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Sidler Hill Cemetery


No matter where you are, there's probably an abandoned cemetery within a ten-mile radius.

This one happens to be right in my hometown of Danville, Pa.

On the southern end of the town is a 150-year-old Catholic cemetery, known as the Sidler Hill Cemetery. It was built by the local Catholic parish in 1850 as a final resting place for the Irish and Welsh in the town. The names you'll see on the tombstones prove this. The cemetery wasn't very large - perhaps one acre or less, but it served its purpose until 1930. That year, the parish opted to move most of the bodies to its current cemetery, built in the 1880s. The Sidler Hill Cemetery fell into disuse, and after the main access road was torn out to build the borough's water reserviors, it was forgotten.

Some bodies never made it to the new cemetery, and they remain here to this day. How many? Nobody knows. The parish priest told me the plot records were lost over time, but a conservative estimate puts 40 to 100 bodies here. I do know that my maternal grandmother's uncle (or great uncle) was buried up there.

Currently, the parish is working with a small volunteer group to clean up the cemetery and build an access road up there. Where things go from here are still uncertain, but after seeing what's left of this cemetery, it's a first step that needs to be taken.

Here's the entrance to the cemetery. It's on the right side of the picture, through the yellow gate. To the left are the reservoirs I mentioned.

It's a steep climb up there, but at least there is a small path.

These signs are everywhere. Through the years, two portions of the cemetery were bought by the borough and by a private landowner. I'm not sure how that happened, since the cemetery still belongs to the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese.

Welcome to the Sidler Hill Cemetery.

All that is left of this cemetery are a few scattered tombstones. Supposedly, there are other tombstones that have been covered by decades of dirt and leaves.

This is what remains of the wall surrounding the cemetery. About 3/4ths of the cemetery is still surrounded by the old stone wall.

Here's one of the tombstones. I don't know why this stone only has the person's initials, but I would guess it was because the family couldn't afford an elaborate tombstone. Does anyone know for sure? There are a few other stones like this here.

Most of the people buried here died in the mid to late 1800s. Simon Brown died in 1876.

Remember what I said about how this was a predominantly Irish and Welsh cemetery? Here's one of Danville's Irish. William O'Brien died in 1869 at the age of 40. For the working class at this time, 40 was an average age to die.

Another O'Brien (?) rests near the cemetery wall.

Time and the elements have taken its toll on most of the tombstones here, leaving many to wonder when people like George Jacobs entered and left the world.

Most of these tombstones have been knocked over. I don't know if it was because of vandalism, but given that few things are sacred nowadays, it wouldn't surprise me.

William Bigler, died February 1856. This was the oldest stone I found here.

A group of tombstones together.

This is a rather interesting design on this weathered stone. It almost looks like a branch.

I think this could be a sign of a past preservation effort. The base appears to be newer than the toppled stone.

Four people from an Irish family, their names lost to time.

Another cluster of tombstones.

A weathered stone belonging to a William (?) Finnigan.

This broken stone was fixed with two metal bars a long time ago.

The shallow pit in front of this stone was a bit unnerving. Comedy zombie option.

Charles didn't even make it to 40 back in 1863.

Joanna Jacobs died at a young age. For being such an old stone, this one is in good shape.

Another cluster of tombstones.

This is a sad monument to the life expectancy of people in this area back in the late 1800s.

Five-year-old Catharine.

One-year-old Mary. Both sisters died within a month of each other.

One-year-old Thomas.

Two-year-old Johanna.

A lone tombstone sits in a sea of leaves at a corner of the cemetery.

Remember how I said some of the tombstones here are buried underneath dirt and leaves? Here's one example.

A shot taken from the rear of the cemetery, looking towards the borough.

A large cluster of tombstones.

A remarkably well-preserved tombstone, partially covered with moss.

Margaret Dougherty, born in the County of Down, Ireland.

Mrs. Dougherty's stone among others.

Here is the youngest grave in the cemetery.

A husband and wife together. Both appear to have died on December 16, 1885. It makes you wonder how these two died.

A replacement stone for a woman who lived to a remarkably old age for her time. Despite the condition of this cemetery, there are those who haven't forgotten about those here.

150 years of history.


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