Connellsville founder's descendant works to maintain gravesite
For Joe Brown, 33, of Springfield Township, work on clearing the land around the gravesite and historical marker of Zachariah Connell, founder of Connellsville, has special meaning.
“I found I'm a descendant of Zachariah Connell and Col. John Crawford,” Brown said.
Brown owns Brown's Outdoor Maintenance and Repair. He is spending his own time, equipment and skills developed in his business to clean up the site, cut down the larger trees, and he will soon rebuild the steps to the gravesite near the top of East Francis Avenue in Connellsville Township.
Brown was worried about the legality of working at the site before he started. He knew his dentist, Dr. Francis Jacobyansky, had contacts with local officials, and Jacobyansky helped Brown clear the way to do the work.
Jacobyansky, who is involved with the community's Boy Scouts, had thought of using the cleanup as a project for a Scout going for an Eagle award. The large trees at the site made that impractical.
Brown said the first phase, the removal of large trees and heavy brush, is complete. He is now working on phase two, rebuilding the steps. Phase three will feature planting foliage and ground cover to enhance the site and make it easier to care for.
Brown and his wife have spent time at the site, beginning the work. On April 10, he was doing more of the heavy work on the hillside. He has used caution tape at the base of the steps, where the monument, placed by the SAR (Sons of American Revolution) in 1957, is located.
“The key is safety,” said Brown, looking up at the steep hillside where uneven stone steps now lead.
Brown said he has put about nine hours of his time at the site. He credits John Rulli Sr., who owns the property adjacent to the graves, for keeping the grass around the graves cut over the years.
Rulli, 55, who lives on the adjacent lot, said he and his son, Michael, begin in the spring cleaning the site. He said his other son and wife often lend a hand.
“I've been doing it for about 40 years,” he said.
Rulli was looking for the city or Connellsville Township to bring in a brush hog and clean up the site.
“All it would take is one hard day of work,” Rulli said.
The problem for the city is that the graves were located in the township, not in Connellsville. The site is deeded to the Sons of the American Revolution, Yough Chapter. That chapter is now defunct. The city took action to approve a transfer of the deed in 2003, but the transfer never took place.
Rulli said clearing the brush would make it easier for him to cut the grass and save on his tractor and lawn mower. He had contacted Robert Carson, Connellsville Township supervisor, before the supervisors' April 11 meeting. Carson told him he would talk it over with the other supervisors.
At the meeting, the supervisors voted to send in a crew with a flail mower to clean the site, Tom Cesario, chairman of the supervisors, said.
“It's only right that we should do that for the founder of Connellsville, Connellsville Township and South Connellsville,” Cesario said.
He did not say if that would be done annually.
Brown and Rulli both said the location may not have been the original site of the grave.
When the Carnegie Free Library was built in 1903, the graves in the cemetery located at that site were moved. It was felt the top of the hill, overlooking the city, was a more appropriate location for the graves.
Casey Sirochman, library director, said the graves moved from the site were from the Connell family, but she did not know whether Zachariah Connell's grave was among them.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.
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