One campus cemetery documented, 3 unfound

Pat Gilles, Staff Writer

Unbeknownst to many UPJ students, their college has a family cemetery in its woods. This is a final resting place for members of the Baumgardener family dating from 1863 to the early 1900s.

UPJ historian and Business Office employee George Hancock wrote a 1984 newspaper article regarding the Baumgardener family grave site.

In the article, he said Pitt-Johnstown acquired the land in 1966. John F. Lewis was hired to conduct a detailed study of the land purchase, and he did not mention the Baumgardener Cemetery in his report.

The knowledge of the family cemetery’s location would remain a mystery for some time until now-defunct Windber Era weekly newspaper featured the gravesite on April 3, 1984.

According to both history professor Paul Newman and Hancock, there is a multitude of graves inside of the Baumgardener cemetery, including some other families.

Newman said 85 graves were located, some of them fieldstones marked only by initials.

“This includes the large obelisk with the names of some of the Baumgardeners dating from the 19th century,” Newman said.

Campus history club members have been a major factor in keeping the cemetery site clear of debris.

We try to keep the place up, to remember the people who came here to open up the land for us,” said Newman. “The History Club has had stewards of the place since the ’80s.”

Some time after History Club members started their groundkeeping, service roads into the cemetery were gated.

Newman theorized that the gating was to keep out unwanted disturbances for the resting dead.

“They probably gated those roads off because of vehicles with 4-wheel drive, fear of property damage and hunters … and, for the most part, liability in the case of someone sustaining injuries on the property.”

However, this does not stop Hancock or Newman from making the hike down to the cemetery to maintain the site and remember the graves of the lost.

There are records of other cemeteries on campus property. However, no one has been able to locate the other three family cemeteries for Wissingers, Fausts and Millers.

With the help of old Richland Township maps, Hancock said he believes one cemetery is under a MetLife building’s foundation.