Saturday, September 30, 2006
Civil War Voices
This is an event that you don't want to miss. Tours begin at 6 P.M. and leave from the main gate (10th Street between Chew and Liberty) of the Union and West End Cemetery every 15 minutes.
You will hear voices from beyond the grave, as Civil War letters from the Society's collection come to life during your walk through the cemetery.
There will be Union Soldiers bivouacked just inside the main gate. The tour will visit the graves of Winfield Steckel, Thomas Yeager, The Heckers, John Ritter, Walter Fetzer, William Sowden and Charles Issermoyer.
If you have never taken a tour during one of the Historical Societies annual events in the Union and West End Cemetery, then you are in for a treat. If you have taken the tour in the past, then you know it is an event worth the time and the money, and every year it is different. So don't miss out! Plan on being there and enjoying the experience of an evening in a historical cemetery listening to the Civil War Voices. The price is right, come out and enjoy!
Sponsored by the Lehigh County Historical Society, the County of Lehigh and the Union and West End Cemetery Association.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Photos - Echoes of the 1860's
Photo by Everette Carr
Photo by Everette Carr
"AND THE BAND PLAYED ON"
To view these and additional photographs by Todd Leister, go to Todd's web site:
Monday, September 25, 2006
Echoes of the 1860's
Echoes of the 1860's
The program was held in the cemetery as scheduled and there was an excellent turnout for the event. Although rain threatened to cancel the concert, ultimately, we were blessed with bright blue skies and sunshine. A large crowd was present to enjoy the music and the quite serenity of the cemetery.
The Union and West End Cemetery Association gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the following for making the concert possible:
and a very special thank you to:
Also, we extend our thanks to Tom Ruch, who portrayed Major Amos Ettinger, Allentown Band Conductor 1851-1860, for a job well done.
The Union and West End Cemetery Association would also like to thank Director Ron Demkee and the Allentown Band Members for there wonderful program.
We have loads and loads of photographs of the event, both amateur and professional. Watch the blog in future days for photographs taken at the Allentown Band Concert. Also, to come, photos of the many unusual and unique headstones in the cemetery. Stay tuned!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Dogs Owners Disregard Cemetery Signs
In response to the situation, CUNA assembled a number of city employees to address concerns over the conditions at the cemetery and to solicit the cooperation of various city agencies to solve the problem. Approximately 110 concerned citizens were in the audience representing a number of different churches and other community organizations in the area. Also in attendance at the meeting were five members of the board of the Union and West End Cemetery Association. The U&WE board members were there to support CUNA and to benefit from there approach to the problem as the Union and West End Cemetery Association is experiencing similar problems.
Although the city of Allentown has an ordinance against dogs trespassing and the ordinance prohibits dogs from running loose anywhere in the city, it has not been enforced by the authorities. The law further stipulates that no owner or any person having control of any animal shall permit the same to discharge or deposit any fecal matter upon the property of another without immediately removing such matter and disposing of it in a sanitary manner. But the more grievious problem is that the dogs are prohibted from entering the cemetery for any purpose and there are signs posted indicating such.
Unlike The Old Allentown Cemetery, which is open, the Union and West End Cemetery is completely enclosed by fencing which helps to limit the number of dogs in the cemetery. Signs, in English and Spanish are prominently posted at every entrance to the cemetery clearly stating the dogs are prohibited from the cemetery premises. Only on occasion is it necessary to remind dog owners that the cemetery is off limits. However, there is a grassy area outside the fencing where dog owners walk their dogs and the dogs deposit fecal matter. Many of the dog owners in the neighborhood pick up the feces deposited by their dogs, but some do not. This strip of grass outside the fenced area is the property and responsibility of the cemetery association. Accumulated feces is a health hazard and extremely messy when the volunteers encounter it with a lawn mower or a line trimmer. How could anyone believe that they have a right to ignore fecal matter deposited by their dog?
