Mary S. Brown Memorial-Ames United Methodist Church and Turner Cemetery are located at 3424 Beechwood Boulevard, right on the border between the Squirrel Hill and Greenfield neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, PA 15217. Click on the “About” link for contact information. For more information about the church and cemetery, scroll down this page.
NINTH ANNUAL TURNER CEMETERY HISTORY WALK
September 30, 2017
The Ninth Annual Turner Cemetery History Walk was held on the gorgeous last day of September 2017. It was a rousing success. Squirrel Hill resident and Squirrel Hill Historical Society member Eric Marchbein, whose interest in Simon Girty has been longstanding, applied for and was successful in gaining approval for a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission roadside marker for the complex and controversial frontiersman who originally claimed and owned 140 acres of what is now Squirrel Hill and Greenfield, including the land where Turner Cemetery is located. When Simon Girty and two of his brothers decided to fight on the British side in the American Revolution, they couldn’t return to Squirrel Hill after the war, and their half-brother John Turner eventually became the owner of the land.
The Turner Cemetery History Walk festivities began at 10:30 with a gun salute by the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment re-enactors and Mary S. Brown-Ames Church’s bagpiper, Ben. Afterwards, the string band Tamsula, Withers, Wig & Kristy played period music for the enjoyment of all present.
The marker dedication ceremony began at 11:30 in the church meeting hall with a welcome by Sandy Rim, Chair of The Friends of Turner Cemetery and board member of Mary S. Brown-Ames Church.
Next, Eric Marchbein spoke about the process of getting the marker and acknowledged the people who helped him with the research proving the 140-acre tract in Squirrel Hill where the marker will be placed was indeed land once owned by Simon Girty. The marker will be placed on the sidewalk outside the cemetery in the near future. The exact date will be announced here as soon as the date is set.
Eric then introduced the speakers:
- Andy Masich, PA Historical and Museum Commission and Heinz History Center President
- State Senator Jay Costa, 43rd Senatorial District
- Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who presented a proclamation honoring Simon Girty and congratulating the Squirrel Hill Historical Society on receiving and dedicating the historical marker
- Corey O’Connor, Pittsburgh City Council, District 5, who presented a proclamation recognizing September 30 as a “Day of Reconciliation between the descendants of the Indians and Settlers who once lived here”
- Timothy Truman, author of the graphic novel Wilderness: The True Story of Simon Girty, Renegade
- Dr. Charles McCollester, author of The Point of Pittsburgh
- Phillip W. Hoffman, author of Simon Girty, Turncoat Hero
- Dr. Jay Toth, Tribal Archeologist of the Seneca Nation of Indians
After the speakers were finished, Eric acknowledged Girty family descendants who were present and asked several of them to come forward to unveil the historical marker.
After the ceremony, the authors signed their books and chatted with people about the significance of Simon Girty’s controversial life and how he was perceived through different lenses: British, American and Native American.
In addition to Hoffman and McCollester’s books, the sales table sold local history books, CDs by the band, a documentary DVD about Simon Girty produced by one of his descendants, and postcards and booklets about Mary S. Brown-Ames Church and Turner Cemetery. Other tables offered homemade soups and baked goods.
Meanwhile, outside in the cemetery, military re-enactors from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment were encamped, and placards scattered around the cemetery offered information about the early settlers buried there and about local history. Attendees also could view the displays about the cemetery in the church and view the gorgeous stained glass windows, Civil War plaque, the massive bell, and the lintel stone of the first church on the site.
OTHER NEWS ABOUT TURNER CEMETERY
Discovery of New Tombstones in Turner Cemetery and Finding of More Burial Records
Turner Cemetery is beautifully maintained by dedicated members of Mary S. Brown-Ames Church, especially by cemetery researcher Mark Pearson. Recently Mark announced that he had found a buried headstone and foot stone. The letters on the headstone are illegible, but the foot stone has the letters T. J. McC. Comparing those initials with the incomplete cemetery records we have, we found the name John T. McCaslin on the list. If this connection is correct, it is a major find because McCaslin was the son of John Turner’s wife Susanna’s sister Fanny Clark and her husband, John McCaslin. The Turners had no children, and Susanna’s sisters gave her several of their children to raise. The Turners’ favorite, reportedly, was John T. Caslin, whom the Turners referred to as their “adopted son.”
The finding of the T. J. McC foot stone illustrates the fate of some of the burials at Turner Cemetery. The website findagrave.com reports that John T. McCaslin died March 13, 1846, and his body was moved to Allegheny Cemetery, Section 3,grave 348, in 1911 by his daughter, Mary Fritz.
Mark recently found another buried stone, which had been broken into pieces. The words are mostly illegible, but “??? Robert, son of ???” “died April ? 1857,” and “aged 7 months and three days” can be read. The tombstone, which appears to be white marble, is a sad testament to infant mortality in the nineteenth century.
