St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: Digging in the Graveyard

It's a cold blustery October day in Pittsburgh. An unexpected early snow flake or two can be seen in the air as everyone's bones are not quite used to the rapidly dropping temperatures. A small old graveyard is across the street from the church that is getting ready for a big celebration. For it is this year the church celebrates its 200th anniversary of its founding. Inside, the members are getting ready for the dinner which will honor the Founding Families as well as other people who have contributed to the church over the years.

Strangers appear in the door where preparations are being made for the festivities. The strangers, who are covered from head to toe in winter gear, ask for a shovel. A shovel? Absolutely. The strangers have some digging to do in the cemetery and time is of the essence for death is on the way.

Does this sound a little strange? Well, this is no story as it really happened back in 2004 at the Mt Lebanon United Presbyterian Church in Allegheny Co, PA.

The minister was perplexed when he heard that someone had come in looking for a shovel to dig in the cemetery. He looked across the road and saw people digging in the graveyard and he just knew who the strangers were, and he wasn't about to stop them.

Members of my family had traveled to Pittsburgh for one of our parties we hold from time to time in the St. Clair Cemetery, which was part of Associate Reformed Congregation of Saw Mill Run. The church was founded in 1804 by a number of men, including two of my 4g grandfathers. The cemetery's first known burial was in 1806 (my 4g-grandmother). Over the years, my family has laid many to rest in the St. Clair Cemetery. Stories from different sources indicate we are buried in layers. One of these sources was my great aunt who paid for the family plot upkeep for many years. While they rest peacefully, I do not.

I am on a mission. I have to know more about them as I am related to over half the cemetery occupants. Over the years, I have been able to assist the Historical Society of Mt Lebanon in providing information on many of the families, participating in resetting tombstones and honoring the contributions these early settlers gave to Pittburgh. Descendants have gathered to celebrate genealogy and our blood. The last reunion we had there in 2005 had descendants from nine states come to honor our roots.

Oh, and who were the strangers? They were my spouse and me. Why the shovel? The caretaker of the cemetery had called me to say he was cleaning up and getting rid of the overwhelming number of daylilly plants on my family plots. When I gasped, he said he would keep some of them and that he would not kill the plants until I got there.

I got there, grabbed the shovel, and dug up plenty of those wonderful daylilly plants. Now these plants grace the yards of several of my cousins-- from Pennsylvania to Florida to Montana.

My treasure is the memory of those wonderful days in the cemetery with my cousins as we celebrated our heritage. All I have to do to remember is to look out my door each day to see the evidence --- in those daylilly plants.

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