Dear Friends, Good morning. The Union Cemetery is one of Quakertown's oldest landmarks and it needs help. Robert Mann is the President of Union Cemetery. He told me that the cemetery has undertaken a major project.Many of the tombstones are in disrepair, Mann began. Vandals have overturned some of them; and years of the effects of gravity have depressed several gravesites. There are approximately 3,000 graves and plots on the nine-acre cemetery on the border of Quakertown and Richland Township.
Mann told me that a donor has come forward and contributed $10,000 for the restoration of tombstones and graves. Robert Carminati, a Quakertown contractor who specializes in marble and granite has repaired about 30 graves thus far at a cost of $7,600. Mann told me that the work is very labor intensive because many of the tombstones need new foundations.
Mann hopes that area residents will join in the funding and believes that the project will cost $20,000 to make the repairs. "There are about 75 tombstones to fix," he estimates.
Union Cemetery investments earn between $5 and $9,000 annually, depending upon the performance of the stock market. And it sells gravesites for $660 and interments for $350. The income barely covers the maintenance of the interior roads and mowing.
"We're making progress," Mann told me. "But many of the families are gone. We're urging people who have a connection to the Union Cemetery to help. The cemetery will be in good shape when we're finished."
Contributions are tax deductible. You can send a check to the Union Cemetery Restoration Project, Box 575, Quakertown, 18951.
I've always wondered about the Union Cemetery's name. How old is it? Did the Civil War have anything to do with its founding? I associate "union" with saving the union. There are many clubs, associations and colleges named "union."
I called Jeffrey Naugle for his ideas. He's the principal at the Jeffrey A. Naugle Funeral Home in Quakertown. Jeff wasn't certain but thought that "Union" might refer to the union churches that dotted the Upper Bucks and Montgomery landscape. In the 1700's and 1800's, Lutheran and German Reformed [the precursor of the United Church of Christ] parishioners often banded together and shared facilities until the congregations were strong enough to go their separate ways.
For example, St. John's Lutheran at 10th and West Broad Street was originally a union church. The bell in the steeple identifies St. John's Lutheran and First Reformed Church as partners. St. John's has its own cemetery between Ninth and Tenth Streets on Juniper. But there is no separate cemetery for First Reformed (now First United Church of Christ).
Was Union Cemetery named after that original church combination?
The oldest part of the Union Cemetery is at the southeast corner. I visited the cemetery to see if I could find tombstones, which identified those who died before the Civil War. The oldest were Milton Clymer who died in 1883; Henry Grant, 1875; Henry Moffitt, 1905; Jesse Smith, 1886; and Tobias Schoch, 1892. I found nothing that associated Union Cemetery with the Civil War.
Speaking about the Schoch family, Stanley Schoch, who served on Quakertown Borough Council for many years, is a trustee at Union Cemetery. So is Kenneth Brown. Brown, Mann, and Schoch are Union's trustees.
As I wondered through the grounds, the Carminati truck pulled up and asked me what I was doing? When I stated my mission, Carminati and his colleague, Joe Puleio, helped me search for the answer. They came to the same conclusion.
Finally, I called Bill Haar, who presides over Sine's 5 and 10 in Quakertown. Bill knows everything about the area. Bill has an 1855 Bucks County history book with a map of Quakertown and Richland Township. "Union Cemetery" is on that map," he said, proving that the cemetery has nothing to do with the Civil War.
So the mystery is solved unless you faithful readers have another suggestion.
But before I close this column, I hope that you agree that the Union Cemetery deserves our support. Please help.
Sincerely, Charles Meredith Charles Meredith, a lifelong Quakertown resident, is the former publisher of The Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.