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St. Teresa's Catholic Church & Cemetery - Hoytdale PA

St. Teresa’s Cemetery, also known as Hoytdale Cemetery, in an old, secluded Catholic burial ground located about a mile north of Koppel in the extreme northern reaches of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. It was the site of the old St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, which was built beginning in May 1871 and dedicated on October 15 of that same year. The church was originally a mission of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New Castle, and later served in the same capacity for St. Rose’s in Darlington and St. Monica’s in Wampum.

It was built near the village of Clinton, an area that later became known as Hoytdale. The church was significantly damaged by a fire in 1900, but was soon rebuilt in finer fashion. Many folks from Koppel to distant Wampum would walk the “Koppel Branch” railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE) to attend mass at this church. In 1902 the St. Monica’s Parish was founded in Wampum (and a new church was dedicated in July 1905) and that lowered the attendance at St. Teresa’s Church. Another disastrous fire in late 1944 completely destroyed St. Teresa’s and all of the vital cemetery records. The Catholic Church authorities in Pittsburgh decided to abandon the remote site and ordered that a new church be reestablished at Koppel, where most of the loyal parishioners resided.

A large office building on Arthur Street (& Sixth Avenue) in Koppel was soon acquired and a new St. Teresa’s Church and parochial school was established in 1945. The building had previously served as the offices for the Koppel Industrial and Equipment Company (and originally for the Arthur Koppel Car Company), which shut down its local operations in 1937. (See the page of KOPPEL – St. Teresa’s Catholic Church & School for more information.)

The cemetery was basically abandoned as only a few burials took place over the next few years. The site where the church once sat is a grassy clearing and a few chunks of concrete foundation are all that remains today. Many of the gravestones have been extremely weathered or even damaged but the grass is still well tended to.

The site is basically forgotten and very few people know how to find it today. It is located off of Route 18 about a mile north of Koppel – on the east side of 18 and across the railroad tracks that run along the Beaver River (in the valley way below actually). The white entrance sign, located almost directly across from where Old Wampum Road (which passes by Clinton Cemetery) rejoins modern Route 18, is what to look for. Oddly enough, the entrance actually looks like a private drive (leading to two houses and an abandoned trailer) and probably discourages some potential visitors. Off the driveway you turn right and seemingly drive right through someone’s front yard. No worries – it’s a public right of way. I have heard at one time one of the owners blocked the route with logs, but the county restored full access. It’s still a good idea to be mindful of the house owners and show respect when passing through.

Many of my family members of the LaPatka and Burik clans are buried here, and I have been told that my aunt Anna (LaPatka) Concilla was one of the last people to be buried there back in July 1944. However, I found evidence of a handful of later burials into 1950. That latest two I could find are Hoytdale resident Michael McGonigle, buried on Tuesday, May 2, 1950, and eighty-seven-year-old Wampum resident Wincenty Kaczmarski, who was buried on Monday, November 6, 1950.

During my visits to New Castle I always stop at Al’s Corner store in Koppel before proceeding to this cemetery to pay my respects to the LaPatka’s buried here. I find this place very peaceful and remember visiting there with my grandma Irene. It is in such a secluded location that I have never once seen anyone else there. The setting is eerie and it seems like something out of a Hollywood movie set. Obviously I am very fond of this place!



To view a series of pictures on finding the isolated cemetery click on: GETTING THERE.


The second St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, pictured here c1930, was built right after a fire burned down the original building in 1900. This church was also destroyed by a disastrous fire in late 1944 and Catholic authorities subsequently decided to vacate this remote location. They soon reestablished the church in a former office building in nearby Koppel and this site was basically abandoned – even as a active cemetery. The last few burials I can find took place here in late 1950.


Another old photo showing the rear of the church. (c1930)


The former church was situated just behind the large piller-like stone, which I believe can be seen in the previous photo. (Dec 2006)


The large clearing in the middle of the cemetery makes it clear where the church once sat. I have heard the ruins of the church were not cleared away until years later. (Nov 2009)


Remnants of the former church’s concrete foundation as still visible. (Nov 2009)


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Comment

  1. This is great. I live in California but every year I go back to Wampum where all my family is and visit this cemetary as my uncles and relatives from my Dad’s side are buried there. Thank you for this.
    Are you planning on putting all this in a book? I am especially interested in the Wampum and Chewton as I grew up there and went to Chewton Independence School for 8 years.
    Carole Allyn

    carole leopardo allyn · 12/31/2011 10:54 AM · #

  2. I also go to this cemetery every year put flowers on the graves of Anna Hubbard and her sister Mary Robinson. My grandparents, Bridget and Henry Harkins, are also supposed to be buried there but I have never found the stones. Henry died in 1906. I agree that the cemetery is quiet solitude at best. For years it was terribly overgrown with weeds and poison ivy! My father, Lawrence Harkins, was hospitalized after cleaning out the area around his mother’s stone. In the past number of years a priest hired a parishioner and with his son, really made the cemetery nice. I walk around there always hunting names I may know. My Dad had a number of cousinss, the Laughlins, if you knew any of them. How I would love to have photos! So good to know someone else loves this cemetery!
    Eileen Harkins Darrah

