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Frye Cemetery in Fallowfield Twp. wrote key chapter in Valley's history

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The grave of Samuel Fry, who died Sept. 17, 1831, is nearly 182 years old. It was one of 54 sites restored by the late Harold Ray Frye at the Samuel Frye Family Cemetery in Fallowfield Township.
The grave of Samuel Fry, who died Sept. 17, 1831, is nearly 182 years old. It was one of 54 sites restored by the late Harold Ray Frye at the Samuel Frye Family Cemetery in Fallowfield Township. SUBMITTED

Part 2 of 2

When Harold Ray Frye set out to research and restore the Samuel Frye Family Cemetery in Fallowfield Township more than 20 years ago, he discovered more than he anticipated.

Those identified at the cemetery in Frye's findings that are documented by the Charleroi Area Historical Society include the following:

• Samuel Frye Sr. — The son of Benjamin and Christen Anne Merkle Frey, he was born in 1729 and died August 15, 1814. He was the owner of the land that the Frye Cemetery is located on and was one of four brothers that came to the Mon Valley around 1762 with a warrant for 2,000 acres of property. He was an ensign in the Virginia Militia who served in the French & Indian War and also patrolled the frontier with a group of men protecting settlers from the Indians. He also served in the Revolutionary War as a corporal in the Virginia Infantry.

• Solomon (Sol) Fry — Born May 7, 1811, he was the son of Samuel Fry Jr. and Elizabeth Van Voorhis Fry and was an architect and builder who served as a councilman and mayor in California Borough. He died Aug. 6, 1893.

• Charlotte Scott Fry, 1811-1876, wife of Sol Fry.

• Samuel Frye — 1814-May 20, 1900, he was the son of Abraham Fry and Isabella Ringland Fry. His first wife, Anna E. Scott Frye, 1817-1888, also is buried at the cemetery. His second wife was the former Belle Housman Ward, who died in July 1891.

• Samuel Fry Jr. — Born Jan, 10, 1779, he was the son of Samuel Frye Sr. and Christina Speers Fry. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, listed as a private with the Pennsylvania Militia, Captain Henry Neiligh's Company, 132nd Regiment, doing duty at Erie. He later became a farmer and also operated a mill on Maple Creek with his brother-in-law Henry Shepler.

• Harvey J. Frye – The son of Smith and Mary Mitchell Frye, he was born Aug. 23, 1862 and died Jan. 27, 1950. He was the last person to be buried in the cemetery.


• Elizabeth C. Wall Frye, Lucinda Isabelle Frye Nutt, Smith Frye, Mary Ann Mitchell Frye, Charles Smith Frye, J.O. Fry, Elizabeth Fry, A.C. Fry, John Shanton, Louisa Frye Shanton (John's first wife), Christena Frye Shanton (John's second wife), Smith S. Frye, Fredrick Cooper, Elizabeth Frye Cooper, Christine Speers Frye, Abraham Fry, Isabella Ringland, Ohaettie Van Voorhis, Isabella Van Voorhis, E.T. (Elgy) Van Voorhis, Isabella Frye Van Voorhis, William A. Van Voorhis, Cora E. Van Voorhis, Sarah Ringland, John Ringland.

• Marcellus Wells (1850-1918), his wife, Ida L. Wells (1859-1907) and their infant son, Emmett Lloyd Wells (1890-1891) also are buried at the cemetery. They were not members of the Frye family but worked on the farm operated by Smith Frye and were granted permission to be interred at the site.

The Frye farm produced crops and also raised cattle, horses, chickens and other animals for the self-sustaining family over the years.

Frye also credited the following sources for his research that ran from Feb. 20, 1992 to Feb. 4, 1997: Cumrine History of Washington County, Pa., 1882; The Old & New Monongahela by Dr. John S. VanVoorhis, 1893; Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County by J.H. Beers & Company, 1893; Funeral Records of Belle Vernon, Pa., 1893-1908; Citizens Library in Washington, Pa.; Family historians Charles Burgess and Donald W. Kearney.

In addition to Harold Frye's in-depth history of the Frye Family Cemetery, the Charleroi Area Historical Society has multiple volumes of that family's predominance in the area at its headquarters at the John K. Tener Memorial Library, Seventh Street and Fallowfield Avenue, Charleroi. Other artifacts include detailed maps of Twilight Borough and surrounding territory including parts of what are now Fallowfield and Carroll townships.

“There's no question that the Fryes were pioneer settlers in this area,” Sheppick said. “These books contain valuable information, history compiled by multiple sources, as well as pictures that are priceless in terms of capturing the history of our communities. The maps cover hundreds of acres of land owned by the family and offer detailed hand-drawn images of where each family lived. It's a wonderful journey back in time each time we study them.”

Tom Speers of Rock Hill, S.C., also has provided pictures of the Frye Cemetery and interesting information about the families.

“We have spelled our last name, Speers, four different ways over the years,” he said. “Three of them, Spears, Speer and Speers occurred in Belle Vernon. The Frye family also spelled their name different ways including Frye, the original Frey and also Fry. There also is a possibility that some spelled it Fray.”

Spellings notwithstanding, the Fryes are descendants of Heinrich Frey, a Swiss German who came to the United States and settled in Germantown, Pa., the first section that became Philadelphia, in the 1690s.

One of Speers' ancestors, Noah Speers, is his fourth great-uncle and is credited with founding Belle Vernon. He was born March 27, 1769, one of 14 children of Henry Speers and Regina Froman Speers.

The Speers family also founded North Belle Vernon and Speers boroughs.

“Samuel and Abraham and other Fryes/Frys' and Regina Froman Speer/Speers' nephew Jacob Froman were the original owners of most of the area that became Charleroi,” Speers said. “Jacob owned a large amount of property located along Maple Creek that was later sold to Frederick Cooper. Other family members owned farmland in the area that became Columbia and then Donora. There are (Frye, Speers) ties throughout the Mon Valley area, and a number of familiar surnames are involved.”

Speers said he “had the pleasure” of meeting Harold Ray Frye after he worked on cleaning up the Frye Cemetery and uprighting and restoring many of the tombstones.

“He hired a family that lived across the road from the cemetery and power plant substation to maintain the cemetery,” Speers said. “He certainly was committed to preserving the family's legacy. Which is something each of us should be. The historical societies do a great job in that respect but as individuals, we would do well to emulate those groups and men like Harold Frye.”

(Additional information about the Frye Family Cemetery and the Charleroi Area Historical Society is available at 724-483-2030,, the CAHS offices in the John K. Tener Memorial Library or the Charleroi Genealogy and History Research Center, 638 Fallowfield Ave., Charleroi.)

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.

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