Burial Plots, Mausoleum
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The earliest public place for the sepulture was a small sandy eminence in the domain of David McKee, of the family of the founder of this city. That it may be pointed out to the present and future generations, it is only necessary to say that the greater portion of this burial ground of the last century is now included within the square bounded by Ninth Avenue, Locust Street, School and Tube Works Alley.
Before John McKee laid out the city, Indians laid their chiefs to rest on this grassy knoll. The few inhabitants of the hamlet at the junction of the two rivers resorted thither for the same purpose, the ground being used as a cemetery simply by consent, it never having been donated or dedicated to that use. Although situated beyond the limits of the borough of that period at a sufficient distance from the homes of the living, in course of time, in consequence of the increase of population, it was so fully occupied that there was not a spot therein where an interment could be made without disturbing the remains of someone. This, in addition to the fact that no funds had been provided for its protection and improvement, and it being finally nearly surrounded by the dwellings of the living, caused the citizens to entertain fears that at some future day it might and would be, as has since been, desecrated by being appropriated to other uses.
To secure the interesting and salutary associations connected with a rural cemetery had long engaged the attention of many of our citizens. Several attempts were made to attain this object, but from lack of energy on the part of the projectors, or from suspicion in the minds of the public that the purpose was speculation, they all failed. However, in the fall of 1855, a few of the leading citizens determined that we should have a cemetery that would be a credit to the community. They called a public meeting and arranged for subscriptions to a fund for the purchase of ground to be selected by a committee of prominent citizens.
The committee proceeded to the discharge of the duty assigned them and, after a careful examination of the ground around the Borough, agreed to report in favor of purchasing a piece of ground on the Huey farm, near Crooked Run and about three-fourths of a mile from the Borough. In the selection of this place, so beautifully diversified with hill and dale, woods and water, and so admirably adapted to the purposes of sepulture, the committee displayed a judgment and taste, which the public duly appreciated in their nearly unanimous acceptance of the report.
To that end the committee had organized and purchased twenty-five acres of the site now occupied by the Cemetery. The original parcel sold for $100.00 per acre. The public duly appreciated the committee's choice and an application for a charter was submitted to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The Charter was granted on June 28, 1856 and provided that the Cemetery be governed by nine Directors.
The cemetery was appropriately dedicated on November 6, 1856. That day forty-five lots were sold to the amount of $2,400 almost covering the initial debt of the purchase price.
The afore-mentioned "old graveyard" was subsequently sold off as building lots, and the bodies, some of which had been interred there since the 1770's were removed and re-interred in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery. There were at least four Revolutionary War soldiers among those moved.
Additional purchases of ground increase the original acreage to eighty-eight extending from Fifth Avenue to Versailles Avenue. The city of McKeesport has grown around the Cemetery so that it is now situated in the heart of the town. Interments now total over 42,000 at the end of 2002. The McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery is a non-profit perpetual care cemetery owned by the lot owners.
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