Monuments of an Early March Trip

With Spring slowly starting to creep its way back into our lives, we had a few sunny but slightly chilly days in March to tease us. Well, tease all you want mother nature! I was off and took advantage of it (she reminded us its still winter later in the week). Day one was spent with friends Bryan and Dave, our main goal was to photograph trains. However, the railroad was not agreeing with us and it turned more into a day of good food and laughs with a couple trains and a few side stops. Day two was spent with one of my favorite road trip partners, Ilona. Almost every time we are out something memorable happens. This includes anything from having the crap scared out of us to uncontrollable laughing. Needless to say, any trip with her is an absolute adventure! A few of the photos were taken on March 3 with a majority being taken on March 6.

The trip with Ilona on March 6 was made up of stops at various places and sites to see. This blog will be focused mainly on memorials we visited on this trip, in the near future I will write about additional places we visited. The trip started with my 40 minute drive to her home to pick her up. Since I got a slightly later start than I wanted I decided a gas station visit would occur later and sooner (trust me you will hear more on this later). After picking up my side kick for the trip we headed off to the first stop, located about 10 minutes from her home that she did not know about.

Mammoth Mine Memorial

The Mammoth mines were made up of two mines. Mammoth #1 Mine was a mine shaft and Mammoth #2 was a slope mine. Mammoth #1 was owned by Colonel J.W. Moore Coke Company in Greensburg, PA. In 1889 the mine was sold to The H. C. Frick Coke Company.

Located off a country road, hidden behind the Mt. Pleasant Township Road Department remaining out of site, out of mind is the only reminder of this disaster. Here the sealed shaft of Mammoth #1 Mine remains with an old coal cart and a memorial stone with the names of those 109 men and boys forever lost.

On January 27, 1891 one of the most deadly mine disasters in Pennsylvania and the United States occurred here, the Mammoth Mine Disaster. Also known as the Frick Mine Explosion occurred just after 9:00 AM. It is believed the explosion was caused by firedamp being ignited by a miners oil lamp. Most of the miners are believed to have survived the explosion however they suffocated by the effects of the afterdamp. 79 of the 109 are buried in a mass grave at a local cemetery.

Names of the Lost

Just to give you an understanding, firedamp is a flammable gas found in coal mines. It is the name given to a number of flammable gases, especially methane. It is particularly found in areas where the coal is bituminous. The gas accumulates in pockets in the coal and adjacent strata, and when they are penetrated, the release can trigger explosions. Historically, if such a pocket was highly pressurized, it was termed a “bag of foulness”. Afterdamp, is the toxic mixture of gases left in a mine following an explosion caused by firedamp, which itself can initiate a much larger explosion of coal dust. It consists of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, another highly toxic gas, may also be present. However, it is the high content of carbon monoxide which kills by depriving victims of oxygen by combining preferentially with hemoglobin in the blood.

Mammoth Mine #1

The incident at Mammoth prompted Pennsylvania state legislation to strengthen mine safety inspections. The President of H.C. Coke Company, Thomas Lynch introduced the phrase, “Safety is the first consideration” and it appeared on every company circular. Soon after the expressions was shortened to a very common phrase we see everyday at nearly every workplace, “Safety First”. Soon after this disaster, the company published 25 mine safety rules. As the number of accidents increased, the rules increased. These rules were later adopted by other mining companies throughout the region. Most of the rules were listed in the 1916 edition of the Coal Miner’s Pocketbook.

While this was a very tragic accident to occur in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this event not only changed the industry but also gave us a simple saying that our lives depend upon, “Safety First”.

The next memorial stop on this trip is located in a much busier location but still surely goes highly unnoticed by the hundreds maybe thousands that pass by it daily. Located on the side of Route 30 East (Lincoln Highway) in Ligonier Township at the intersection of St. Clair Hollow Road stands a marker and stone monument to a man many never heard of.

General St Clair
Marker Along Lincoln Highway

Arthur St. Clair was born March 23, 1737 in Thurs, Scotland. In 1757, St. Clair purchased a commission in the British Army, Royal American Regiment, and came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen’s fleet for the French and Indian War. On April 16, 1762, he resigned his commission, and, in 1764, he settled in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania, where he purchased land and erected mills. He was the largest landowner in Western Pennsylvania. In 1770, St. Clair became a justice of the court, of quarter sessions and of common pleas, a member of the proprietary council, a justice, recorder, and clerk of the orphans’ court, and prothonotary of Bedford and Westmoreland counties.

Monument to St Clair
Monument to St Clair

By the 1770’s Arthur St. Clair seen himself as more of an American than British. During the Revolutionary War, he rose to the rank of Major General in the Continental Army, however after a controversial retreat from Fort Ticonderoga he lost his command. After the war, he served as the 15th President of the Continental Congress. During his term he passed the Northwest Ordinance. He then became governor of the Northwest Territory in 1788. In 1791, St. Clair commanded the American forces in what was the United States’s worst ever defeat against the American Indians. Politically out-of-step with the Jefferson administration, he was replaced as governor in 1802.

Major General Arthur St. Clair died in poverty on August 31, 1818 in Greensburg, PA. He was buried under a Masonic monument in St. Clair Park in Greensburg. Arthur St. Clair has had many places named after him in seven states as well as in Scotland. The American Civil War steamer U.S.S. St. Clair was also named after him.

After departing the St. Clair Monument, we were also done with Westmoreland County for now and headed for Johnstown in Cambria County, PA. Here we visited the Grandview Cemetery. Good reason for this cemetery be to named Grandview, the view is just that. However, if you plan on visiting wait until spring. We hoped to ride the incline while there however it was closed for the season. The cemetery is one of the largest in the state, over 235 acres.