Mark also found listed in 1879-1905 Pittsburgh Deaths, burial records for a number of children buried in Turner Cemetery, whom researchers had no prior knowledge of before this. The burial records are:
The three Robinson children, Harry H. Robinson, born 1871, died June 28, 1873; Mary Klein Robinson, born May 1878, died Sept. 27, 1878; and Jennie Harris Robinson, born May 1878, died Sept. 30, 1878. Their parents were Francis G. and Jane Robinson.
Edward L. Smeltz, born 1969, died May 21, 1873. His parents were John and Sarah Smeltz.
William Harman Thomas, born June 1880, died April 12, 1881. His parents were John and Amanda Thomas.
Henry Garrett, born 1884, died Sept. 8, 1884. His parents were Henry and Emma Garrett.
Mary Freese, born 1847, died Sept. 18, 1884.
Charles S. Gisbert, born Oct. 30, 1892, died December 10, 1892. His parents were Charles and Amanda Gisbert.
The last four burials have special importance because before their records were discovered, the last burial we knew of in the cemetery was that of Edward Schenley Eddy in 1880.
New Book: SQUIRREL HILL: A NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY
Five members of the Squirrel Hill Historical Society, including Turner Cemetery researcher Helen Wilson, have written Squirrel Hill: A Neighborhood History, which was published by The History Press in June 2017. The book contains several chapters on the early development of Squirrel Hill, including stories of the Girtys, Turners, and their friends and neighbors. The book will be on sale at the History Walk for $22 (SHHS members, $20). It is also available at most Pittsburgh bookstores and at arcadia.com, amazon.com, and other online booksellers.
Helen Wilson also collaborated with her son Todd on the book Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges in 2015. It is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, filled with photographs and other illustrations. Pittsburgh’s Bridges presents a history of 144 bridges within Pittsburgh’s borders, including those around the area where Turner Cemetery and MSBA Church are located. The book shows the sequence of bridges at various sites and explains the reasons behind their unique designs. The book was released on October 26, 2015. For more information or to order, go to amazon.com or click on this link: http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9781467134248/Pittsburghs-Bridges
DESCENDANT OF THOMAS GIRTY VISITS TURNER CEMETERY
In the spring of 2014, Ken Girty, descendant of Simon Girty’s brother Thomas, whose half-brother was John Turner, visited the cemetery and gave a talk in the church community room about his family’s turbulent history. Unlike the other Girty brothers Simon, George and James, Thomas remained loyal to the United States during the Revolutionary War. After the war he moved a bit north and established a trading post at Girty’s Run, buying land and eventually owning most of what is now Oakmont. The Girtys were half-brothers to John Turner.
A few weeks after his visit, Ken Girty invited the North Hills Past Finders to come to Turner Graveyard with an assortment of metal detectors to examine the graveyard for artifacts. The major find was an ax and possibly a chisel dated to between 1850-1860. Several churches were built on the site beginning in 1842, so it is possible the tools were used to build or maintain one of the structures.
We received the results of the Mercyhurst study of Turner Cemetery. As expected, the fluxgate gradiometer (magnetometer) scans showed anomalies that could mean burials, and, also as expected, most of the anomalies did not correspond to the present locations of the tombstones, since we knew they were moved around through the years. We are hoping Mercyhurst returns to study the upper half of the half-acre graveyard. We are also trying to find a way to have ground-penetrating radar scans done, which are more accurate. We have no plans to do any excavations in the graveyard. We would just like to mark the graves to honor those buried there.
Click on this link for the Turner-Mercyhurst Press Release.
Click on this link to see the article about the Mercyhurst study that appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on May 6, 2013.
Here is some general information about the Turner Cemetery/Mary S. Brown-Ames Historical Site.
Turner Cemetery and Mary S. Brown Memorial-Ames United Methodist Church are located at 3424 Beechwood Boulevard on the border between the Squirrel Hill and Greenfield neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. The Turner Cemetery/Mary S. Brown-Ames Historical Committee (TC/MSBA) is researching the site because of its historical and genealogical importance. The cemetery dates to 1785 and provides information about many of the earliest settlers of Squirrel Hill. The adjacent church was built in 1908, but several churches preceded it on the same plot of land.
The churches on the site have been known by various names, which are listed on the page about the church. Click on the MSBA Church tab to go to that page. The present church, now known as Mary S. Brown Memorial-Ames United Methodist Church, was originally named Mary S. Brown Memorial Chapel.
The purpose of this website is to disseminate information about the cemetery and church, collect additional information, enable correspondence among interested people, and work toward preserving the site for the future.
So what makes this site so important? The short answer is that the cemetery and church, taken together, form a strand of Pittsburgh’s history extending from the area’s earliest days to the present and relating to every part of it. The cemetery and church have ties to Native American prehistory, the settlement of the area by colonists from Europe, the first wars fought by the new United States, the Civil War, industrialization, urbanization and, since the church is still a living ministry, events spanning the 20th century. We’re now into our third century at the same location!
Today the cemetery and church site now faces the dilemma of being a priceless treasure in need of restoration and conservation.