Unity Cemetery

Unity Cemetery Beginnings

When the founders of Unity acquired the land in 1774, it was used almost immediately as a burial ground. However, the earliest graves cannot be located or identified today. For decades, no official records of burials were kept, and at  least three hundred graves are unmarked—only slight depressions in the ground tell us of an unknown burial.

Moses Watson, a Revolutionary War soldier, was the first person known to have been buried in Unity Cemetery. He died April 5, 1782, at the age of eighty-two. His grave in the Old Section of the cemetery was originally marked with a crudely inscribed piece of flagstone, which, after more than a century of exposure to the weather, was eroded and nearly unreadable. In 1913 it was replaced with a granite memorial to commemorate the first known burial.

Notable Names

Among the earliest original headstones are those of some people of note in our early history. As mentioned previously, William Findley, Westmoreland County’s first Congressman, was buried here in 1821.

A short distance away is the grave of Benjamin Beatty, who was one of General George Washington’s twenty-five hundred troops who crossed the Delaware River on the night of December 24, 1776, and caught the Hessians and British by surprise at Trenton, New Jersey. After the war, he settled near Unity and died in 1831. Descendants of the Beatty family gave generously of their time and resources throughout Unity’s history.

Also in the Old Section are the graves of Archibald Mellon (1756-1835) and his wife, Elizabeth Armour, grandparents of Judge Thomas Mellon and great grandparents of Honorable Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. In 1816, Archibald and Elizabeth followed their son, Armour, who had emigrated from their home in Castleton, Ireland, in 1808. The Mellons settled just south of Crabtree and were members of the Unity Congregation. Nineteen members of the Mellon family—spanning four generations—are buried in Unity Cemetery.

The Old Unity Cemetery Experience

If we could go back in time and visit Unity Cemetery in the middle of the 1800s, we would find it quite different from Unity today.

The entrance to the cemetery at that time was along the old Forbes Road (what is now McCullough Road), approximately where Sections Z and D meet. Just past the entrance, the road turned right and wound up the hill to the cemetery and the church. Just beyond the church stood the parsonage (in what is now Section P, near the Given Mausoleum). The area to the left of the entrance, where the Chapel is today, was part of the Hamilton and John Beatty farm. The Unity School, a one-room schoolhouse that was part of the Unity Township Public Schools, sat at the edge of the Beatty property just inside the old entrance.

The funerals of this period were more ceremonious than at present. The minister in his buggy led the procession from the home to the cemetery. He was followed by the hearse, and then six pallbearers on horseback, each with a streamer of black crepe, wide and long, attached to his arm, floating in the wind. Behind him came the carriages and buggies of the mourners, the rear usually being made up of more on horseback.

Neighbors often volunteered to dig the grave; this was looked upon as a mark of devotion. The clay was always piled beside the grave, and it was held from rolling back into the grave by a cribbing of rails, the largest lumps of clay being used to close the openings between the rails. At the interment, the mourners stood around the grave until the grave was entirely filled with earth. 

Charles McLaughlin, as he wrote in 1930, had vivid recollections of the day his grandfather was buried: “The body had been lowered; one neighbor stood an each end of the grave, tensely ready; then, suddenly, they began to pull those rails away and throw them back over the pile of earth. To me, they seemed to work in the utmost haste; the big clods fell thump, thump, thud! I stood there, a boy of nine years of age; it is almost sixty years ago, but I can hear the tumbling, hollow, hideous thuds of those big lumps falling on my grandfather’s coffin yet. They shoveled the clay all in as the custom was; it more than filled the grave as they piled all the clay on. When this was done the family and friends dispersed.”

Unity Cemetery Today

The cemetery property has increased considerably since the original 1774 land grant of sixty acres. A survey done in 1869 showed that the area had increased to almost seventy-eight acres, largely due to gifts and bequests. Today, the Unity Cemetery Association cares for more than two hundred acres. The largest addition to the land holdings of the cemetery came in 1907. In that year, Miss Sarah Tittle, the last member of her family, named the “Unity Church Presbyterian Congregation” as the sole heir to the Tittle family farm, located just a short distance west of the cemetery. An additional seven and one half acres were acquired recently to provide better access to the maintenance garage.

To give an accurate account of the total number of burials at Unity, from 1774 to date, would be speculative. It was not until 1905 that sexton David W. Statler first started a burial record book. In 1987, Superintendent Edward Steck estimated that in the first one hundred and thirty years there were roughly twenty-six hundred unrecorded burials. When that figure is added to the more than twelve thousand burials recorded since 1905, the present Superintendent, Lee Stewart, estimates that nearly fifteen thousand persons of all races and creeds have been buried in Unity Cemetery since its beginning almost two hundred and fifty years ago.

For More Information Contact:

Lee Stewart, Superintendent
114 Chapel Lane
Latrobe, Pa. 15650

The old entrance to Unity Cemetery, located along McCullough Road

The oldest original headstone in Unity Cemetery is that of Sarah Taylor.

Columbariums in Section Q