Pine cemetery rooted in local history
In a small family burial ground in the woods off Wallace Road rest the remains of significant figures in Pine Township history.
There is nothing to mark the entrance to the Rogers Burial Ground, although those who know where to locate it will point to a small white utility pole in what looks to have been a driveway at one end of Twin Oak Drive. The ground is thick with leaves, and many of the headstones rest against trees, moved at some point after having fallen over. Most are so faded they're impossible to read, and some have been broken into small pieces. Among them are the tombstones of Pine's first settler Thomas Rogers, who died in 1808, and Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Mallerson, who enlisted in 1776 and died in 1813.
Now, local resident Marrissa Southwell, who authors a blog on the history of Pine, is concerned for the tombstones of Mallerson and his family. One enormous old tree in particular is hollowed out and has a large branch hanging over the graves of Mallerson and his wife, Amy Newton Mallerson. She's worried that if the tree or even that branch comes down, it could crush the headstones and an important part of local history.
“There's a little tree that fell, and by little I mean 30 feet tall, but it's small in comparison to the one that could ruin this poor man's headstone, and had it not fallen on this other tree right beside Mallerson's headstone, his, or at least his wife's, would have been destroyed,” Southwell said.
Southwell and her husband have made several trips to the cemetery during her exploration of the area's past and have grown attached to the small plot. She now hopes that someone, or perhaps a group of volunteers, might at some point soon be able to remove the branch or tree and help protect the cemetery.
The cemetery has been maintained over the years to varying degrees by family descendants, Boy Scouts and neighbors, who erected a fence, placed a veteran's grave marker at Mallerson's site, pulled weeds and planted flowers.
Southwell said it wasn't clear who actually owned the land, although a Pittsburgh Press article from 1985 placed the deed in the hands of Esther Parks, of McCandless, who is a descendent of Mallerson.
Pine Township manager Scott Anderson said he, too, was unsure of the current ownership of the land. That could make the township itself doing any work a little tricky and would require some research.
“Not that it's not possible, but we'd have to be careful to make sure we had all the proper clearances before we did anything like that,” he said.
Anderson said that private citizens could certainly go in and do maintenance work, but the township would also consider doing something if asked.
“We'd certainly take a look at it, but I don't know that we've ever received a question about it,” he said. “It would be up to the board (of supervisors), so it's a little premature to say at this point, but any request the board receives they give proper consideration.”
Twenty-one people are believed to rest in the Rogers Burial Grounds, including some who were just babies and children when they passed. All date back to the 1800s.
Southwell said she and her husband hope to gather a group of volunteers to clean up the grounds once the weather is nice, and she hopes someone who has the proper equipment might be interested in helping with the trees.
“We'd like to fix the fence, too, but it's all going to be moot if someone doesn't take care of the tree,” she said. “Any other tree could destroy stuff, too, but that's the one piece you know if it falls it's gone.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.