Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tombstones for Robert McCallum Russell Family at Mt. Pleasant, PA

(Click for larger view)
I had an epiphany of sorts a few weeks ago. I was trying to collect more information on the family of Robert McCallum Russell to see if I could link him to the "unidentified Russell" in a group photograph taken in Kruger Studio about 1885. The photo appears in one of my earlier blog entries. The studio was located in Houtzdale, Clearfield Co, PA, where Robert M. Russell was enumerated in the 1880 census. By 1900, Robert had moved his family further west to Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, PA. which was a rich coal mining area much like Houtzdale was in the 1880s. I had a tip that Robert might be buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This was confirmed in a compilation of cemetery inscriptions (by Della Reagan Fischer (Mrs. Frank C.), 1979, available at the Mt. Pleasant library. There were 10 inscriptions (names and dates) that matched the Russell family I was researching. I was a little daunted by Fischer's list of 4,000 transcriptions but I vowed to visit the cemetery, find the tombstones, and take pictures.

There was no problem finding the cemetery just north of town, but to my chagrin, there was no office. I called the phone number of the caretaker the library staff had given me. (Cell phones are such a boon to modern-day genealogists). The responder said he was now retired as caretaker but he gave me the new caretaker's number. In the meantime, I was driving around the extensive cemetery wondering how in the world I was going to find the memorials I was looking for out of the four thousand stones that I could see spread over the hillsides. I talked to the caretaker's wife who said her husband was very sick in bed. "But give me the names and call back tomorrow".

But, I was already here, and I wouldn't be here tomorrow, I thought silently.

So I drove up to the highest point of the cemetery and rode around the paved circle at the top. A flagpole and military cannons graced the highpoint. I pulled over and parked my van under a group of large oaks. Then, I got out and walked around to the opposite doors leading to the rear of the van to grab a snack from the ice box. And lo and behold (ready for the epiphany?), I walked right smack dab into an upright stone marking the THE Russell family plot. Talk to any genealogist and they will tell you of similar experiences.

In the image above, between the two trees, a line of four tombstones face a larger memorial inscribed "RUSSELL". The inscriptions on the flat faces of the smaller tombstones, left to right, are:

David T., 1875-1949

Robert M., 1845-1927

Mary T., 1848-1924

John T., 1883-1924

The next day, the caretaker phoned and gave me the specific burial dates and ages for three of the four individuals- there was no burial date for Robert's wife, Mary T., but there was a note in the mortuary records indicating she died at the age of 76 years. Robert M. Russell, was buried 20 June 1927, aged 82 years. Now that I had the specific dates, I could look for obituaries in the local paper, The Mount Pleasant Journal. It was published once a week back then. But that's another Life's Journey.

I did say I obtained ten inscriptions, and I have presented only four so far. The remaining six (I did not locate the tombstones) were:

Alexander T. Russell, 1888-1934, Father

Jennie W. Russell, 1893- [blank], Mother

Robert M. Russell, 1881-1926, Father

Magdalena D. Russell, 1880-1960, Mother

Robert C. Russell, 1905-1960, son

Billy Eugene Russell, 1920-1926, son

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