of old assorted, if not mostly  forgotten stories of our exciting regional history. This should be very appropriate in a blog with a name like this one!



  1. I always enjoy reading your stories! You do a wonderful job!


    1. Thanks a whole lot Kim. I honestly couldn't think of higher praise that yours! I did post a link on the Bullskin Historical Society Facebook page, mainly because it dealt with an area closely connected with Pennsville. Secondly, I so value the interaction there and ideas expressed. I realize blogging every few days in more popular, but taking the time to get meaningful info online is, hopefully, what is most important in the long run.

      Again I welcome any input and do particularly appreciate your comments!

  2. Thanks so much for your article! I grew up at 114 Mt East Rd. My dad built our house in 1947. He still lives there. He used to take us hunting "up over the hill". We hunted rabbits, squirrel, pheasant and deer. He has a collection of indian arrow heads he's found over the years in the fields around the cemetery. We hunted deer with flintlocks and I always pictured myself as one of Washington's scouts. When we were'nt hunting we were exploring the woods and coke ovens that are a little north and west of the cemetary. We also rode sleds and innertubes during the winter. Thanks again for this article it brought back so many great memories.

  3. Thank you for this article. I'm the granddaughter of the late Byron G Shallenberger of Everson. I've been online literally all night researching family history and found this while looking for info as to where my 5th great grandfather is buried (John Shallenberger). I really enjoyed this article and all of the comments. I wasn't born in PA nor have I ever lived there but it is so interesting to find out more about the state's history

  4. Sorry to take this long, but I do hope you've found valuable info on your ancestry. It sure is an exciting experience locating such material, isn't it? I'm impressed that you so enjoyed the article considering you never lived in the state, and want to pass on a thank you for your nice comments. Good Luck!


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