Celebrating 40 years!
The FIRST Township in Allegheny County
Retired teacher Sally Brooks (100), Speaker for the evening on Moon Township Area Schools, and her longtime neighbor, "Little Johnny"," John Kennedy, recall pleasant memories at the delightful April 6, 2015 meeting of the Moon Historical Society.
Comments on Moon Township Graveyards
by John Kennedy, March 2015
"Don’t quite know where to begin after attending our winter dinner meeting as guests of the Ben Avon Area Historical Association at the Shannopin Country Club. The program by Jennie Benford, Director of Programming of the Homewood Cemetery, was an hour. The speaker was quite thorough, presenting data on the Cemetery, but I kept remembering back 40 years ago when my Aunt was buried there. Following the hearse through this vast acreage of hills, valleys and roads, finally stopping at the gravesite high on the hill under the old apple tree. What kind of mapping system would you need to ever relocate that gravesite? The speaker, Jennie Benford, said VAST and it surely was.
"The food and service at Shannopin was excellent, and the evening ended too soon. I picked up three newsletters on the way out. Once home, I started reading, then read them a second time. I learned more from the newsletters than can be imagined. I was so impressed that I called Earl and agreed to write this for the Moon Township Spring newsletter.
"I didn’t need to go to Shannopin to learn cemetery stuff. Most people don’t know that cemeteries play a big part of Moon Township history."
Beaver County Times history columnist, Jeffrey Snedden, his grandfather-in-law from Moon Township, and John Kennedy, before the meeting began, April 6, 2015 at the Moon Township Library.
Members and visitors pour over the school collection of photos that John Kennedy brought to the meeting on April 6, 2015. Nice to see Lannie Gartner and her husband Rod Gartner there too! The Gartners are always seen at educational seminars, sometimes leading them too!
Most people don’t know that cemeteries play a big part of Moon Township history.
Way back in the 40’s something Allegheny County bought the famous Bell Dairy Farm. Mashuda from Wisconsin contracted to do the grading. The homes were purchased and moved; other buildings were torn down. The Curry Estate was located about where the Air Force and the 1952 Terminal Building were. The property also contained the Guillard Cemetery. Arrangements were made to transfer remains to the Sharon Church cemetery, but the Sharon plots were previously committed. Three acres were purchased from Clyde Meanor. These three acres abutted the Sharon cemetery and were covered with briars, vines and scrub trees. I got the job of clearing the ground and planting new grass.
So Guillard Cemetery remains were to be moved to Sharon. WW II was over; the soldiers were coming home to no jobs. The G.I. Bill provided “52-20” ($ 20 per week for 52 weeks, or until a job was found)to sustain them for a year . The veterans hand dug the Guillard graves with remains transported in wooden ammunition boxes. The boxes were transported by flatbed truck, with the undertaker in tow, to Sharon where new graves were dug. The lucky ones got their tombstones, the others a piece of pipe for a marker. The pipes were soon tossed, resulting in a nice grassy area.
Guillard was relocated to the lower area; Sharon Cemetery had the topside by the roadway. The Guillard area was donated to Sharon Church. For my efforts I was rewarded with two cemetery lots, but who thinks about gravesites when you are 18 years old?
That darn airport, expanding again, took my 13 year old house and the surrounding balance of the Maggie Hood farm. That yonder hill, they just cut a path right through it, making a new runway towards Clinton. But on takeoff, the air traffic controllers lost radio contact through the cut, so the hill had to come down. Halfway through the field on the hill was the Hood Cemetery. It needed to be moved to Sharon again. I found out that the Board allowed a contractor to dig the new gravesite. My friend was appointed to be the gravedigger for about $11,000 a year. He was digging by hand and later I found that he was going to quit. The change of plans resulted in use of my backhoe and a vault. The undertaker showed up with baby boxes, some bones with red hair. Too much for one vault, so another vault was needed before the project was over. A large brass marker with “Hood” marks the new location.
Yet another old cemetery to be moved, right in the heart of town. This was the one used by the Meek families, and it is time that I revive an old Meek story. My grandfather, from Hookstown, walked his sheep to market in Pittsburgh. He stayed over at the Meek residence and the next day walked the sheep on to Pittsburgh. So he knew the Meek families well. And knew that the Meek Cemetery was located near their house on Beaver Grade Road.
Pennsylvania allowed the townships to spend $ 200 per year to maintain old and abandoned grave sites. We cleared the brush and weeds, straightened the tombstones and fences for the Meek Cemetery. The Meek cemetery needed to be moved to make way for our new neighbors, Forest Glen Apartments. It was moved to Sewickley Cemetery, but I had no part in the move.
Now I know Jennie Benford, the Homewood Cemetery lady researched everything for her talk, but I did not have to research Moon cemeteries because I was there and I would not have missed it for anything.
I almost forgot, remember those lots given to me when I was 18? The Cemetery Board member moved south and never gave me the Deed for my Sharon acreage. Forty years later, I got the deed for a whole block. I’m thinking I might need the room if they are going to bury my many stories with me. One hole ain’t going to do it.
John Kennedy has a certain wit about him... similar to the memorable +Captain Frederick Way, Jr. of Sewickley, with his story-telling ways. We're appreciative of all of John Kenney's efforts on behalf of the Moon Township Historical Society.