Every graveyard needs a tree like this.
No one seems to know who the sculptor was, but this 1890 portrait of mourning and consolation is one of the best things in the cemetery. The leaves help, of course.
Now Brush Creek Salem United Church of Christ, this beautiful and stately building is nearly 200 years old: it was built somewhere around the years 1816-1820, serving the colonial-era community of Brush Creek outside Irwin. The adjacent Brush Creek Cemetery has marked burials going back to the 1700s, with some extraordinary works of folk art among the tombstones.
The Allegheny Cemetery Mausoleum, or “Temple of Memories” (as the cemetery calls it now), was built in 1960. It is filled with stained glass by the Willet studio of Philadelphia and the Hunt studio of Pittsburgh. The two distinct styles are very different, but Father Pitt does not know which is which.
This Stephen Foster window is the centerpiece of the whole first floor of the mausoleum, which is appropriate. Thousands of rich and important people—politicians, robber barons, and even a few honest philanthropists—are buried in Allegheny Cemetery. But the only resident anyone really cares about is Stephen Foster, who made us dance and sing and weep, and died in poverty. (There is also a small cult of Lillian Russell, and Father Pitt would be delighted to see a Lillian Russell window in some future expansion of the mausoleum.)
This window includes something that delighted old Pa Pitt beyond all reason: the only stained-glass representation he has ever seen of a parlor organ.
Many historians speculate that the name “Pittsburgh” was originally pronounced “PITTS-burrah,” the way Edinburgh is pronounced “ED-in-burrah.” After all, General Forbes, who gave the place its name, was a Scotsman: it would seem odd that he would not pronounce the “burgh” as in “Edinburgh.”
Today Father Pitt presents a tiny piece of evidence suggesting that the old pronunciation may have endured into the early 1800s. The evidence is only suggestive, not conclusive; but he thinks you will agree that it is at least very interesting.
Union Cemetery in Robinson Township is an old graveyard with a number of Revolutionary War veterans in it. Here we find, side by side, two early settlers’ tombstones.
First is Thomas Thornberry, a Revolutionary War veteran. His stone is regrettably so badly damaged that we can read nothing on it. But a plaque in front of the stone identifies it as belonging to Thomas Thornberry, a Revolutionary War veteran. Presumably the name comes from the church records, but Father Pitt is not sure of that. Perhaps someone from the church could enlighten us more.
Beside his stone is a legible stone for a woman who is obviously his wife.
IN MEMORY OF
DINAH Wife of
who departed this life
July 26th, 1830,
aged 70 years.
And here is our evidence. Inscriptions on tombstones of the early 1800s around here are commonly semi-literate; it is common to find variant spellings of the same name. Here we have the same name spelled “Thornburgh” and “Thornberry.” Now, it is not possible to imagine the name “Thornberry” being pronounced “THORN-burg,” but it is quite possible to imagine both “Thornburgh” and “Thornberry” being pronounced “THORN-burrah.” And if that is the case, then we have evidence that, in western Pennsylvania, the spelling “burgh” indicated the sound “burrah” at least to some residents as late as 1830.
Old Pa Pitt repeats that this is not evidence of very high quality. But it is some evidence.