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Source: The Bulletin, April 1990 (a Lawrenceville local publication)
Reproduced with permission.
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Lawrenceville's Forgotten Cemetery
By James Wudarczyk

When asked to name the cemeteries of Lawrenceville, people will quickly respond, "Allegheny" and "Saint Mary's." Yet an older, though smaller, cemetery existed prior to the opening of Allegheny Cemetery in 1844. This was the Washington Burial Ground, located under what is now Main and Fisk Streets, Government Way and the Carnegie Library.

Founded in 1814 on a one-and-a-quarter acre tract of land, the burial ground was donated as a cemetery for the soldiers stationed at the Allegheny Arsenal by Lawrenceville's founder, William B. Foster.

We know that as late as 1840 the burial ground was still in use by the staff of the Arsenal. On September 19, 1840, Major H. K. Craig, commander, issued notice, "John Penny, Laborer of Ordnance, died yesterday. He will be buried at 3 pm this day in the Lawrenceville Burying Ground. The officers and enlisted men of the detachment will attend the funeral in uniform from his late quarters."

While originally conceived as a resting place for troops, the burial ground was eventually opened to the community. Regulations regarding burials and the up-keep of the facility were established in an ordinance passed by the borough council and signed into law by John Sarber, Burgess, on
July 26, 1834.


When the borough of Lawrenceville was incorporated into the City of Pittsburgh in 1868, all public lands within Lawrenceville became the possession of the city. Trouble began to brew over the site in late 1881 when the Washington Sub-District School Board of the City of Pittsburgh elected to use the burial ground as the site for a new school. The School Board petitioned the City council for passage of an ordinance granting the burial ground to the school district. City Council agreed, and executed the deed of transfer on December 31, 1881. Little regard was given for the remains of those buried in the Washington Burial Ground as work crews began to excavate the foundation and cellar.

This disrespect for the deceased aroused the bitter resentment of many civic-minded citizens, who took the school board to court in an effort to halt construction of the school. Among those contesting the school were J. Rogers Jeffrey, William D. Moore, A. M. Moreland and Morrison Foster.

Jeffrey and the others contended that as many as 500 persons were buried on those grounds. The plaintiffs also argued that the land was donated expressly for the purpose of a burial ground and not for "educational purposes" as the school board petition had falsely and fraudulently maintained.

A compromise was eventually reached which required the moving of interred bodies to Allegheny Cemetery, and that the balance of the burial ground be enclosed by a suitable fence.

A school was erected on the site in 1885, and was known as the Washington Sub-District No. 2. Its name was changed in 1912 to the Stephen C. Foster School and it continued to serve the education needs of the community until 1939.

As part of the settlement, a monument was erected on May 25, 1887, which still stands as a reminder of the early days of the history of Lawrenceville. This 12-foot high granite shaft bears the inscription:

"In honor of the American soldiers
buried here. We will emulate their
patriotism, and protect their remains."


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Source: "Lawrenceville History" by James Wudarczyk (pages 98-101)
(non-circulating, available in Lawrenceville Carnegie Library)
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The Lawrenceville Burial Ground

Like so much of Lawrenceville's history, most, save for the sketchiest details, have been lost. Such is the case with the earliest cemetery in the town of Lawrenceville.

According to Morrison Foster, brother of the famous composer, their father, William Foster, had donated one and a quarter acres of ground in the town of Lawrenceville to be "a burial ground for our soldiers forever, where they might be buried by right and not by sufferance." Morrison Foster contends, "At the time this donation was made, soldiers were passing through Pittsburgh continually, going or returning from the front of war. Many of them died here and there was no place to bury them except in a potter's field. My father, being himself the son of an American soldier, determined that this should no longer be the case."

John Howard Tasker, author of a biography on Stephen Foster, speculates that the actions of the elder Foster in the donating of the burial ground may have been to appease his conscience for the profit that he made on the sale of land to the government for the purpose of the arsenal.

Whatever the motive, this contribution was extremely important to the community since it served the area until the opening of the larger and more prestigious Allegheny Cemetery. Although the original intent was to use the cemetery strictly for military personnel, accounts indicate that lots were sold to other members of the community. Also known as the Washington Burial Ground, an account revealed that at a public meeting of the Lawrenceville Borough held at Saint John's Episcopal Church at 5 p.m. on June 23, 1835, lots priced at $3.75 were sold to James Reed and John Sarber. All transactions were in full accord with the regulations of the Washington Burial Ground.

The site stands between Main and Fisk Streets and now houses the Stephen C. Foster Community Center and the Carnegie Library.

