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Students trek through local burial grounds

By Staff | Nov 3, 2016

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary A tour through Pleasant Hill Cemetery on October 23 in Wolf Township was taken by Hughesville High School local history classes.

HUGHESVILLE – Bracing against the whistling winds of October, members of the local history classes at Hughesville High School walked the cemetery at Pleasant Hill near town. The annual trek for juniors and seniors serves to identify local residents whose biographies are shared in brief form.

On October 23, tutorial guide Tom Crawley, stood by the massive stone of Charles Yeakel, a soldier of the Civil War. The engravings list battles in which Yeakel participated and notes his miraculous survival of Andersonville prison.

A blacksmith by occupation, Yeakel returned to Hughesville to take up his trade at his shop along Race Street.

Meanwhile, in the darkness of the eve of Oct. 29, 2016 at the Presbyterian Church Cemetery adjoining the historic Warrior Run Church, shadows encircled groups of grave gazers. The darkness was only slightly abated by the flickering lights of lanterns.

Assigned to each of the four groups, Warrior Run High School students leading the way were Emma and Luke Burrows, Madie Majcher and David Witmer.

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Penn Patten lifts his lantern high as he portrays nine-year-old Thomas McCormick during a tour at the Presbyterian Cemetery at Warrior-Run Church last Saturday night.

Sponsored by the Warrior-Run Fort Freeland Heritage Society, the late fall visit pays homage to early settlers who tamed these frontiers. The iron gates and stone walls serve as barricades, one might suppose, to keep that which is inside, in, and what is outside, out.

At various stations within these walls, aberrations of some interred there, appeared to relate their stories. One was Thomas McCormick, a boy who died at age nine (1794-1804). McCormick was impersonated by another of the same age, Penn Patten of Watsontown. “These walls were not here during my time, said young McCormick. The lad shook his head as he tried to understand current times with those in 1800. “The road was closer to the front of the church, then of logs.” Comparing educational practices of the youth, the aberration said, “We went to school on snowy days when weather wouldn’t allow us to work on the farm. Now it seems, there is no school on snowy days. What are those long yellow carriages, and where are the horses that pull them?” the perplexed boy questioned.

“So that we could have Sunday as a day of rest, I carried extra wood in on Saturday. Mother cooked food ahead, so it only needed warmed up on Sunday,” said McCormick who was the eldest son of John and Jane McCormick. He was interred with his parents and sister Maria who died at age 55. Claiming a famous second cousin, inventor Cyrus McCormick, the youngster said, “We did our farming the old way.”

Other participants in the tour included Leon Hagenbugh as James Slote, a contractor who made and fired bricks for erecting the Warrior Run Church, and Randy Watts as Col. Matthew Smith, a Revolutionary War soldier and short-time politician whose body was carried from Milton on foot to the burial site, a six mile distance.

Also there was Anita Herring as Mary Hart, wife of John McKean relative of former Pennsylvania Governor Thomas McKean, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Inside the church surrounded by lighted luminaries, Robert Frank, spoke as David Watson, son of Watsontown founder John Watson. His remarks centered on the Rev. John Bryson, much beloved and longtime minister.

Looking to the future, on Saturday evening, December 10 at 7 p.m., the Warrior-Run Church will be the site of the annual Christmas Candle light service. The public is welcome to attend.