Developer to let North Hills pioneer burial site rest in peace
Casper Reel crossed the Atlantic, fought his way across Pennsylvania in the Revolutionary War and scuffled with the Native Americans to establish the first homestead in the North Hills, where he was laid to rest near what would become the 18th hole at the former Highland Country Club.
Historians and his descendents would like the German-born veteran to rest in some well-earned peace.
Although 300 homes are slated for construction on the site of the country club in Ross Township, developers have agreed to leave the Reel's grave site untouched.
He died in 1824.
“We're respecting the family's wishes and preserving the location,” said developer Dan Caste of Limerick Land Partners, a partnership between Caste and Heartland Homes, based in Whitehall.
The Highland Country Club property on Highland Avenue was purchased in 2012 after the club closed in 2011.
Developers plan to build town homes and single-family homes on a site that's the largest developable piece of property left in Ross Township.
Development plans have been adjusted so that no building, grading or excavating will be done where a grave marker once stood for Reel, Caste said.
The future homeowners association will be in charge of maintaining the land where Reel is buried, Caste said.
John Schalcosky, president of the Ross Township Historical Society, said historians think Reel is buried with his wife, a son who died in the War of 1812, another son and his wife, several other children who died young and a few servants who worked for the family.
“It was a little disconcerting because we didn't know what was going to happen with the actual site,” said Peggy Reel Wheeling, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Casper Reel, who is happy with the developers' decision.
Wheeling, 61, grew up in Ross and now lives 30 miles north of Tampa, Fla.
“Myself and the historical society are thrilled with the fact that they're going to preserve it,” Schalcosky said.
“It's a victory for the historical society. They actually listened to us.”
About a year and a half ago, Schalcosky said, he found records from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that confirmed that Reel and his son, both veterans, were buried on the land and presented them to developers.
“The developer was never against protecting them,” Schalcosky said.
Reel was the first settler to make a home north of Fort Pitt after the Revolutionary War, he said.
“When you're looking at any history of the North Hills, he's the first name mentioned,” he said.
Reel built a cabin that still stands in West View, helped found Hiland Presbyterian Church in Ross, and was the first tax collector and constable north of the Allegheny River, records show.
Graveyards near family homes were not uncommon in the 1800s, and there probably are about 40 burial sites along McKnight Road, including one that's suspected to be under the Ross Park Mall, Schalcosky said.
“They just didn't have the notoriety that Casper Reel did,” he said.
Through the 1960s, ceremonies occasionally were held at Reel's grave on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, though the events eventually were discontinued.
Last year, Reel's grave marker disappeared from the Highland site and later was returned by a family member who took it for safekeeping.
The marker is in the custody of a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which might restore it to its original site.
Overall, Wheeling said, her family is happy that the grave site will be left in peace.
“He was a pioneer for that area, so I think it's very appropriate that he be remembered this way,” she said.
Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 724-772-6353.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCandless Community Day slated for Sept. 12
- North Hills Sports Hall of Fame to add 5 alumni Sept. 10
- Program in Pine to offer advice on living with celiac disease
- Expired, unwanted medications to be collected at Shaler North Hills Library
- Ride for Ryan to raise funds for beating victim in minimally conscious state
- Cannon named director of Pittsburgh Boy Choir
- Hartwood Acres gift shop expands
- Tavern Night planned at Depreciation Lands Museum in Hampton
- Shaler promotes 1 police officer, hires another
- Hampton School District changing formula for class rankings