    EILEEN HARKINS DARRAH · 11/26/2012 11:01 PM · #

  3. I wonder if you might know anything about another “hidden” cemetery that may be very near this one.

    For years I’ve been searching without luck for the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cemetery in or around Koppel. I believe it was loosely affiliated with the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Ellport. I know it exists, from early Russian Orthodox church records in New Castle & Ellport, plus from this obituary:
    ~~~
    JENNIE POLOVINA
    Polovina, 91, retired chef, auditor for Ellport Borough
    Jennie Polovina, 91, of 321 Martin Ave., Ellport, died at 12:10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004, in the Ellwood City Hospital. Born July 7, 1913, in Grantown, W.Va., she was a daughter of the late Rada and Rose Butsak Polovina. Ms. Polovina worked for 35 years as a chef in the executive dining room of the former Ellwood Works of U.S. Steel, retiring in 1974. She also had been an auditor for Ellport Borough. A 1929 graduate of Lincoln High School, Ms. Polovina was valedictorian of her graduating class. She was a member of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Ellport where she was a member of St. Mary’s Altar Society and also served as treasurer, among other positions. Ms. Polovina was a member of the Ellwood City Hospital Auxiliary and was active with the American Cancer Society. Surviving are three nephews, Timothy Polovina of Jupiter, Fla., Michael S. Polovina of Arlington, Va. and David G. Polovina of Indiana, Pa.; a great-nephew, Jordan Polovina of Bolder, Colo.; and a sister-in-law, Betty Polovina of Ellport. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a brother, John Polovina, in 1991. Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today in the Samuel Teolis Funeral Home, 309 Spring Ave., Ellwood City, where a Parastas service will be held at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 9 a.m. tomorrow in the funeral home and at 10 a.m. in Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Ellport, with the Rev. John Sidor officiating. Interment will be in Holy Trinity Orthodox Cemetery, Koppel. Memorial contributions in Ms. Polovina’s name may be made to the Altar Society of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church or to the Ellwood City Hospital Auxiliary.
    ~~~
    Can anyone shed some light on this mystery? I asked the priest who had the burial there and he was unable to give me directions, and the local funeral home in Koppel did not respond to my inquiry. Thank you!

    Rich Custer · 03/09/2013 03:11 AM · #

  4. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Rich, I’m not familiar with the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cemetery so this is a nice mystery! I do however have a few leads on its location. I’ll be in touch. Jeff

    Jeff Bales Jr. · 03/14/2013 11:59 AM · #

  5. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Rich, mystery solved! The Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cemetery is located on Norwood Rd just outside the limits of Koppel. Leaving Koppel take Route 18 south and quickly turn right onto Norwood Rd. Travel a short distance and turn right at the sign for the Koppel Big Beaver Sportsmen’s Association. I counted only twenty-three stones/markers at the cemetery, including that of Jennie Polovina. Jeff

    Jeff Bales Jr · 03/30/2013 12:44 PM · #

  6. My daughter is an amateur model and is looking to do a shoot in a cemetery with a train track visibly running through it. Her photographer for this shoot is a train aficionado and has many awards for his photos of trains. The two of them would like to do a shoot combining a cemetery and railroad tracks. We are finding it hard to locate one via the Internet and I thought perhaps someone on this site could help me. We need to be able to take photos of the gravestones with the railroad tracks showing in the background. Thank you so much for your time and help in this endeavor!

    Sue · 07/21/2013 11:43 AM · #

  7. I remember going to this cemetery when I was younger with my Aunt. We would always pay our respects at one spot that I can remember. It wasn’t until I started researching my family on my mothers side that I found out that I have two other Aunts that are buried here. They are actually buried one on top of the other. My Grand Father made a homemade cross out of metal and cement. The cross is mostly gone, but you can still make it out.

    Steven Burcik · 10/26/2013 08:31 PM · #

  8. Jeff,This is a definite photo shot place.I do hope all people realize that this is a cemetery,and are respectful of the folks interred there though.

    Bill Cwynar · 03/05/2014 05:53 PM · #

  9. My third great grandfather James Monroe Dillan , is said to of built this church. I too have learned the carpenters trade so I guess history does repeat itself.

    Nathan Dillan · 04/06/2014 09:34 AM · #

  10. Stopped there this morning and took some infrared B&W.A truly quiet beautiful place.I lost my one filter case going back to the car and scoured the area and couldn’t find it.Said a little prayer and found it in 5 minutes.Thanks for the history my friend.

    Bill Cwynar · 05/03/2014 03:43 PM · #

  11. Hey – I have been told that my great great grand parents are buried in this cemetery. They are named James and Mary Hughes. They died between 1900 and 1905 and I have had no luck finding any records. Does anyone know if any cemetery records from this site managed to exist or are familiar with their tomb stones? Thanks for any assistance.

    Tracey Balzer · 01/29/2015 06:41 PM · #

  12. I have just recently started looking into my family history on my father’s side my grandmother played a big part in my life her maiden name was Foflygen, but she was married to Michael McGonigle, whom you mentioned on this site as finding evidence of his being buried in the cemetary. I would love to know how you found this as I have very little on him. I would also like to know if you saw any grave sites with the name Foflygen or Fofliger. thank you

    Susan McGonigle · 04/13/2015 01:35 PM · #