Tag: Shafts

  • McKee Shaft, Union Dale Cemetery

    McKee shaft

    A tall shaft topped by an urn. The very Victorian design includes elaborate monograms and ample space for inscriptions, but no inscriptions were ever engraved. Instead, the McKees have individual headstones around the monument. Eleanor McKee died in 1877, and that may be the date of the monument as well; but from the style old Pa Pitt might guess that it is later, perhaps from 1892, when Eleanor’s husband John, the family patriarch, was buried. They had two children who died before either of them. All the McKees were buried with sentimentally illiterate rhymed epitaphs. The worst is for Samuel Sterrett McKee, who was born in 1861 and died in 1868:

    CEASE DEAR PARENTS CEASE THY WEEPING
    O’RE THE GRAVE WHERE I AM SLEEPING
    FOR E’RE I LEFT MY HOME BELOW,
    THE ANGELS WERE BECKONING ME TO GO.

    Father Pitt counts two bad spellings and one grammatical error; he has given up the punctuation for lost.

    Urn
  • Henry Shaft, St. Clair Cemetery

    Henry shaft

    If an illustrator wanted to draw a typical cemetery monument of the middle 1800s, it would look like this. Rich but not extravagantly ornate, these shafts were popular because they easily direct the family to the plot, and they have abundant surface for inscriptions, meaning that one expensive monument can take the place of any number of tombstones, an expense that adds up over the years as scarlet fever and cholera take their toll.

    Unfortunately, the material—limestone or marble—erodes over the decades, so that the inscriptions become illegible after a while. Our readers are welcome to try their hands at reading the inscription for James M. Henry below, but poor old Pa Pitt gave up. The inscription may remember a child who was born in 1831 and died in 1837, but Father Pitt is not willing to stand by that reading.

    Inscription
  • Gormley Shaft, Chartiers Cemetery

    Gormley family plot

    This truly monumental monument is the tallest private memorial in the cemetery; only the Civil War monument is taller. It is nevertheless a monument-dealer’s stock item; an identical monument can be found in Allegheny Cemetery. It marks the family plot of the Gormleys, whose patriarch was named James for several generations, until the last James Gormley was finally buried under the epitaph “THE LAST OF THE LINE.”

    Gormley family plot
    Gormley monument
  • Sloan Shaft, Homewood Cemetery

    Sloan shaft

    A very Victorian towering shaft topped with an urn. It probably dates from 1891, when A. R. Sloan died.

    Sloan shaft inscription
  • Duncan Mausoleum, Union Dale Cemetery

    There is nothing else remotely like this in Pittsburgh. This huge mausoleum supports a towering shaft with a recording angel at the top taking notes. It was designed by Theophilus P. Chandler Jr. (which always sounds to old Pa Pitt like the name of the villain in a Marx Brothers farce), the tastemaker of Philadelphia, and the architect of First Presbyterian Church downtown.