At the CUNA meeting, several speakers on the agenda voiced concerns for the health and welfare of the community and the defilement of sacred and historical ground. They called attention to the failure of the city to enforce existing laws. In response, city officials pledged their support and agreed to assist in anyway possible to ensure that this problem is brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Ann Saurmann of the Bureau of Solid Waste and Recycling pledged to have a SWEEP (Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program) officer patrol the Old Allentown Cemetery at least once each day for the next ninety days. They will appear at various times and will issue citations to violators. Gary Ritter, another city representative, agreed to send a letter to the residents in the surrounding neighborhood reminding them of the existing laws and letting them know that the laws will be enforced. The area to be covered includes the streets surrounding the Union and West End Cemetery.
Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna also committed to have officers patrol the area watching for violators. The city plans to install surveillance cameras at various locations in the city and Hanna indicated that one such camera will be installed at 10th and Linden where the Old Allentown Cemetery is located.
It is believed that more rigid enforcement of the pet ordinances will also deter other criminal activity in the area. Other problems that both cemeteries have to deal with are vandals, vagrants, and littering. The litter problem along the Union and West End Cemetery is atrocious. Even though the city provides receptacles all along the sidewalks, people seemingly prefer to toss their litter on the ground along the cemetery fence. How could people be so callously irresponsible with regard to the appearance of their own neighborhood? I, for one, simply do not understand.
The volunteers that maintain the cemetery, inside and outside the fence, try to maintain it in reasonably good order, although it is an ongoing struggle. We need the people that live in the neighborhood to take pride in their neighborhood and to help by stopping the littering that goes on outside the cemetery.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Red-Tailed Hawk in Residence
I have always had a fascination for hawks and red-tailed hawks in particular. I could sit and watch them as they soar high above in ever widening circles trying to catch an up-draft. They seemingly soar, effortless for hours when winds are favorable.
Red-tailed hawk - "Buteo jamaicensis". The Red-tailed Hawk ranges throughout North America to central Alaska and northern Canada, and south as far as the mountains of Panama. Although not truly migratory, they do adjust seasonally to areas of the most abundant prey . In winter many of the northern birds move south.
A red-tailed hawk weighs between 2-4 pounds and is between 17 and 22 inches in length with a wing span up to 56 inches. A red-tailed hawk reaches sexual maturity at 3 years of age. Mating season is early spring and the female lays from 1 to 3 eggs with an incubation period of 28-32 days.
The life span of a red-tailed hawk is from 10-21 years. Hawks are carnivores (meat eaters) and belong to the category of birds known as raptors. Their diet usually consists of small rodents and snakes. They are attracted to the cemetery because of the abundance of rabbits and squirrels. The eye sight of a red-tailed hawk is eight times as powerful as that of a human.
The Red-tailed Hawk is usually found in grasslands or marsh-shrub habitats, but is very adaptable bird, being equally at home in center city Allentown. It is not known where the red-tailed hawk or hawks that frequent the cemetery have their nest, but they are almost daily visitors to the cemetery, particularly when one of the volunteers are in the cemetery cutting grass. They wait in the trees for the riding mower to scare up a rabbit and then swoop down and invariably snag a meal. Gross? Perhaps, but it is the law of the land, the nature of things and we must accept them as such. Besides, we couldn't do anything about it, even if we wanted to. Isn't "Google" wonderful? You can find such interesting and informative information just by inputting words like "Red-Tailed Hawk".
I have observed, what I believe to be, a male hawk on a number of occasions in the cemetery. At times I was totally unaware of his presence in the trees that parallel my section of the cemetery until, much to my surprise, I inadvertently scared up a rabbit as I mowed the grass. The rabbit skittering out from between stones was enough to scare the life out of me, but then to have a red-tailed hawk swoop down across in front of me was a double shock. Only on a rare occasion has the red-tailed hawk failed to capture his prey.
