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Greenwood Cemetery - New Castle PA

Greenwood Cemetery is a non-denominational burial ground located along West Washington Street in the West Side neighborhood of New Castle, Pennsylvania. The cemetery was chartered in early May 1852 by five local men, which included the Ezekial Sankey Jr. of the pioneering Sankey family of Lawrence County. Sankey owned the property that would be utilized for the establishment of the new cemetery. The five men soon soon expanded the property by purchasing additional lots to the south from brothers Alexander and George Crawford, who operated a small private cemetery for the pioneering Crawford family. The cemetery would become the final resting place of many of the pioneers and their ancestors that settled in New Castle beginning in the late 1700’s.

A small section of the new Greenwood Cemetery, which adjoins the Crawford Cemetery, was already the site of several of the earliest burials in New Castle. An article in the New Castle News of March 21, 1931, reveals, “First death in New Castle of which there is any authentic record was that of the little daughter of William McComb, which occurred sometime in 1802-1803. Her remains were placed in a coffin made of oak boards fastened together with wooden pins, because of the fact that nails were unknown then. The coffin was conveyed in John Wilson’s oxcart to the first burying grounds in New Castle, located on the west side and in what is now a part of Greenwood cemetery… The first coffin used in this instance was the handiwork of Jesse DuShane. The first adult who died here was in all probability the same John Wilson… It is said that Mr. Wilson was accidentally killed by being thrown from his cart on the day that the Reynolds and Townsend mill was raised, in the years 1803 or 1804.”

In May 1861, due to various legal issues arising from the original charter, Sankey was forced to apply for a new charter for the cemetery. Greenwood Cemetery, the only public burial ground in New Castle for a time, grew rapidly in the coming decades and saw numerous burials in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Annual Memorial Day parades, from downtown New Castle to the cemetery, were also begun as early as 1894 to honor the numerous military veterans buried in Greenwood.

Complaints against a lack of upkeep – which would become a recurring theme over the years – began (at least) in the early 1890’s. An article in the New Castle News of October 17, 1894, reads, “There is no end of dissatisfaction among those who own burial lots in Greenwood over the manner in which the affairs of that cemetery company are managed, but the principal cause for complaint is the way in which the lots are neglected by the company. There is no effort on the latter’s part to keep them improved and maintained.”

In October 1901 ownership of the cemetery, and its $2,118.38 in bank assets, was transferred from the Greenwood Cemetery Company, led by President E. P. Logan, to the individuals who owned lots on the property. This was in accordance with the charter that stated the cemetery would revert to the lot holders once money generated from lot sales equaled the original investment (plus expenses) made by Sankey and his colleagues. A new Greenwood Cemetery Association, led by prominent businessman Cassius “C. C.“ Dickson (1847-1921), was soon formed and began immediate improvements and upgrades. The cemetery was at the center of a legal dispute in 1914. After the widening and paving of Atlantic Avenue the access road to the nearby Crawford family cemetery had been lost.

The city had previously agreed to provide the cemetery with a new access road and a cement border wall as compensation. The Greenwood Cemetery Association had offered to sell a small strip of land along Atlantic Avenue to the city for $1,000, which would then be utilized to build an access road. The First Presbyterian Church claimed ownership on the strip of land, although the cemetery had been maintaining it for the last fourteen years. The church wanted to give the property to the city at no cost. I believe the issue was solved to everyone’s satisfaction and a new access road was soon built. A new southwest section of Greenwood Cemetery was also opened for burials in January 1919.

In early 1921, due to encroaching progress on East Washington Street, various parties decided to move the remains interred in the Old Stone Church Cemetery to Greenwood Cemetery. The Stone Church, located near the Lawrence County Court House, was built by the “Seceders“ (Presbyterians) in 1831, but had long since been abandoned. The church and its cemetery were located in what was once a rural area away from the center of the town, but the area was now quite crowded with homes and businesses. The small burial ground, all that remained, was surrounded by a high wooden fence but was apparently quite an eyesore. Discussion of removing the graves had begun as early as 1898. About five other older cemeteries in New Castle, including the old Methodist Cemetery on Jefferson Street, had already had their graves removed to Greenwood Cemetery in previous years.

Excavation work at the Old Stone Church Cemetery began in late June 1921. An article from the New Castle News of June 23, 1921, explains the work: “As each grave is opened the workmen dig until traces of a body are found when they stop and begin on another grave. When all the graves have been opened the work of removing the bones will begin. Coffins, all of uniform shape and bearing numbers coinciding with those on the tombstones, will be used to carry them to their new resting place.” By early July the project was completed and a total of forty-eight sets of remains had been reinterred in Greenwood Cemetery. Part of the old cemetery was used in the improvement of East Washington Street, but the remainder is located on the south side of East Washington Street where present day Superior Street runs off.