Johnstown has had a pretty rough history. Besides for being an industrial powerhouse at one time, the city was nearly wiped off the face of the earth. After several days of heavy rain the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River gave way releasing 14.55 million cubic meters of water. The wave of the flood waters reached as high as 75 feet and speeds of 40 mph, it took 65 minutes for the lake to drain. When it crashed into the city of Johnstown the wave was 36 feet high. When it was all over most of Johnstown was destroyed and 2,208 people per killed, 777 of those bodies were never identified. Those 777 souls were laid to rest at the Grandview Cemetery in an area known as the, “Plot of the Unknown”.

Plot of the Unknown
Plot of the Unknown

A simple sign marks the location of the unidentified remains of those killed on May 31, 1889. Here in the Plot of the Unknown stands 777 identical unmarked headstones, one for each of the unidentified. While they may never be known, these headstones ensure they will never be forgotten. On the backside of this section stands a large monument to honor those lost.

Plot of the Unknown
Plot of the Unknown

A short walk from the Plot of the Unknown stands the tallest monument in the cemetery. Paid for by the public, this monument was placed here to honor those who served in the American Civil War. The monument is surrounded by the Circle of Soldiers who served in the Grand Army of the Republic.

Soldier's Circle
Soldier’s Circle

On the other side of the cemetery at one of its highest points stands this large memorial. Originally placed in the Union Cemetery in 1898. This monument honors the graves of those that were washed away in the flood on May 31, 1889. In 1949, this monument was moved here, possibly to protect it from any future floods.

Lost Remains
Lost Remains

After departing Grandview Cemetery we continued our journey for the day. There were other stops in between the monuments we already talked about and the final monument of the stop. Since this blog is only focused on the monuments and memorials we will discuss the other stops in future blogs.

As I said before, trips with Ilona are always entertaining. This time, it was my own fault. At the beginning I told you I skipped the gas station stop to make up time for me getting a late start………. As a divorced male, I should have known better, but typical man moment, I did it anyhow. When we left Johnstown I knew fuel was getting low but I did not want to go into downtown to get gas. We left the city and most of Cambria is pretty rural. I knew we would be okay, however a woman is a woman. The discussion for this part of the trip was mainly focused on the fuel situation. Against her better judgement we continued on making stops, none of which included a gas station as none were nearby along the way. My goal, make it to Sheetz gas station in Portage, and we did. Here we got lunch and gas, she was happy once again. However I did hear about it the whole trip…… lesson learned here fellas, start with a full tank of fuel.

The final  stop as far as monuments and memorials go on this trip was a very interesting place that is probably little known outside the local community. I first stopped here on March 3rd with my friend Bryan but knew this was a place Ilona would really enjoy. She is that dark morbid friend of mine that we all have…….now that I think of it I have a lot of those but she is the darkest. Take my word on this when I tell you…….she has an antique casket in her home.

Located at St. Michael’s Basilica in Loretto, PA is the tomb of Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. The tomb sits in front of St. Michael’s under a statue of the prince. The tomb is vary narrow with not a lot of space but it is open to the public.

St Michael's Basilica
St Michael’s Basilica

Prince Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (December 22, 1770 – May 6, 1840) was an emigre Russian aristocrat and Roman Catholic priest known as The Apostle of the Alleghenies. Since 2005, he has been under consideration for possible canonization by the Catholic Church. His current title is Servant of God. The Prince was born into inherited privilege. His father was the Russian ambassador to the Netherlands and his mother was a Prussian Countess.

Prince Gallitzin
Prince Gallitzin

The Prince arrived in the United States on October 28, 1792 and quickly became interested in the needs of The Church in the United States. He chose to give up his inheritance and become a priest.  He attended the newly formed Seminary of St. Sulpice in Baltimore on November 5, 1792 and Father Gallitzin was ordained on March 18, 1795. In 1799, Gallitzin founded the settlement of Loretto, PA and it became the first English-speaking Catholic settlement in the United States west of the Allegheny Front.

Prince Gallitzin Tomb
Prince Gallitzin Tomb

The Prince would go broke at one point in an attempt to build the community of Loretto. Even through the toughest of times he never forgot where he planted his roots in Pennsylvania. He turned down numerous positions within the Roman Catholic Church to remain in Loretto. He was considered for positions in Philadelphia, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, and was also nominated to be the first bishop of Cincinnati and Detroit, all positions that would require him to leave Loretto. Finally, he did accept appointment as Vicar-General for Western Pennsylvania.

St. Michael's/Prince Gallitzen
St. Michael’s/Prince Gallitzen

By the end of his life he paid back all of the loans he incurred to create the town of Loretto. It is believed that he spent nearly $150,000 of his own money to create a community for Roman Catholics. For 41 years, Price Gallitzin traveled the Allegheny Mountains in all types of health and weather conditions. After a fall that severely injured him preventing him from riding a horse, he continued to travel by sleigh. His travels consisted of preaching, teaching, serving, praying and offering the sacraments. A doctor had recommended bed rest and warmth for the exhausted priest, but he was reluctant to curtail any of the Lenten or Holy Week services. Father Gallitzin ministered faithfully until the very end of his life, and after a brief illness, died at the age of 69 in Loretto on May 6, 1840, shortly after Easter.

For more photographs of these places and many more places, click over to my Facebook Page, Neat Road Trips. Be sure to watch for additional blogs coming out soon on other places I visited on this most recent trip. Please share this page and be sure to “Like” Neat Road Trips on Facebook and invite your friends.

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Monuments of an Early March Trip