On one occasion, a hawk flew into a dead tree and perched on a limb in full view as I cut grass along Liberty Street. As I worked my way, row by row from east to west toward twelfth Street, it sat patiently in the tree, just waiting and watching. Ultimately, I was cutting the rows directly underneath the limb upon which the hawk was perched. The only movement was the head as it observed my movements. It sat in that tree without moving for a full 45 minutes. When I finished that section and moved on to another section, it also moved to a tree closer to my new position. Smart? You bet! The hawk or hawks, as the case may be, position themselves in nearby trees when they hear the lawn mowers. They instinctively know that the lawn mower might scare up some small rodent if they are patient.
Unfortunately, I usually do not carry a camera with me when cutting grass and, as a result, miss numerous opportunities to photograph the red-tailed hawk(s) that inhabits our cemetery. Just this past Monday, September 18, I was cutting a section of cemetery when a hawk swooped down and perched on a nearby monument. It was not very far away from my position and it would have been a wonderful photograph. But I did not have a camera. I rapidly departed to go to my truck to get my camera, but alas, the hawk did not wait for my return.
Today, Tuesday, September 19, 2006, I had finished cutting grass and was driving through the cemetery intent on taking photographs of unusual tombstones for a future post, and as I looked up beyond the tombstone I was photographing, there it was, majestically sitting on the top of a stone not far away. It was if he or she realized that I had missed an opportunity and now it was being accommodating, allowing me to approach to get a decent shot of the red-tailed hawk that inhabits our cemetery.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
A Day In The Cemetery
But...put yourself on a riding lawn mower, that is a bit battered and bruised, in a centuries old cemetery with row after row of poorly aligned old tombstones and that can be an altogether and totally different story entirely.
If you have read earlier postings about the Union and West End Cemetery, you are aware that it dates back more than 150 years. Most of the tombstones have been in place well over fifty years and some more than three times that long.
Can you imagine how many times the cemetery grass over these graves has been cut in all those years? Can you appreciate how many times those stones, now in irregular rows, have been bumped, nudged, moved, rocked or knocked off their base? The rows weren't always irregular; the stones didn't always lean at a strange angle, as so many of them do today.
Although many of the stones that were toppled by vandals have now, once again, been placed upright, a series of stones still topple mysteriously, seemingly without rhyme of reason. So, yes we still occasionally experience vandalism, and, of course we still have to patrol the cemetery on "All Hallows Eve" to prevent additional destruction. But it has gotten better, particularly since the lights were installed in the cemetery.
Because of the age of some of the stones, many simply fall over of their own accord. The cement that was keeping the stone atop it's pedestal might have dried out and on the next windy, rainy night...the stone, or several stones, or perhaps a dozen stones come tumbling down. So, in any particular section of the cemetery, as you maneuver down a row of stones, you will likely encounter a downed stone blocking your path.
If you are unfortunate enough to be assigned a section of the cemetery that has not been cut for a two or three week period then you face a different challenge altogether; the challenge is to cut the grass while guessing at where some of the stones lay, or is it lie? Well, at any rate, when you plant the lawn mower deck firmly on top of a downed stone it makes the most unholy noise you will ever hear. You will not soon forget that noise, nor will you want to experience it ever again.
Then there is the problem of heavy rains and sinking graves. Much like pot holes in the street after a heavy downpour, in a cemetery, large, deep holes can appear literally overnight after a heavy rain. Believe me, you do not want to experience the feeling of having your lawn mower go out from under you when you drive into a hole that was not there the last time you cut the grass.
I had a recent experience in a section of the cemetery that had not been cut for several weeks and the grass had grown unusually high. It had rained for several days previous and on the first sunny day I ventured out into the cemetery to cut some grass. I selected the 'Scag' as the piece of equipment that I would use. I love the 'Scag'! It is my favorite piece of equipment. The 'Scag' is an orange monster; a commercial mower that is a zero-turn mower that is very maneuverable, in spite of it's size, weight and heavy duty construction. I emphasize it's weight and size because the rain of the past several days, before my cemetery outing, came down heavy at times; the kind of rain my father used to call a "gully washer". But on this warm summer day, I headed out to a section of cemetery that was quite overgrown and as I maneuvered up and down the narrow isles between the stones, everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Then I made a sharp left turn at the end of a stone intending to cut the grass between two widely spaced stones and when I put the machine in reverse to place myself and the 'Scag' lateral to the row of graves, suddenly the ground beneath me gave way and the left rear wheel of the 'Skag' dropped into a hole next to the tombstone.
