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Civil War Blog

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Views of the Old Catholic Cemetery at Williamstown

Posted By on September 11, 2014

Two views of the Old Catholic Cemetery at Williamstown have been located.  The pictures have been enhanced for presentation here on this blog.

The first view appeared on page 92 of the Sesquicentennial History of Williamstown and Williams Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, published in 1976 by the Sesquicentennial Commission:

OldCathCemeteryWilliamstown-1907-001

30th of May at the Old Catholic Cemetery 1907

The picture appears to show a Memorial Day commemoration conducted by veterans of the Civil War.  Possibly the smoke in the background is from a cannon or gun salute at the cemetery.  Some of the men at left may be wearing G.A.R. uniforms, or perhaps uniforms from the Spanish-American War.

The second photograph is of a swimming hole at the same cemetery and is from page 148 of the same volume:

OldCathCemetery-Williamstown-SwimHole-001

Old Swimming Hole at Old Catholic Cemetery

It is not clear from the text of the article on the history of the Williamstown Borough Swimming Pool if the above picture was of the town pool or if the Catholics had a separate pool which was located at their cemetery.  Perhaps a reader can clarify this point.  Previously on this blog, a post discussed anti-Catholic behavior in Williamstown and how the G.A.R. Post there received a severe rebuke for supporting the forced Bible reading and prayer that was conducted in the public schools in 1906.  This led to the establishment of the Catholic Schools in Williamstown.  See: Williamstown G.A.R. Post Severely Rebuked for Bigotry.

On the matter of the separate cemeteries, this was the choice of the churches. The Old Catholic Cemetery, which was eventually abandoned, was originally established to meet the burial needs of the parishioners Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church of Williamstown.  Christian churches each had their own cemeteries – by their choice.  Early Catholics in the Williams Valley had to walk about five miles to Lykens to attend church there until 1865 when the first worship services were held in Williamstown.  The Old Catholic Cemetery was established in 1875 after the Summit Branch Railroad gave a grant of two acres to the church to establish its own cemetery.  Unfortunately, the Wiconisco Creek ran through the property and water began seeping into the graves.  A better location was sought.

Two families of two church members, William Budd and Richard Budd, both deceased Civil War veterans, gave the church land for a new cemetery.  At the time of the opening of the new cemetery in 1912, many of the parishioners chose to exhume their dead relatives and re-inter them at the new location.   The story of Richard Budd’s re-interment was presented on this blog in a post entitled Captain Richard Budd, 96th Pennsylvania Infantry.

For a story about the establishment and history of the Roman Catholic Church in Williamstown, see:  Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and Cemetery, Williamstown.

For a story about one of the 19th Century Priests at Williamstown, see: Rev. Hugh A. Loague, Catholc Priest at Williamstown.  Rev. Loague was at Frederick, Maryland, when Lee’s army came through on the way to Gettysburg and when it retreated from the battle.  He also was at the Jesuit school adjacent to St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. (which was across the street from Baptist Alley behind Ford’s Theatre), when John Wilkes Booth made his escape from Ford’s Theatre after assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

 


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