Green Tree plans continued cleanup at cemetery it owns

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Most cemeteries are privately owned and operated even if they bear a municipality's name.

Not so anymore with the Green Tree Cemetery on Greentree Road, which last summer came under the ownership of the 2.1-square-mile borough.

The German United Evangelical Congregation that purchased the property in 1873 later joined with the United Church of Christ in the Elliott section of Pittsburgh, but as the years passed, membership of the consolidated church dwindled.

In August, ownership of the 2-acre cemetery, which may contain more than 1,300 graves, was transferred to Green Tree along with $90,000 to be used for upkeep.

Bordered by the borough's Nature Center on one side and homes on two other sides, the cemetery has a county assessment of $600,000.

Borough manager David Montz estimates that it will cost $5,000 annually to maintain the property.

"It's been let go for so long," he said, adding that some headstones have been knocked over and others eclipsed by shrubbery.

"I think our guys did a really good job with the initial cleanup," he said, adding that he hopes to recruit community volunteers to help with upkeep.

"One of the things we found out over time is that a lot of churches had cemeteries. As congregations got older, there were fewer people taking care of them," he added.

One burial has taken place since the borough assumed ownership, he said. Although records indicate all of the site's burial plots have been allocated, officials aren't sure yet if all of the graves are filled.

Mr. Montz added that the cemetery's gate is being refurbished and will be kept closed.

Two other area municipalities that own cemeteries are Carnegie and Collier.

Carnegie's Ross Colonial Cemetery, located atop Library Hill at Christy Avenue, contains the graves of 26 early settlers. Many share the same last name: 11 are named Ross; two, Silk; two, Hope; four, Burrough; four, Bell; one, Elliot; one, Foster; and one Neeland. Some people in the area still have those names today. The Ross family is known to have settled in the area around the time of the Revolutionary War.

Ownership of the 8,412-square-foot historical site was taken by Carnegie in the early 1950s, but the county and Carlynton School District also are listed as current owners. The cemetery was re-dedicated on May 31, 1976, by the Carnegie Bicentennial Committee "so that our children can tell their children."

Carnegie resident Judi Stadler credits a neighborhood couple with maintaining the cemetery. Efforts to reach the couple were unsuccessful.

Although Ms. Stadler concedes that some of the lettering on the burial stones is no longer readable, she believes the site is still a plus for the borough.

"It's one more thing to draw people into Carnegie," she said, pointing out its proximity to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.

In Collier, the township purchased 50.02 acres of the Woodville Cemetery at the Woodville State Hospital property for $1 in late 2002. The acreage extends from Thoms Run Road to Hilltop Road near an existing 3.8-acre play/picnic area called Hilltop Park.

"We did it so the cemeteries wouldn't disappear," recalled Doreen Ducsay, former president of the township commissioners.

Woodville State Hospital previously was known as the Allegheny County Hospital and Home for the Insane and Tuberculosis Sanitarium. The hospital buildings are gone, but a 1987 memorial at the cemetery's entrance indicates the cemetery was in use from 1867-1949.

Collier officials intend to use the township's 50 acres of former cemetery property for recreational purposes.

The land is located on a wooded slope that abuts Hilltop Road and overlooks Interstate 79, a site that offers a view of much of the surrounding county.

Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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