Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Willow Grove Cemetery

The Willow Grove Cemetery is located on North Mountain Road about one-half mile south of Linglestown Square.

The Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, incorporated Willow Grove Cemetery in 1868. It is owned by an association and is not church affiliated. The cemetery is run by a board of trustees consisting of several interested citizens.

There are no records of who was buried there before 1947, which is when they started keeping records. 

The lots were owned by individuals, which they bought and maintained on their own, with no perpetual care. In the 1940s, Jonas Cassel was the one who started mowing and caring for the cemetery. Until he took it over, it was almost all overgrown with high grass and weed. Some lot owners were taking care of their spaces, but many were not. He died in 1972 and is buried in Willow Grove.

Jim Gardner has been the caretaker since 1972. If a stone is leaning, he will put in a new foundation by taking off the stone, digging a deep hole, pouring in the concrete and reseting the stone.
Maintenance costs about $4000 a year.

Hundreds of thousands of Northern men went off to fight in the Civil War. Thirty-nine of these men who never returned home alive hailed from the general Harrisburg PA area., specifically from East Hanover, West Hanover, Lower Paxton and Susquehanna Townships. In 1868, citizens of these townships, led by an influential local physician, Dr. W.C. Smith, banded together to build a Civil War monument, one of the earliest in the nation.  

The monument is in Willow Grove Cemetery and towers over 25 feet. It is made of marble with a majestic eagle on top.

The 39 Civil War veterans names and regiments are found on the four sides of the monument, one for each township. Along with the soldiers dates of deaths, sculptors also inscribed the fatal battle or campaign in which they fought and many of how they died, mostly of starvation.

After many years, time and weather had taken its toll on the monument. Most of the mortar had disappeared from between the stones, resulting in the field stone foundation being exposed to years of freezing and thawing.

Picture Courtesy Debi Santopietro

Former Lower Paxton Twp. supervisor Jay Purdy and a committee of interested persons started a campaign to raise the needed funds to move the monument to a new foundation in the cemetery, at a cost of $20,000. Because of the work and efforts of three people: Debi Santopietro, Jim Gardner, and Jay Purdy, along with the community, the monument was safely moved to the newly built foundation and dedicated on Veteran’s Day 2001.

Picture Courtesy Debi Santopietro

Picture Courtesy Debi Santopietro

Picture Courtesy Debi Santopietro

Picture Courtesy Debi Santopietro

Dr. W.C. Smith, who had originally spearheaded the movement to get  the monument built, is buried in Willow Grove near the monument.

Dr. Smith's Grave

Pete Koons is also buried there.  He is the man who donated land to the Linglestown Fire Co., which eventually became Koons Park; and also the land on which is located the Lutheran Church.