The well-respected John L. Welsh (1858-1930), a longtime executive board member with the City Rescue Mission, served as superintendent of the cemetery for about ten years until he passed away at the age of seventy-two in March 1930. It was during his reign that great improvements were made to include the establishment of an endowment fund for upkeep purposes in c1925 and the opening of a new superintendent’s home in January 1928.

As with any cemetery senseless vandalism periodically reared its ugly head at Greenwood Cemetery. One of the worst cases took place on the evening of Saturday, May 2, 1936, when dozens of tombstones were knocked over and damaged to varying degrees. A nineteen-year-old man named Edwin P. Roberts, an out-of-towner who was staying with a relative on Fulkerson Street, was arrested on May 13 and charged with the crime.

An article in the New Castle News of May 14, 1936, stats, “Eighty three tombstones, some weighing between 1,000 and 2,500 pounds were toppled over, some of the smaller stones having been broken… Roberts claims he had been working downtown, May 2, and while downtown consumed several bottles of beer. He started for home about 8:30 p.m. and was walking through one of the cemetery driveways when he claims he was obsessed with a quaint notion to shove over tombstones… He stopped his vandalism, according to police when someone on West Washington street opened a door… Several days later, when it was necessary for cemetery attaches to secure a derrick to move some of the larger stones back into position, young Roberts went into the cemetery and watched them do the work, according to police.”

Many people, including the two judges that presided over his hearing two weeks later, doubted the 130-pound Roberts could have knocked over the larger stones by himself. Roberts maintained he worked alone and was sentenced to confinement (sentence length unknown) in the Pennsylvania Industrial Reform School in Huntingdon County.

During a determined effort undertaken in April-May 1931 it was also learned that 467 military veterans were buried in Greenwood, the most of any cemetery in the county at that time. Included among them were several Revolutionary War veterans and many members of the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the famous “Roundheads” who served with distinction during the Civil War. Among the prominent individuals interred there are Capt. James H. Cooper, who commanded the famous Battery B artillery unit during the Civil War and was once called “the bravest man in the Army of the Potomac,” Col. Daniel Leasure, a New Castle physician who organized and commanded the Roundheads during the Civil War, and Oscar L. Jackson, a Civil War hero who later became an attorney and served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Burials continued at Greenwood Cemetery in the coming decades but the site has always seemed to fall into a state of disrepair from time to time. By the early 2000’s the cemetery was once again neglected by its keepers, overgrown with thick grass, and the target of senseless vandals. By 2009 the cemetery association was out of money and without an official caretaker. A local neighbor and businessman named David Moyer, spurred to action at his own expense, started cutting the grass as best he could. In the summer of 2011 a more concerted effort, which included a makeshift cemetery board, was established to find ways to fund the upkeep of the site and prevent a takeover by state officials – which some people theorize would lead to further neglect. The condition of Greenwood Cemetery, the oldest public burial ground in all of Lawrence County and the final resting place of many prominent pioneering citizens, has been nothing short of a disgrace at times. As of the summer of 2013 the place looks much better and appears to be in superb shape. It’s a great site to see!


A map showing the various sections of Greenwood Cemetery. The yellow line depicts the seemingly hidden trail leading to the back section of the cemetery. (2014) Full Size


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The road leading to the back portion of the cemetery. (Aug 2015)


Crumbling bridge in back portion of cemetery. (Aug 2015)


Veterans section and Old Stone Church Cemetery section. (Aug 2015)


Veterans section. (Aug 2015)


Memorial marking the location of the graves removed from the Old Stone Church Cemetery back in 1921. (Aug 2015) Full Size


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Old Stone Church Cemetery memorial stone. (Aug 2015)


Graves reinterred from the Old Stone Church Cemetery in the summer of 1921. (Aug 2015)


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The grave site of John C. Jackson, who served as Mayor of New Castle from 1903-1906. (Aug 2015)


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Comment

  1. i am intrested in givin you a free quote on mowing yor cemetary. thank you 7246515091

    frank@j.n. lawncare · 07/10/2013 07:37 AM · #

  2. I visited this cemetery in February of 2009 to find the grave of my father’s maternal grandmother, Mary (Swiatkiewicz) Siergiej, which I was able to do with the help of a person who was working in the office of the cemetery. It was fascinating looking through the burial records. Is the office still operating? I have some photos I took that day, which I will share with you.

    Michelle (Gajda) Butler · 08/09/2013 07:43 PM · #

  3. I am valiantly trying to research the American branch of my family tree and have discovered that one of my ancestors [Richard L.WILLIAMS] was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in March 1966 .