I found myself hanging on to a mower that was perched precariously at something like a 45 degree angle. The left wheel was up to the hub in a hole and the only thing preventing us from going deeper into that hole was the Skag's 48 inch mower deck which was positioned flat on solid ground.
Wow! What a sensation! The idea of falling into a grave never appealed to me. I am not particularly spooked by the idea of working in a cemetery, not even after dark, but still, I did not relish the idea of being intimate with someone buried many years before. Although it was a large and a very deep hole, there never was any real danger of my falling in.
Once I gathered my wits about me, I made a feeble attempt to drive the mower out of its predicament, but, of course, that wasn't going to happen, so I begrudgingly walked to my truck on the far side of the cemetery.
My truck, although a relatively small Ford Ranger, is equipped with four-wheel drive and, with the aid of a good chain, it yanked the 'Scag' out of the hole in short order. That's me, the guy with all the white hair and the silly grin on my face.
Once the 'Scag' was clear of the hole and, upon closer inspection, the hole was much deeper than I had at first suspected. Jerry Haas, another volunteer and a director of the cemetery association, thought my situation was pretty funny. That's him, the one laughing and standing in the hole. He claims he was not actually touching bottom.
Laughing at my predicament seems like odd behavior and a strange attitude for the guy that maintains the 'Scag' and all of the cemetery association's other equipment. But the 'Scag' came through it all in fine shape. I was none the worse for wear as well, so we, the 'Scag' and I, continued on our way, cutting acres of grass, well into the early evening, without further incident.
I would like to suggest that this is not a typical outing in the cemetery and was, in fact, a rare occurrence for me and most others that volunteer in the cemetery. Yet, the 'Skag' and I have had some adventures together. The directors of the cemetery do not allow many people to use the 'Scag', mainly because one can very quickly and easily get into trouble because of its maneuverability and power. I have only learned to use the 'Scag' this season and, in the early days, it was somewhat trial and error. There were a few errors that were noteworthy and may be the subject of future postings.
But seriously, for those that might be interested in coming out and assisting us with the upkeep of the cemetery, most of our riding mowers are of the traditional lawn and garden variety and are relatively easy to operate. You will still face some obstacles; irregular rows of stones, downed stones and the like, but it is not that challenging. The cemetery can be a very peaceful, tranquil place. When I leave the cemetery, after cutting an acre or so of grass, I leave with a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of well-being and with the knowledge that I have, in some small way, given something back. That feeling of good-will normally last more than a week, but sadly, the grass will need cutting again within a weeks time. And so it goes, from spring until late fall. I love fall, but I will miss the cemetery and those quite, warm summer evenings when the birds sing and the squirrels scurry about and the leaves rustle in the trees on a soft summer breeze. Be careful!, the Union and West End Cemetery can grow on you.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Cemetery - More Recent Past
As indicated earlier, in 1997 the Board of Directors, having run out of funds, resigned their positions and abandoned the cemetery. It soon became a weed infested waste land; a haven for drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.
Neither the City of Allentown nor Lehigh County wanted to take responsibility for maintaining the premises although they made efforts to organize community clean-ups. Finally in 1999 a new group of residents took on the responsibility as volunteers to manage and maintain the cemetery property. The original incorporated association formed in 1895 continues to function, abet with new members of the Board of Directors, duly approved and installed by the lot owners, or at least those that have been identified and located.
The current Board of Directors consists of the following individuals. These indiviuals not only manage the cemetery, but each and everyone is actively engaged in maintaining the cemetery; performing the many varied tasks associated with a cemetery and it's upkeep.
