Cemetery on campus unseen for years

Kaitlin R. Greenockle, News Editor

On Halloween approximately 10 years ago, a group of 20 to 25 Pitt-Johnstown students took a night  walk to a cemetery on campus property with flashlights and lanterns.

This journey was planned by Student Life staff at the time, and the group was accompanied by campus police.

Registrar office employee George Hancock met this group of students there that night since his home is not too far from the cemetery.

Hancock says he has done much research on the cemetery. He said the fun Halloween outing included hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.

Hancock told the story of the cemetery.

As Hancock was explaining its history, he noticed a police officer had disappeared. Not thinking much of it, he continued to keep the students engaged.

Then the officer crept behind two female students, put his arms around them and said “Hi.”

“Those girls screamed like heck,” Hancock said.

Hancock is a Pitt-Johnstown alumnus who was graduated in 1975. Throughout his time at Pitt-Johnstown as a student, he said he never knew that the cemetery existed.

His first two years here, Pitt-Johnstown was a two year institution so the majority of students were commuters who didn’t tend to venture away from the main buildings.

The cemetery is near what was once a working farm with remnants of the farm house still there today.

Hancock said his research on the cemetery has uncovered some puzzling information.

For one, he has counted 85 burial plots, but only 14 of them have typical headstones. The rest have pieces of rock with names etched into them.

Back in the ‘10s, he took an evening summer biology course, which was one of the first groups to go out on campus nature trails.

On the trail, only about 50-60 yards away from the cemetery, no one had a clue it was there, not even the professor, said Hancock.

“The cemetery was discovered most likely 10-15 years after I graduated from Pitt-Johnstown,” Hancock said.

Hancock found it interesting that two families were buried in the same cemetery; there are the Foust family and the Baumgardner family.

Based on his research, the Baumgarner family most likely bought the farm from the Fousts.

“We don’t know exactly where these people are buried,” Hancock said.

The Baumgardner family is one of the oldest Richland Township families dating back to 1800, according to Hancock’s research.

When Pitt-Johnstown officials bought campus land in 1966, the cemetery was included in the property, but when the detailed land study was done, the cemetery was never mentioned in the report.

Currently, History Club members maintain the cemetery out of respect for those buried there and for students to enjoy its history as one of their service projects, according to History Club President Dylan Lahm.

When Assistant Academic Affairs Vice President Paul Newman was the club’s adviser, he had reset a headstone that was found near the main buildings, Lahm said.

Once a semester, the club members gather to clean up debris, weeds and headstones, Lahm said.

They get supplies from Physical Plant workers, and after an hour or so of cleaning, all the members take time to walk around the cemetery and pay respect to those who have died.