    I would be delighted to know if there is any chance of some kind person being able to take a photograph of the grave and forwarding to me .

    Kind regards from Somerset (England)
    Michael WROE
    30 September 2013

    Mr Mike Wroe · 09/30/2013 01:53 PM · #

  4. New Castle is my beloved hometown, and many of my earliest known ancesters are buried there; Lamms/Lambs and Shaffers in Greenwood, and a passel of Shaffers, Barnes, Mathews, Nitsches and Levines in Graceland.

    CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve done a fabulous job improving Greenwood. BIG job beautifully done. I hope to get to visit it in the not-too-great-beyond.

    I also hope to pick up a banana (or root beer) popsicle at Sheridan’s Market!

    ALL BEST WISHES

    Diane Shaffer Bingham · 10/16/2013 10:53 PM · #

  5. I have been trying to locate the graves of two of my aunts that died as infants. Records show they were buried in Greenwood. Can you help me locate them, or possibly refer me to someone that could help. If their markers no longer exist, or are not readable, but records exist, I would be interested in replacing or restoring their markers. All the comments above are encouraging. Thanks for your service and assistance.

    Albertha Mae Watt B:Mar 1905, D:Aug 1905
    Florence Watt B: Mar 1921, D:Sep 1921

    Larry Watt · 11/19/2013 11:37 AM · #

  6. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Larry, the Greenwood Cemetery now has a searchable database of interments on their new website. It’s a great resource. I found a record for “Infant of H.A. Watt” who died on 08/23/1905. I didn’t find any record for Florence in 1921. Check it out at:

    http://greenwoodcemeterycompany.org/SearchInterments.asp

    Hope this helps! Jeff

    Jeff Bales Jr · 01/10/2014 03:30 PM · #

  7. If anybody needs a photo taken of a grave, I would be happy to do that for you-free if cgarge-as long as I can locate the grave (no guarantees). I spend a lot of time at Greenwood with my camera. My e-mail address is laurilynn72@comcast.net.

    Lauri Golonka · 02/04/2014 09:18 PM · #

  8. I was trying to locate graves of WWI veterans and family, one of which was killed in action in France and whose body was returned home to New Castle and buried in Greenwood Cemetery according to news accounts and cemetery records. I see pictures of graves with flags indicating veterans but cannot read the names. Would anyone know if any of the following Anderson family graves which are listed online in Greenwood Cemetery website as located in Lot# 5 Section 1 are actually still visible with any grave markers intact? Sam Anderson born 1856 died 1941, his wife Sarah Ann Anderson born 1859 died 1940, his son Abe L. Anderson born 1887 killed action in France WWI 23 Oct 1918, another son WWI veteran Edward Anderson born 1892 died 1959, another son WWI veteran Carl W. Anderson born 1897 died 1924, various infants, as well as daughter Emma Anderson Miller born 1885 who was murdered in Tonopah,Nevada on 25 August 1920 and whose body was returned home to New Castle and buried in Greenwood Cemetery according to news accounts and cemetery records. Abe L. Anderson’s full name was Abraham Lincoln Anderson and his WWI draft as well as combat death was well documented in New Castle News during 1918.

    Mary · 02/20/2014 01:51 PM · #

  9. Is there a map of the cemetery to help find graves? Looking for Otto family gravesites.

    Mike · 06/04/2014 01:17 PM · #

  10. For everyone looking for photos of specific grave in the cemetery:

    There is a website www.findagrave.com where volunteers find and photograph graves and memorials. Many are already available, but you can also request a photograph if it isn’t.

    Hope that helps!

    Sara · 07/03/2014 09:53 PM · #

  11. I am wanting to locate my grandmother,

    Mrs. Michael E. Peters (maiden name Mamary) Possibly died in 1918 or 1919. Her sister, Mrs. Elias (Mamary) Jacobs is buried there also.

    I am possibly coming to Pennsylvania the end of March, 2015 and want to visit my grandmothers grave.

    Can you help me?

    Diane Reynolds
    1-360-695-3923

    Diane Reynolds · 01/23/2015 11:53 PM · #

  12. I am trying to locate the burial site of Civil War veteran (1864-65) August Hook; born close to 1845 in Badon Germany & died close to and after 1903. Hook resided in the 2nd Ward (1870) of New Castle. Can you tell me if such a person is buried at Greenwood? Thank you.

    Jerry Orsini · 04/07/2015 02:03 PM · #

  13. if at all possible could someone find out if the graves next to house on the property are marked in someone for the landrum family there are about 6 to 8 graves there. or could someone let me know if they have ever found the book in which the names and locations of loves ones could be found

    tracey almond · 12/02/2015 03:42 PM · #