Vice President: Janet E. Hagenauer
Vice President: Everette H. Carr
Treasurer: William R. MacHose
Secretary: Nicolette Clark
Donald J. Hagenauer
Gerald R. Haas
Donald W. Leitzel
Donald L. Solt
The board is actively pursuing grants and seeking 'Sustaining Sponsors' to help provide funds for the restoration and routine maintenance of the cemetery. The board is actively searching for additional volunteers to help with required maintenance duties. The City of Allentown and Lehigh County continue to be supportive and provide some assistance when they can. The Allentwon Community Corrections Center provides inmates three Sundays a month for three hours. These individuals earn credit for community service and, during their time in the cemetery, mow grass, weed whack and reset stones.
Although sources for grants changes from time to time, the following have provided support over the years.
However, in spite of these resources, the cemetery struggles to meet it's financial needs each year. If you would like to provide financial assistance, forward your donation to the Union and West End Cemetery Association , 618 Greenwood Street, Allentown, PA 18103.
The Union and West End Cemetery Association is registered as a non-profit cemetery association under Internal Revenue Code Section 501 (c)(13). All non-restricted donations are tax-deductible.
If you have an interest in volunteering some time to assist the board in the up-keep of the cemetery, please call President Chuck Canning at 610-432-2992. He will be delighted to hear from you.
Monday, September 04, 2006
The Cemetery Past
Items included in this post were taken from the minutes of board meetings over the years and reflect the circumstances and instances that took place at that time and place.
This following represents a resolution adopted by the association in the late 1890's:
|Section 9. All graves shall be five feet in depth, except for children under the age of ten years, when they shall not be less than four feet deep.|
|Section 10. Foundation for all monuments, head stones and the like shall be of stone, laid in cement or concrete. They must be of the same size as the base to be placed thereon and must be four feet deep for mounuments and at least 21/4 feet for head and foot stones, and rest on the covering of the coffin. If made by the association the cost shall be the prevailing charge per cubic foot for such foundation.|
|CHARGES FOR PREPARING GRAVES|
|For walled graves:|
|Under 1 year$4.00|
|2 to 4 years 5.00|
|4 to 6 years 6.00|
|6 to 8 years 7.00|
|8 to 10 years 11.00|
|10 to 12 years 12.00|
|Over 12 years 13.00|
|Brick bottom and 4 inch wall to two courses above coffin. Cementing sides, $1. Foundation, headstones and footstones, 8 inches, $1.50; 10 inches, $2; 12 inches, $2.50.|
|9 inch walled graves, 40 per cent. addditional.|
|For box graves:|
|Under 1 year $1.00|
|1 to 3 years 1.50|
|3 to 6 years 1.75|
|6 to 9 years 2.00|
|9 to 11 years 2.50|
|Over 11 years 2.00|
Ground in single grave lot for adults, $3; ground in single grave lot for children, same as digging.
The Board of Directors first considered fencing in the combined cemetery in the year 1901.
Board of Directors Minutes, june 6, 1901
A special meeting for the committee on fence to report proposals, for the building of a fence along 10th and Chew Streets, having selected pattern no. 522 of the Smith Mfg. Co., Waynesboro, Pa. To wit, 5/8" round picket, rail 7/16 x 1 /2", 4 ft. high, no. 3 rails, pickets to be 2 1/2", apart from center, to include no. 3 walking and two driving gates, with pipe posts not less than 8" sq., and walking gates not less than 5" sq., the driving gates to be arched...no of feet required about 1,700.
At an adjourned meeting of the Cemetery Board held July 9, 1901, the decision for erecting a fence along Chew Street and 10th Street was again considered and the contract was awarded to F. N. Peter & Bro., style no. 28, by the following specification. Essentially the same as stated by the Smith Mfg. Co., except the pickets would be 3 1/2 " apart and the drive gates to have a nice ornamental arch, with letters as selected, cut out, and all single and double gates to have scrollwork on top, made of good material, erected complete and fastened with stones, cement and sand, with one coat black paint at shop and second coat of paint at your place when fence is erected. The fence is 1,756 1/2 ft. at $1.12 per lineal foot all complete, making the cost of the fence $1.967.28 net.
