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1940's aerial picture of Old German Cemeter

The German Reformed and Lutheran Cemetery, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
"Old German Cemetery"

Taken in the 1940's

Copy purchased from the Balzer Meyer Historical Society
 

 

The "Old German Cemetery," as we've been calling it, has also been referred to in a couple of other sources as:

Old Union Cemetery/Graveyard

and

Greensburg Cemetery

Albert's History of Westmoreland County, written in 1882, refers to the German Cemetery as the Old German burying ground, the German Lutheran Cemetery, and the German graveyard, but at no time does Albert call it a Union Cemetery.

A bit of history about the infamous move of the cemetery:

By October 1 of 1890, a city ordinance prohibited burials within the city limits of Greensburg. The Old German cemetery became an overgrown and neglected eyesore. The city finally notified the two churches (Lutheran and Reformed) about 1937 or 1938 that they had to clean it up. The churches ended up by selling the cemetery to the City for a playground. In 1957, the Old German Cemetery/Old Union Cemetery was moved and the occupants were moved to various other cemeteries. See Bicentennial History of Greensburg Pennsylvania, 1999, by Bob Van Atta. It became a shopping center in 1957. It was noted in a newspaper article at the time that when the bulldozer was preparing the land for the shopping center, some bones were dug up.  The bulldozer operator was very upset.  There were two other cemeteries within the city limits. The Catholics moved their cemetery to a location east of Greensburg and the Presbyterians just stopped burying in their graveyard. It is now a park. [Greensburg genealogist/researcher Marie Forehan leonamf@wpa.net]

Today, the First Lutheran Church in Greensburg is on South Main Street. South on Main Street another block or so is the site where the Old German Cemetery used to be. Today it is a parking lot beside a small shopping center, with the City Hall on the north boundary.

Many families had the bodies of their loved ones transferred to the following Hempfield Township cemeteries:

Union Cemetery

St. Clair Cemetery

Hillview Cemetery

Harrolds Cemetery

and a few to Brush Creek Cemetery.

  • Union Cemetery is just outside the city limits of Greensburg, east and a little north, in Hempfield Township.  [A copy of a certified list attested to by James L. Horning, Secretary of Union Cemetery, and is dated 23 July, 1957, does not show that Nicholas Silvius is buried in the Union Cemetery.  The list is in chronological order (not alphabetical) and the dates [of interment] begin in 1891 and run as late as 1927.  List was posted on PAWESTMO-L.]

  • The Presbyterians that had been burying in the cemetery for the most part went to the new St. Clair Cemetery due east of Greensburg.

  • Hillview Cemetery is south and a little west of Greensburg.

  • Brush Creek Cemetery appears to be under 10 miles, west of Greensburg.

  • Harrolds Cemetery is seven miles southwest of Greensburg.

  • Feightner Cemetery--The Baker Book indicates that possibly Nicholas Silvius was buried in the Feightner Cemetery, Hempfield Township (also known as Scheibeler, Truxal, and now Central).  The Baltzer Meyer Historical Society published a book on that cemetery and there is no Nicholas Silvius in that cemetery.  This cemetery is south of South Greensburg on Highway 819.

Perpetuating the lists and whatever errors they contain:

In 1915, a Mary Ellison Wood submitted a list of tombstones (the article indicated "only old tombstones copied") to the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania which was published in their Vol. VI, No. 1, on p. 26, entitled "Old Union Graveyard, German Reformed and Lutheran, Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania."  Mary Ellison Wood only submitted the names--it does not indicate that she recorded them. It includes: Nicholas Silvius Died Dec. 13, 1802 Aged 79 yrs 10 mos. Wife Catherine is not listed. Their daughter and son-in-law, Marie E. and John Adam Baker, are listed. This list contains 15 of the names from the first list below, but 59 other names not included in the 1931 list below.

In 1931, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly published in their September issue, p. 59, "Tombstone Inscriptions, Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania" by Mrs. Frederick J. Goensch (Mary A.), of Washington, D.C. It indicated that Mrs. Goensch copied the inscriptions and contains 19 names. Her list is repeated in the same September issue on p. 60, but the article was then called "Old German Cemetery, Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania" by Mrs. Frederick J. Goensch (Mary A.), of Washington, D.C. and Mr. W. J. Laughner, Greensburg, Pa. and contains 16 names. It includes:  "Here Lieth the Body of Nicholas Silvius Who Departed This Life Dec. 13th 1802 Aged 79 yrs 10 mos." Wife Catherine is not listed--their daughter and son-in-law, Marie E. and John Adam Baker, are also not listed. This list contains a lot fewer names than the 1915 list.

In the book, Pennsylvania Vital Records, From The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine and The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. III, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1983, contains the same 1915 submission of Mary Ellison Wood ("from PGM, Vol. VI (1915), 26-29").

Another source for the inhabitants of the Old German Cemetery is a book by Della Reagan Fischer, Fourteen Cemeteries in Westmoreland County, (published around 1972 apparently).  The writer of the "Baker book" seems to have retyped Della Reagan Fischer's work--Della's list in the Baker book contains 444 names.   But I was told Della's list in her own book, contains 439 names.  Included in Della's list is Nicholas Silvius and wife Catherine and shows, for everyone on the list, a Born column and a Died column. Della Reagan Fischer shows Nicholas as being born in 1723 and Catherine as 1743. The year 1723 is consistent with someone age 79 dying in 1802.

At the URL http://www.pa-roots.com/~westmoreland/townships/hempfield/oldunion.html (Westmoreland County, Hempfield Cemeteries, on-line--the USGenWeb project site) the "Old Union Cemetery" is listed. The list is alphabetical and appears to be a duplicate of the list that appeared in the 1915 publication of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (discussed above). But for some reason, the USGenWeb project site list stops among the S's. The 1915 list actually has more surnames that begin with S and goes through the letter Z.   Among those missing from the list on-line, but who were actually included in the publication is Nicholas Silvius.  Complete list.

The book, Greensburg Sesquicentennial History, 1799-1949, authored by a committee headed by George Berry, has a larger listing of inhabitants of the Old German Cemetery. To quote from the book regarding the Old German Cemetery:   "Because of the lapse of time, it is impossible to give a complete list of burials of this historic graveyard although extensive efforts have been made to assemble data."  I have taken this from a longer explanation, but I interpret it to mean that the committee who wrote the book assembled the data.  They state earlier that records were not very well kept. [Marie Forehan, Greensburg genealogist/researcher.]

Marie Robinson and Marie Forehan, Copyright June 2000