*** ONLINE AS OF AUGUST 5, 2011 ***
    



Savannah Methodist Church & Cemetery - Shenango Twnp PA

In 1820 a group of local Methodists in Shenango Township, in what later became Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, established the Savannah Methodist Episcopal Church. They met in private homes and a local schoolhouse until they were finally able to build a small wooden church on Savannah Road in 1851. It was at this rural location that they started used the surrounding grounds as a burial ground for their dearly departed loved ones.

The cemetery was the scene of a huge sensation back in November 1869. The story goes like this: One day while headed to a prayer meeting at the church a young Civil War veteran named David Barge was startled when he saw some sort of white apparition floating beside the church. He fled in terror and when he got home he told his nephew about what he had seen. His nephew, Eli Gaston, did not believe him but took two other boys to the church the next evening out of curiosity. They also saw the apparition and fled. They returned again with a fourth boy the next evening and once again were confronted by the eerie human-like figure. This time they stayed put and observed the apparition for some time as it hovered behind the trees, scratched at the bark with its hands, and moaned inaudibly as if trying to speak. After it disappeared the boys returned home and told everyone about what had happened. The next night the churchyard was like a circus and everyone for miles turned out to see what the commotion was all about. Well, of course the apparition did not appear and to the disappointment of the locals was never seen or heard from again. The story spread though and made tiny Savannah Cemetery the center of gossip in the region.

In 1910, having outgrown the small church, the Methodist congregation tore down the structure and built a new brick church in its place. In the meantime services were held in the nearby Savannah School. The new church was dedicated on Sunday, March 19, 1911, and served the local community for many years. On Sunday, June 25, 1972, the last service was held at the location as a new modern church – under construction for the last year – was about to open nearby on Savannah Gardner Road. The old church was abandoned and torn down in June 1975, but the old cemetery remains in use to this day.

Several relatives of mine from the Hake family, as well as family members related to my uncle Walter Ridenbaugh, are interred at this cemetery. It is located in a rural location but seems to be well tended too. It’s also the final resting place of Tommy Nail, a troubled but extremely popular nineteen-year-old man who was stabbed and killed during a fight in March 2009. The case, in which the “assailant” was not prosecuted due to a ruling of self defense, is quite controversial even now. Adding to the controversy was Nail’s love of displaying the Confederate State of America (CSA) flag, and the fact that when his family and friends place such banners on his gravesite they often go missing soon after. I have only been to this location a few times, but during each of my visits someone stopped by to pay their respects as his gravesite. It is undoubtedly one of the most visited gravesites in Lawrence County.


In 1851 a small group of local Methodists, who had been meeting for three decades, were finally able to small church (shown above) on Savannah Road. A cemetery was started on the grounds as well. The church was razed in 1910 and replaced with a larger building at the same location. The congregation worshipped at this location until a new church was opened nearby in 1972. (c1905) Full Size


The second church (shown above) was built along Savannah Road in 1910. It served the congregation until a new church was opened on Savannah Gardner Road in 1972. A few years the older church was razed – a process that is seen in process in the above photo. (Jul 1975)


This aerial photo shows the location of the former Savannah Methodist Church, located on the western side of Savannah Road and opened in early 1911. This church replaced an earlier one erected at the same spot back in 1851. (1939) Full Size


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Comment

  1. This looks like a beautiful area. I believe my ancestors originally owned the land where the Savnnah Methodist church stands (?) and are buried in that cemetery. This family happens to be a bit of a brick wall for me… I sure would love to get there and find out more! Unfortunately I’m across the country. This is the first page of your site I’ve seen and I’m looking forward to the rest.

    Kim M · 04/07/2012 10:31 PM · #

  2. I remember this cemetery very well. It was not far from Where I lived for a time. My sister-in-law, Beverly K. Gould died of leukemia not long after I married her brother. Chris Kelly was my nephew, Chris was killed in a car accident.

    Sue Duncan · 07/04/2014 07:20 PM · #

  3. I am doing research for the John / Johns and Covert families and was wondering if or how I could request burial information from your cemetery.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You,
    Rose

    rose champagne · 02/20/2015 10:53 PM · #

  4. Looking for the grave of Nancy Agnes Rigby Campbell, 1822-1865. Her brother, Seth Rigby, is buried in Savannah Cemetery (his stone is included in your photographs). Since she left a large family of children, there might not have been money for a stone.

    DDM

    Denise Mort · 02/07/2017 02:02 PM · #