A Father And His Flock
by: Eric Miller
Historians are able to tell a lot about people in America from the cemeteries. Just like
neighborhoods known as home to a particular ethnicity, so too many cemeteries reflect this
pattern. The Cemetery Trail this month brings a tale of two small towns bound
together by religion.
In the year 1795, a Russian Prince came to Western Pennsylvania for the first time.
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was ordained as a Catholic priest shortly before he was assigned
as the first pastor of McGuire's Settlement. Father Gallitzin and the Church brought together urban congregations and mountain parishioners.
He later changed the name of the settlement to Loretto and encouraged other Catholics to join him.
This story continues in a cemetery near the town of Sinking Valley, which also dates back to the
eighteenth century. Peter McMullen, who founded Saint Luke's Cemetery, arrived in the summer of 1784.
When McMullen died, he deeded part of his plantation as a burial ground for "Roman Catholics and no
others." All of the revenue from McMullen's cemetery, therefore, was sent to Father Gallitzin. (The most
recent tombstone in St. Luke's was erected in 1903)
The remains of Father Gallitzin are housed in an attractive tomb on Saint Mary's Street in Loretto
that draws a significant number of visitors each year. Although Gallitzin died in 1840, the present
monument wasn't erected until 1891 when his remains were relocated from outside the chapel house
where he had ministered.
Please visit with us next month as we make another stop along The Cemetery Trail.
Return to the Cemetery Trail home page
Eric Miller writes frequently on urban issues and lives in San Francisco. He
is the webmaster of http://home.earthlink.net/~urbancentury and is a partner
in the soon to launch New Colonist (newcolonist.com), a web publication for
urban residents. His articles have appeared in San Francisco Downtown, The
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other publications. He can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.