Located along the road between routes 93 in Carbon and 309 in Schuylkill County, the Packer Cemetery, also known as St. Matthew’s Cemetery, is and old and historic cemetery. A walk among the stones shows names linked to Carbon County’s oldest church, the Ben Salem Church in East Penn Twp. A few of the oldest families of Packer Twp. had first settled in the vicinity of Ben Salem, later following the road north past Tamaqua and into the Quakake Valley.
Settlement of the Quakake Valley began in the 1790s.The history of the church reaches back to 1811, when the first organized religious services were held in Quakake Valley. During these early years, services were held in various homes, conducted by a traveling minister. In 1831 the land was purchased for the building of a church, and in 1834 its construction was finished and its doors were opened. The building committee of that first church included Daniel and John Gerhard, John Faust, and David Stewart, surnames that can still be found in the valley 170 years later.
Originally known as “St. John’s Church”, the earliest burials took place in the adjacent plot of land that became the Packer Cemetery. The congregation soon out-grew the original log church, and a new building was constructed. In 1868 the new church was finished, and was christened “St. Matthew’s Church”, and that is the church that overlooks the cemetery today.
In recording the burials at Packer Cemetery, I did my best to indicate all the burials in a plot. Different surnames may appear in the same plot, indicating married daughters, etc.
The Quakake Valley runs (roughly) east to west. The rows, as I recorded them, run north to south, or perpendicular to the church. I began at the east edge of the cemetery, the older part, and worked my way down the row. I then walked back up towards the church and began to work down the next row. There is a new section of the cemetery on the extreme east edge, a row or two of stones flush with the ground. Because they are so recent, I did not include those burials here.
A note on the Steward & Stewart families in the cemetery: Capt. David Steward was the common ancestor to them all. The spelling change began among his three sons, with Joseph keeping the original spelling.
While recording the burials, I noticed that there were some large vacant patches in the cemetery. No visible stones or markers. I believe these sections are not vacant, but that the markers are no longer there. They may have been simple wooden crosses, or perhaps the family couldn’t afford any marker at all.
There are no surnames in the cemetery that begin with these letters: A, I, N, O, Q, U, V, X, Y & Z
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