When the borough of Lawrenceville was incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1868, all public lands within Lawrenceville became the possession of the city. Trouble began to brew over the site in late 1881 through mid-1882 when the Washington Sub-District School Board elected to use the former burial ground for the purpose of erecting a new school. It appears that the officers and directors of the Washington Sub-District School Board of the City of Pittsburgh petitioned the City Council for passage of an ordinance granting the burial ground to the school district as the site for the erection of the new school. City Council was in agreement with the school board on the matter, and executed the deed of transfer on December 31, 1881. Little regard was given to the remains in the Washington Burial Ground as work crews began to excavate the foundation and cellar.

This disrespect for the deceased aroused the bitter resentment of many civic minded citizens, who took the school board to court in an effort to halt construction of the new school. George T. Fleming recounts the proceedings, "The legal phase of this history arose from the desecration of the repose of the dead by the contractor through preparing the cellars and foundations of the school. The contractor was the employee of the School Board of the Washington sub-district, which included the former Seventeenth Ward of Pittsburgh . . . All the facts in the case will be drawn from the legal proceedings, especially in the opinion of Judge Edwin H. Stowe, who granted the injunction asked restraining the contractor and the school directors from proceeding with the work, and in his opinion sat down heavily on the defendants." The account shows J. Rogers Jeffrey, William D. Moore, A. M. Moreland, Morrison Foster, plaintiff's vs. The City of Pittsburgh, J. W. Ballantine, president; G. W. Edwin, secretary, Robert McChesney, Charles Parkins, T. B. Stewart and S. McMahon, school board of Washington Sub-District School of the Seventeenth Ward of the City of Pittsburgh and Karns Bracken, contractor, defendants . . . The bill opens by saying that the plaintiff, J. Roger Jeffrey, was a citizen and taxpayer of the city of Pittsburgh, and was a citizen and taxpayer of the borough of Lawrenceville and was the next of kin of certain persons buried in the graveyard or cemetery lot which was in dispute; that William D. Moore, plaintiff, next of kin of W. D. Moore, Sr., buried in the graveyard or cemetery lot; that A. M. Moreland was of the next of kin to two brothers buried there, with privilege to have all citizens and taxpayers having friends interred in said burial grounds in dispute who may desire to become parties thereto added. W. D. Moore further complained that his father, W. D. Moore, Sr., then deceased, purchased from the authorities of Lawrenceville at divers sales the right to inter certain of his (W. D. Moore, Sr.'s) children, to-wit: Elizabeth and Mary; that they were sisters of complainant, and that he is, among others, the next of kin of said bodies and the right of their interment and the articles of value interred with them."

The Fleming account also informs us that "The plaintiffs (orators', as the law calls them), further averred that Colonel Foster in laying out his tract into town lots and streets in 1814 set apart and solemnly dedicated as a burial ground for soldiers and inhabitants of the then village of Lawrenceville, a tract or square of ground containing nearly two acres, a full description of which, with plots was annexed to the bill of complaint and made part thereof, and that continuously from 1814, when the grant and dedication to the public for burial purposes, was made by Col. Foster, the ground had been used and occupied as acquired for burial purposes, until upwards of 500 interments had taken place therein, of citizens of Lawrenceville, and many soldiers of the United States Regular and Volunteer Army." The plaintiffs also argued that the land was donated expressly for the purpose of a burial ground and not for "educational purposes" as the school board petition had falsely and fraudulently maintained.

Although the sentiment of the Lawrenceville residents side of the plaintiffs, a compromise was eventually reached. Disturbed bodies were to be removed to Allegheny Cemetery, while the remainder of the cemetery was to be enclosed with a suitable fence. A school was to be constructed on the proposed site. This school constructed in 1885, was known as the Washington Sub-District No. 2, until 1912 when the name was changed to the Stephen C. Foster School. This school served the community between 1885 and 1939 when it was closed following the construction of Arsenal Elementary School.

As part of the settlement, a monument was erected on May 25, 1887, which still stands as a reminder of the early days of the history of Lawrenceville. This 12-feet high granite shaft bears the inscription: "In honor of the American soldiers buried here. We will emulate their patriotism, and protect their remains."


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Source: Extracts from a personal letter from James Wudarczyk (author
of "The Bulletin" article) to Eunyce A. Fina, a private individual
requesting information about the burial grounds, dated April 9, 1991:
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. . .Last month, Mr. Allan Becer addressed the Lawrenceville Historical Society on the topic of Abraham R. Woolley,
commander of the Allegheny Arsenal. Mr. Becer contended that Mrs. Woolley and her child were buried at the Washington
Burial Ground. He alleged, as so many other residents of the area, that most of the graves were never moved to Allegheny
Cemetery, and we suspect that the remains were buried in a mass grave on a hillside behind what is now Foster Community
Center.

