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.
EIGHTH ANNUAL TURNER CEMETERY HISTORY WALK
The Eighth Annual Turner Cemetery History Walk took place on October 22, 2016. It was a cold, rainy day, but that didn’t stop the History Walk from being an enjoyable and informative event about the place where Squirrel Hill began. Attendees watched an opening ceremony with Mary S. Brown-Ames Church’s own bagpiper, Ben, playing “Amazing Grace” and a rifle salute by the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment re-enactors.
A talk in the church Fellowship Hall followed. Kevin Rim welcomed the audience, and then cemetery researcher Mark Pearson gave a report about his efforts to restore the tombstones and maintain the graveyard, made possible in part by donations to the Turner Cemetery fund. Mark’s report was followed by Eric Marchbien’s report on his project to get a Pennsylvania State Historical Marker to commemorate the place where Simon Girty and his family lived after their release from Indian captivity. The Girtys originally blazed a claim to over 140 acres on Squirrel Hill, including the area around Turner Cemetery. When Simon Girty and two of his brothers defected to the British side in the American Revolution, he forfeited his claim to the land, and his half-brother John Turner eventually became the owner.
The reports were followed by a presentation by Helen Wilson, Turner Cemetery researcher and vice-president of the Squirrel Hill Historical Society, who explored what the first community around Turner Cemetery might have been like and how it developed into what it is today.
After the presentation attendees braved the wet and slippery slope of the graveyard for self-guided tours. They also viewed the historical displays and talked to the military re-enactors from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment stationed in the back of the sanctuary of the church. To warm themselves, everyone enjoyed steaming hot soup and a luscious homemade desserts sale.
A new book from the Squirrel Hill Historical Society will be released in June 2017:
Squirrel Hill: A Neighborhood History
Four members of the Squirrel Hill Historical Society has been engaged in writing a history of Squirrel Hill, which will be published by The History Press. The book contains chapters on the early development of Squirrel Hill, including the story of the Girtys, Turners, and their friends and neighbors. The book is scheduled to be released in June 2017. It will be available at most Pittsburgh bookstores and at amazon.com and other online booksellers.
BOOK ABOUT PITTSBURGH’S BRIDGES
Todd and Helen Wilson collaborated on the book, Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges. 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.