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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The "Searching for a Read: Part VIII - 'Da Bones'" Story

Foreword:  At last, I have reached the final part of my story on my church, St. James Episcopal in historical downtown Lancaster, PA.  It has been over three months since I returned home from the hospital after having spinal fusion surgery and finding myself bored to death as I recuperated.  The two-volume set of books titled St. James Church by Klein and Diller helped me pass the time as well as acquaint me once again with the history of the church which I became a member of in the late 1940's.  As I said in other "Foreword" entries, I hope I haven't changed history with my stories or left out any significant parts of the history of the church while trying to condense 271 years into a few manageable stories.

St. James Churchyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
It was an ordinary day.  Taking a few last photos in the Churchyard of some of the graves as well as  photos of a few of the tombstones that are embedded into or attached to the wall and floor of the church proper.  
This is the Churchyard as it appeared in 1929.
If you'll remember I began my stories telling you that in 1730 Phila- delphia lawyer Alexander Hamilton and his son Colonel James Hamilton selected the present site of Lancaster and began to lay out the city by plots, assigning plots #34, #35 and #36 to be the site for St. James Episcopal Church at the corner of what is now North Duke and West Orange Streets.  
Gravestone of The Rev. Thomas Barton, British missionary who
served for 19 years with distinction as third rector of St. James
from 1759-1778.  True to his ordination vows, he remained loyal
to the Crown during the American Revolution.  Political differences
between him and the patriot members of his congregation caused the
church to be closed in 1776 for the duration of the war.  After his
resignation as Rector in 1778, he was given Military Escort to a point
within the British lines in New York City and denied right of return to
Pennsylvania.  He was separated from his children, parishioners and
friends and became incurably ill and died in 1780.  He was a faithful
Servant of Jesus Christ and Valiant Soldier who despite indescribable
suffering and hardship, remained steadfast in his convictions,
even to the end.  He was buried in NY, with this stone a memorial stone.
The church and out buildings were to be placed on lots #35 and #36 and were to be charged a yearly rent of 15 shillings each while lot #34 was to be rent free and be a graveyard for the church.  Well, the graveyard, now called the Churchyard,  holds the remains of many great citizens of the United States and to walk through it, or even play in it as I did as a young choirboy, are or were overwhelming at times for me.  Looking at and reading the tombstones and realizing that I have studied and read in school about those who are buried under my feet gives me the chills at times.  
One of the stones in the "Memorial Garden."
This stone holds the names of my mother
and father who were members of St. James.
My mother and father's remains are buried in The Memorial Garden of St. James Church which was opened in 1985.  The garden is a sacred area within the beautiful and historic Churchyard where the cremated remains of  parish members and their immediate family may be placed to rest.  In July of 2003 Carol and I paid our sum and will one day find our solitude in the Memorial Garden alongside the other members of our church.  The second of the two volumes on the history of St. James has page after page detailing and showing where every grave is located and who may occupy that space in the Churchyard.  The oldest tombstone is dated March 4, 1752 and is erected to a child named Susannah Hart.  
Stones are embedded in the Mercer tiles in front of the altar.
The second oldest stone is dated 1753 and was erected to Thomas Cookson, the first burgess of Lancaster.  His tomb is now in the sacristy of the church.  Soldiers of the American Revolutionary War, both Patriots and British, are buried in the churchyard.  The chancel of our current church was built over part of the original churchyard and the tombs and gravestones that were disturbed are now preserved on the floor of the chancel and altar.  
When the original choir room was removed and a new chapel
was constructed in the early 1960s, some tombs were
disturbed.  Their remains and tombstones were relocated
to the walls of the hall between the church and chapel.
Almost 500 persons were buried in the churchyard, but only 266 have tombstones.  When renovations were done years ago to the rectory, two skulls were unearthed and carefully reburied.  A Mr. William F. Worner made a drawing of the churchyard and the tombstones in 1928 which to this day is used to help in identifying those buried in the churchyard.  
Looking through the brick posts which were part of the original
Churchyard towards the memorial gazebo at the other end
of the Churchyard on the north side.
Names such as Edward Shippen, William Agustus Atlee, Jasper Yeates, Edward Hand and Harriet Lane (niece of President James Buchanan and who served as first lady during his term) lay beneath the tombstones next to the Memorial Garden monument that contains the names of Dorothea E. Woods and Paul H. Woods, my parents. So you see, St. James Churchyard, with it's 
magnificent trees, it's brick walls, benches and walkways has welcomed all to visit and view history where many of it's members have finally come for eternal peace. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 


This is the stone of Edward Shippen III who was a wealthy merchant and government official in colonial Philadelphia, PA.  In May of 1752 he moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster where he was appointed prothonotary.  He served in that position until 1778.  He was a county judge under both the provincial and state governments.  He founded the town of Shippensburg, PA and from 1746 to 1748 he was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey which is now Princeton University.  He also founded the Pennsylvania Hospital and the American Philosophical Society.  He was a member of St. James Episcopal Church.
The south side of the Churchyard which is open to the public.  This also shows the two large brick entrance posts and the beautiful metal gates they hold.  The Chancel of the church can be seen in the distance.
This is the double-page, detailed map of St. James Churchyard that show where each grave is located.  It matches a multi-page chart with names to help locate all the people buried in the Churchyard.
This stone is in memory of the more than 200 unmarked graves that are in the St. James Church graveyard.
A marker in memory of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Ross.
This tombstone is to honor Colonel Matthias Slough who was an officer in the Revolutionary War and was a member of the General Assembpy.  He was the coroner who presided at the inquest of the Paxton Massacre and was the proprietor of the White Swan Tavern in Lancaster City.  He was a member of St. James Church.
William Augustus Atlee was the Chairman of the Committee of Safety during the American Revolution.  Also a Burgess of Lancaster and Judge of the first Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  He was a Warden and Vestryman of St. James Church.
The grave of General Edward Hand.  He was one of Lancaster's leading soldiers during the Revolutionary War.  He was a friend and companion-in-arms of General George Washington.  A member of the Continental Congress and a Chief Burgess of Lancaster.  He too was a Vestryman and Warden of St. James.  Rockford, now a National Historical Site, was Hand's Lancaster Home.  It is located at the southern end of Lancaster City.


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