Old Presbyterian Cemetery

Old Presbyterian Cemetery

In 1775, four men, or ‘trustees’ were designated to provide a site for a Presbyterian school, Church and burial ground. A plot of about four acres was purchased for five pounds, about $13.33, from Amos Wickersham of Philadelphia. This site is now the home of Grove Presbyterian Church and Memorial Park on Bloom Road, in Danville. 

The Cemetery or ‘Burying Ground’ was the first cemetery in the Danville Area and is usually referred to as the ‘Old Presbyterian Cemetery’. Others referred to the cemetery as the Mahoning or Danville Cemetery.  There were in fact three cemeteries in what is now Memorial Park. The Petrikin Cemetery was across the alley to the east. On the west side of the Park, now an alley was a Potter’s Field.

No original records can be found on the first burials in the cemetery but it is known that one of the first was Robert Curry, one of the areas earliest pioneers. Curry was murdered by Indians in the summer of 1780. His wife, who escaped capture, was buried beside her husband in 1825.  The Old Presbyterian Cemetery was the site of many of Danville’s early settlers remains, such as Captain Isaac Blue, the organizer of the “Danville Blues” a military group which took part in the War of 1812 and Captain Jacob Gearhart who was with George Washington at the Crossing of the Delaware Dec. 25, 1776, and of course the William Montgomery family.

The smaller Petrikin Cemetery was named after a well-known physician in town, Dr. David Petrikin. No records of burials have been found but in researching other cemetery records, approximately 29 graves were transferred to other cemeteries. Dr. Petrikin and his family remain entombed in the area that once bore his name.  There are no known existing records of the burials in The Potter’s Field to the west of the Park. In an article in the Montour American, a Danville Newspaper, it was reported that interments were apparently made until 1850. This cemetery was filled with graves belonging to those who died without means or without friends.

As time past and family members of those interred in these cemeteries moved away or forgot about their ancestors, the old graveyards became neglected and unkempt. Instead of honoring those buried there, the area became a nuisance and for years yielded no income. The headline in the Morning News on November 23, 1898 stated, ‘The Old Cemetery about to be Abolished at Last’. Mahoning Presbyterian Church in whose name the title was, transferred all rights to Grove Presbyterian Church which became responsible for the action of the abolishment of the cemetery. A group of men were recruited to cut down the weeds and clean out the lots as well as to make a careful record of the names of the tombstones found there. The Trustees of the Church tried several different means with the court to get the cemetery declared a public nuisance to be able to hasten the abolishment of the cemetery, but while the court agreed it might be offensive, it was not declared a public nuisance and no further action was taken.  As the years passed, many families removed the remains of loved ones to another place for burial. Robert Curry and his wife were removed to Fairview Cemetery, Jacob Gearhart’s remains were not found but the family erected a stone in the Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Riverside in his honor.  The Montgomery families, those found were transferred to Fairview Cemetery. The stone, once standing in the Old Cemetery now lies flat upon the ground. A number of gravestones marking the graves of persons who no longer had descendents in the area were laid flat and covered with ground. The park was filled and leveled under the direction of the Trustees of Grove Church.

At the urging of the local veterans, a monument was erected in honor and memory of Montour County soldiers. The site selected was the new Memorial Park, once the site of the Old Presbyterian Cemetery. The monument was completed and the park was finished and dedication took place on May 30, 1909, over 100 years ago. As the years passed, monuments to honor the other conflicts and wars were placed in the park. No other site in Danville could honor our brave men and women as the beautiful, majestic Memorial Park on Bloom Street.

Source: The History of the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, Danville, Pennsylvania, by Cindy Elder, 2009.

History of Montour County, Fred Diehl 1969

Historical & Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties, Beers 1915