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Cemetery Descriptions and Locations in Altoona, PA


Transcribed from "Illustrated Altoona" pages 91-93


               There are five cemeteries within the limits of the city, and two very fine and large ones have recently been laid out a considerable distance beyond, since it has become apparent that Altoona will soon cover all the ground near by.

                Fair view is the oldest of all these, having been laid out about the year 1857. Its location is on Willow Avenue, between Ninth and Fifth Streets, and it extends back to the present city line at Eighteenth Avenue, containing over twenty acres, lying most beautifully for the purpose. It was some distance out of town at that date, but is now surrounded oil all sides with dwellings, and in a few years more the question of its removal will doubtless be considered. It is owned by an incorporated association, but the stockholders receive no profits or dividends, all revenue derived from sale of lots is devoted to improvements. It is used exclusively by the Protestant denominations, and no colored persons are interred there. It contains a fine soldiers’ monument, erected in 1867, to the soldiers of Altoona and Logan Township who fell in the late War of the Rebellion. There were four fine vaults in this cemetery, and many large and beautiful monuments. It is ornamented with many shade trees, and the walks and driveways are now being covered with finely-broken stone. The officers of this cemetery are A. Claybaugh, Secretary, with office on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Twelfth Street, and Robert Cox, Sexton, with residence—the property of the Association—opposite the entrance at Willow Avenue, near Eighth street.

                St. John's Cemetery, belonging to St. John's Roman Catholic Church, is finely located on the summit of Prospect Hill, Twelfth Street and First Avenue. In extent it is not so large as Fairview, but it is now nearly filled with graves, and is not likely to be used for sepulture much longer. The grounds here were purchased and laid out for a cemetery in 1858. There is one vault and a number of fine monuments and headstones. John O’Neil, secretary, Joseph Ryan is sexton.

                St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery lies on the southeast side of St. John’s, and is of about the same general character, and is the property of St. Mary’s German Catholic Church. It was laid out in 1879. Both these cemeteries command a fine view of Pleasant Valley.

                Oak Ridge Cemetery. This cemetery is the outgrowth of the conviction of many members of the Protestant churches on the East Side that they ought to have a cemetery on that side of the railroad. The ground was purchased from G. T. Bell in 1878, and consists of plot of nine acres lying beyond First Avenue and between Ninth and Twelfth Streets. The location is an eligible one, with an extensive view of Pleasant Valley and Brush Mountain beyond to the southeast. All receipts from the sale of lots are devoted to improvements, and the appearance of the cemetery is neat and tasty, many of the walks being of finely-broken stone, and the monuments and headstones of original and pleasing design. A new receiving vault was erected in 1805. H. B. Kendig is Secretary, and Thomas Stewart, Sexton.

                The Hebrew Cemeteries, two in number, are small inclosures, lying side by side, near the Dry Gap Road, about one mile northwest of the city line. They are reached by going out Washington Avenue from Fourteenth Avenue. They do not exhibit much evidence of care, and contain no large monuments.

                Eastern Light Cemetery. This is located at Tenth Street and First Avenue, adjoining Oak Ridge on the northwest. It is a small plot, and devoid of ornamentation. It is used exclusively by the colored people of the city without regard to denomination.

                New Calvary is a new cemetery, owned by the Roman Catholic congregations of the city. It consists of a tract of nearly one hundred acres, lying south of Pleasant Valley Road and between Collinsville and Old Allegheny Furnace. It has not yet been fully plotted, but will eventually take the place of the other two Catholic cemeteries as a place of burial, as they are small and pretty well filled up. John O’Neil, secretary; Joseph Ryan, sexton.

                Greenwood Cemetery is a new one, laid out in 1894 and 1895 by a number of enterprising business men. It is expected to return some revenue to stockholders, and, from its beautiful location and ample extent—nearly forty acres—it will doubtless prove a favorite place of interment with many, and especially with those who are not prescribed by denominational limitations. It is situated about one mile east of the eastern limits of the Eighth Ward and nearly south of Juniata Borough. It is also in the vicinity of the old Pottsgrove Mill and settlement. It is reached by a carnage road continuing beyond Sixth Avenue and First Street, and the Logan Valley Electric Railway will soon build a line there. They already run within half a mile of it. When this is done it will be very easy to access. A costly monument will be erected ere long by the Grand Army of the Republic. J. D. Bloomhart is secretary.

                Previous to establishment of Altoona cemeteries mentioned on page 92, and many years before Altoona's beginning, there was a small burying ground on an eminence east of the Old Allegheny Furnace, and, beginning with the erection of the Union Church, in 1838, where the colored Methodist Church now stands, Sixteenth Street and Union Avenue, a cemetery was enclosed embracing part of the squares now included between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets and Tenth and Twelfth Avenues.

                This cemetery, prior to the building of the railroad, was only a country burying ground, with a few scattered graves. But the rapid growth of Altoona during the earlier years, and before the opening of Fairview, made more frequent demands on its space, and it was soon pretty well filled up. Then, when it became apparent that the ground here would be wanted for building sites, the Fairview and St. John’s Cemeteries were laid out, and interments in this one discontinued. The town began to build up all around, and ere long the land was sold and the bodies removed to give place to the growing city, but it was not until about 1865 that the old Union Graveyard ceased to be. The present generation only learn of it accidentally.

                In like manner, ere the close of the coming century, Fairview, Oak Ridge and St. John’s will exist in history only, while their sites will be covered by a bustling, thriving city, whose numbers will be told by the hundreds of thousands.

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