Category Archives: Bethany Cemetery

The Bethany Cemetery was originally the churchyard of Bethany Presbyterian Church, now located on Washington Avenue in Bridgeville. It was founded in 1814 and continued to receive burials until 1943. Many of the early tombstones from 1830 and before are still quite legible.

Visiting this cemetery is a bit of an adventure. It sits above the Presto-Sygan Road, and just to the south of the cemetery there is a little space in the weeds where one can pull off and park—if no one else is parked there. One must then walk back along the road, squashed against the stone wall, until one reaches the steps up into the cemetery.

Mary and Samuel Stewart Monuments, Bethany Cemetery

These matching monuments have been a little damaged by time, but still make an impressive pair. Mary’s has a profile vignette that looks as though it is meant for a portrait of the deceased. Small as it is, it is a fine piece of work.

In Memory of
who departed this life
March 25, 1855,
Aged 74 years
6 mos & 3 days.

Consort of
who — — —death
— — from — —
Sept. the 2, 1842,
In the 61st year
of her age

Father Pitt was not able to read the entire inscription. In fact Mary’s monument is covered with inscriptions on all sides, most of which seem from the form of them to be poems or hymns, but which have been made illegible by the gradual erosion of the marble. We can, however, read the signature of the artist: “Ed. WILKINS PITT.”

On the back of the monument is another profile, smaller and much more eroded than the one on the front:

Father Pitt suspects that it may represent a son who died in childhood.

Maria Garrard Tombstone, Bethany Cemetery

Aug 2, 1848(?)
Aged ? Yrs.

A good example of what old Pa Pitt calls the “poster style,” with each line in a different style of lettering. The limestone has softened too much for us to read the whole inscription. It looks as though there may have been a second name below the main inscription—perhaps an infant child.

Father Pitt usually makes legibility his priority in photographing old tombstones, but the situation of this one, with the fallen tree behind it, demanded a more artistic treatment.

Robert and Abigail Hopper Monuments, Bethany Cemetery

A pair of matched urn-topped ,marble monuments—matched, but not quite. It looks as though Robert’s heirs could not get exactly the same design when he died three and a half years after his wife. The epitaphs were clearly inscribed by different artists. (The tree in the background had just fallen the night before Father Pitt visited, fortunately doing no damage to the monuments.)

The epitaph:

Dearest Mother, thou hast left us,
And thy loss we deeply feel;
But ’tis God that hast [sic] bereft us.
He can all our sorrows heal.

The epitaph:

It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

Richard Coulter Tombstone, Bethany Cemetery

memory of
who departed this life
May 4th 1821, Aged 22 years
Long, long expected home, and lo:
Home he has scarcely come,
Till he is summon’d and must go
To his eternal home.

This is a fairly well-preserved tombstone from nearly two centuries ago, and that is of course interesting enough. The most interesting thing, however, is the poem, which is from a collection of poems by the very obscure James Meikle, this one being headed “On a gentleman who died after his return to his family from foreign parts, after an absence of twelve years.” The poem itself is dated 1768, but it was kept in manuscript until after the poet’s death in 1799. The only edition of the posthumous poems of Meikle Father Pitt has been able to find is one published in Pittsburgh in 1819, two years before the death of Richard Coulter; so that we know with near certainty that whoever specified the epitaph on this stone had read it in this particular book.

Martha McMurray Monument, Bethany Cemetery

Sept. 18, 1856
In the 56th Yr.
of her age
Wife of

The influence of printing on grave markers in the 1850s is especially obvious in this one, which, in its broad variety of lettering styles—a different one for each line—looks very much like a printed poster from the same era. Father Pitt cannot quite read the epitaph.

Goodman Y. Coulter, Jr., Monument, Bethany Cemetery

Died in N. Orleans
March 1, 1851
interred here
March 21, 1851
in his 21 year.

To the young
He being dead yet speaketh.

A good example of the style of the 1850s; it must have looked very modern beside the traditional tombstones of ten years earlier. “He being dead yet speaketh” is a quotation from Hebrews 11:4.

Morgan Tombstones, Bethany Cemetery

In Memory of
Who departed this life
[Marc]h the 7th 1836
[in the —]th year of his age

Here is a pair of tombstones by the same extraordinary folk artist—and, because he actually signed one of them, we know his name: H. Savage. Both are badly damaged, but they form a pair side by side, so old Pa Pitt guesses that the illegible stone marks the resting place of Mrs. Billingsley Morgan. Unlike most Western Pennsylvania tombstones of the 1830s, these are handsomely carved in relief, much like the famous New England tombstones of the colonial era, but without the flying skulls.

Even this unusually artistic and ambitious stonecutter did not sketch out his lettering before beginning the inscription, so that he ran out of space for the name “MORGAN” on Billingsley Morgan’s tombstone.

James McKown Tombstone, Bethany Cemetery

The 1840s were a time when the old art of tombstone-cutting was dying out, and new styles came into vogue—styles that, in many ways, imitated the styles of engravings of the era. Here is a good example: a large tombstone from 1848 that looks very much like an engraved title page of the same era. It no longer has the handmade look of even the best local craftsmen’s work, and it is executed in more expensive stone that turned out to be much less permanent. With some difficulty, we can make out most of the inscription except the epitaph:

Feb. 25, 1848
In the 60th year
of his age

The surname “McKown” is damaged, but there are several other McKowns buried in this graveyard, so there is little question about the reading.