Unity Cemetery, Chapel mark monumental anniversaries

Article courtesy of the Latrobe Bulletin. See original article here.

Friday, March 1, marked the 250th anniversary of Unity Cemetery and the 150th anniversary of Unity Chapel.

To kick off the celebration, a committee with broad representation from throughout the community will be hosting a service and dinner scheduled for Sunday, March 3.

“Most of the activities will take place during the service before the dinner, and because of capacity issues, we’ve been collecting reservations and we know a lot of people will be coming,” said the Rev. Derek Campbell of Latrobe Presbyterian Church. “Because we can’t fit them all in the chapel, it’ll be held at Latrobe Presbyterian Church.”

Organizers cautioned that reservations for the event are closed.

“The message that day will be given by the Rev. Dr. Asa Lee, and he’s the president of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary,” Campbell said. “The Rev. Skip Noftzger will be leading us through a special litany of thanksgiving for Unity Chapel and everything that happens in that place.”

Previous installed pastors also will be participating in the Sunday service.

“The Sunday dinner will be a special celebration of the history,” Campbell said. “We’ll be selling commemorative items to celebrate the history, including coasters with engraving available, magnets, things like that to commemorate history, and then just fellowship and spending time together.”

Campbell said organizers also will be distributing “mission jugs,” something that hasn’t been done in quite some time.

“It’s something that they used to do back in the day but we haven’t done in a while but we’re going to be doing it again,” he said. “We had a local ceramicist make us 125 pottery jugs – kind of like a piggy bank with a slot at the top – but you have to break them open to take the money out. We’re going to distribute them to the families in the congregation and then they’re going to take them home and fill them with coins.

“At a later time, we’ll bring them back and have a special jug-breaking ceremony during what we call our Heritage Sunday.”

The money will be donated to the missions, Campbell said.

Committee members hope to present “celebratory events that will bring to life the shared stories of our community and the nation’s history,” according to a press release issued earlier this year.

Events include planned historical programs, concerts of period music and art displays.

“We realized a while ago that 2024 was going to be the 250th anniversary, so we formed a committee trying to have broad representation from all the various groups involved,” Campbell said. “There are people on the committee from the historical society, McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the church, the cemetery association, different groups, and we’ve been meeting regularly in an effort to try to plan a variety of activities to celebrate the unique history of Unity Cemetery and Unity Chapel.”

Unity Cemetery is a living history book with gravestones of pioneers, Revolutionary and Civil War heroes, and notable local figures including Fred Rogers.

Their stories encapsulate stories of courage and innovation. On the hallowed grounds is Unity Chapel, which dates back to the 1760s and stands as a testament to the enduring spirit and faith of the Latrobe community through centuries of change, according to the press release.

Committee members hope the anniversaries will shine a light on these stories with events that make history come alive, music that takes us back in time, and art that shows Unity Township’s role in America’s story, according to the press release.

Special events such as a Memorial Day ceremony, string quartet, and a “Lessons & Carols” evening will allow area residents to remember and celebrate the past.

Those interested in the history or attending the events can learn more, including dates, times and locations, on the Unity Cemetery and Chapel 250th anniversary website, unitycemeterychapel.org.

This is the first piece of a biweekly series that will run through the end of the year honoring, celebrating and telling the stories from Unity Cemetery’s 250th anniversary, and Unity Chapel’s 150th anniversary. From marriages to funerals, many of our local families’ lives are touched by the history of the cemetery and chapel. It is one of few institutions in the area older than the nation itself. We look forward to bringing these stories into your homes every other Saturday for the rest of the year, and hope you look forward to reminiscing on some stories that maybe you once knew, as well as those you may not know.