The contract was awarded to F. N. Peter & Bro. at a regular meeting held September 2, 1901 stipulating that it should be completed by November 1st of that year. However, at the meeting on November 4th, the minutes reflect that the F. N. Peter & Bro. foundry was destroyed by fire before they entered into the contract. But they agreed to extend the contract with copletion of the fence by May 20, 1902.
In 1904, the City of Allentown of Allentown attempted to hold the cemetery association responsible for paving a public thoroughfare.
At a regular meeting of the board held on July 11, 1904, the board discussed a notice received from the City of Allentown that the association would have to pay for asphalting of Chew Street from 10th to 12th.
The city had notified the cemetery association that they would be responsible for covering the cost of asphalting Chew Street from 10th to 12th Street. The board did not believe it was their responsibility and requested an attorney to look into the matter. When a lengthy report was given by Attorney John Rupp that "public property used for public purposes shall not be subject to tax claims or municipal clains, and actual places of worship, places of burial not used or held for public or corporate profit, and institutions of purely public charity, shall not be subject to tax or municipal claims except...sewer connections...paving of footways in front thereof." It was determined that the cemetery association was not responsible for asphalting the public street.
Curbs and sidewalks were on the agenda in 1904-1905.
The association moved to curb Chew Street from 10th to 12th Street and 12th Street from Chew to Liberty Street and received bids at a special meeting held July 13, 1904. The contract was awarded to Jpseph P. Snyder for cement curbing at 50 cents per linear foot.
On September 14, 1904, bids were received to pave a sidewalk on Shew Street from 10th to 12th, which was awarded to Hohn M. Schondt at 121/2 cents per foot amounting to $697.28. The cost for the curbing for 2,120 feet was $1,060.
In July of 1905, the directors considered curbing Liberty Street and at the September 5, 1905, regular meeting awarded the contract to Mr. O. S. Hoch at 40 cents per foot for 369 feet.
The Allentown Band
The Allentown Band
Participation of Civil War Reenactment Units
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
"City of the Silent"
The Union and West End Cemetery is the final resting place of over 700 Civil War veterans as well as five Revolutionary War Soldiers, famous politicians, academics, and clergymen. Those buried in the cemetery include Medal of Honor recipient, Ignatz Gresser, a simple shoe maker that distinguished himself in battle; a United States Congressman; the first Allentown Mayor, Samuel MacHose; colorful Allentown mayors, Edward Young and Fred Lewis; the first Dean of Muhlenberg College, Henry Leh, Sr. (father of the Leh mercantile dynasty) and many other famous Victorian figures. A web site listing many of the Civil War veterans can be found here: Civil War Veterans
The cemetery's unique Pennsylvania German monuments reflect early 19th Century ideas of life, death, and eternity, engraved in early German script. The stones depict the lives of many famous and humble early Allentonians. The tombstone of a druggist bears his old-fashioned mortar and pestle; another is carved in the exact likeness of a departed couple's beloved residence.
Statues of angels with upraised arms lift heavenward a recently departed soul. Other angels, with their arms around a child, guide the child to heaven. Broken columns and severed tree trunks represent a life cut short. Small lambs and empty cradles mark the graves of children. An open book represented the book of life and the life that had been lived. A small number of graves bore highly polished brown marble balls, resting on bases. The use of a ball, a circle with no beginning and no end, represented the never-ending cycle of life. Tragically, several of the balls were stolen in recent decades. Likewise, many statues in the cemetery are headless, obviously the work of dastardly pranksters or vandals. Other graves bear fraternal symbols, such as Masonic and Odd Fellows, and military inscriptions. Some 'stones' are a dull grey color, and produce a hollow sound if tapped. They are made of stainless steel and are hollow.
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