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(Mr. Wudarczyk). . .I tried to obtain a list of all persons buried at the cemetery, but found my efforts to be in vain.
Apparently all records of the borough of Lawrenceville were turned over to the city, then to the board of education, who
contends that they turned over all such information to Roman Catholic diocese since the Catholic Church purchased the
grounds to be used for the youth center. Since all these transactions took place between 1868 and 1950's, no one seems
to know where the records wound up. When I contacted the Catholic Diocese, they had no knowledge of the records ever being
transferred. As far as I can tell, these valuable documents have been lost forever.

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Source: Excerpt from letter of James Wudarczyk to Norm Meinert, July 7, 2000
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...Some of the names of those buried there are:
John Perry
Elizabeth Moore
Mary Moore
Sargeant Brigham*
Virgil David*
Robert Cinnamon*
James Anderson*
Sargeant McCullough*
Private John McCullough*
Private Allen Boyle*
Private Winterbottom*
Private Miller*
William Jeffrey
Nathan McDowell
Kennedy Moorhead
J. B. Wincombe
Callendar Jeffrey
David Hesham
John Jeffrey
Elizabeth Jeffrey
William Jeffrey
William D. Moore, Sr.
*soldiers

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Source: Extract of Ordinances for Borough of Lawrenceville, 1834,
(before it became a part of Pittsburgh), from James Wudarczyk
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AN ORDINANCE
Regulating the Burial Ground.

   Section 1.  Be it ordained and enacted by the Burgess and Coun-
cil of the Borough of Lawrencvville, That for the purpose of order
and regularity with regard to the Washington Burying Ground be-
longing to said borough, there shall be one or more persons appointed by
the Burgess and Council, whose duty it shall be to grant permits for
opening the ground for the burial of the dead to those who may apply
for the same, and comply with the second section of this ordinance; and
one suitable person for Sexton.

Section 2. That no person or persons shall be allowed to open the
ground, or cause it to be opened for the burial of the dead, who shall
not first have procured a permit from the constituted authorities, for
which permit he, she or they shall pay as follows: For each and every
person twelve years of age and upwards, two dollars, and all under twelve
one dollar each.

Section 3. That it shall be the duty of the Sexton to open the
ground for all interments when required, to attend to the burial and per-
form all other duties usually required of Sextons; and he is hereby re-
quired to dig the grave for all persons twelve years and upwards, five
feet in depth, and for those under twelve; the depth shall be equal to
the length : Provided, nevertheles*, that no grave shall be less than four
feet deep; and for his services thus rendered he shall be allowed to
charge for and receive for all persons of twelve years and upwards, the
sum of two dollars, and for all under twelve years, the sum of one dollar
and twenty-five cents, to be paid by the person or persons by whom he is
employed.

Section 4. That no permit for the interring of the dead in the
Washington Burying Ground shall be given to any person residing with-
out the limits of said borough for less than five dollars over, and two
dollars and fifty cents under twelve years of age, which amount must be
paid to the Town Clerk before the permit is given, excepting such per-
sons who may have had relatives already interred in said Burying
Ground, to pay the same as though they were still residents of said Bor-
ough.

Section 5. That no permit shall be given to any person or persons
who shall not have first paid the sums required in the second section of
this ordinance, and the person or persons appointed to grant permits
shall keep an account of all persons interred, and an accurate account of
all moneys received and at the end of every three months, deposit the
same in the Borough treasury, and the Town Clerk is hereby appointed
to grant permits for the present year.

Section 6. That if any person or persons shall open or dig a grave
in the burying ground belonging to said Borough, unless duly author-
ized by the constituted authorities, every such person or persons offend-
ing, shall, upon conviction thereof, forfeit and pay, if the person for
whom the grave is opened exceeds twelve years of age, ten dollars; and
not exceeding twelve years, five dollars; to be recovered as the like
fines are recoverable by law : and the Sexton to receive his fees out of
said fine, if he shall apply for the same.

Section 7. In case of the inability of the Sexton, be may procure
some person to dig the grave for him, but shall be responsible in the
same manner as if he dug the grave himself. And in case of the death,
resignation, or removal from office of the Sexton, the Burgess, or, in
his absence, the Town Clerk, may authorize some person to act as Sexton
for the time, until such vacancy shall be regularly filled by an election
of the Council : Provided, The same shall apply to the person author-
ized to grant permits for the interment of the dead.

Approved the twenty-sixth day of July, A. D. 1834.
JOHN SARBER, Burgess.
Attest--S. H. SARBER, Town Clerk.
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You can visit the Lawrenceville Historical Society Home Page at: http://trfn.clpgh.org/lhs/
or contact them at

LAWRENCEVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
P. O. Box 4015
Arsenal Station
Pittsburgh, PA 15201-0015
(412) 683-2114 Telephone contact = La Verne


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