© Copyright 18 March 2001, The Sunday Review, Towanda,
Transcribed by Dick McCracken, Towanda, PA, 18 Mar 2001
The Irish of the State Road Cemetery
Gravestones tell stories of families who came to America looking for opportunity, established early settlements in Bradford County.
BY HENRY FARLEY
For The Review
STANDING STONE - One of the most peaceful places to visit in Bradford County is the State Road Cemetery. This little Irish burial ground lies high above Mercur on the State Road the eventually leads to Herrickville.
How did this cemetery begin and why are there so many people buried there in what appears to be a sparsely populated area?
The following is a history of the cemetery and some of the people who are buried there.
The construction of the North Branch Canal through this area started one of the largest immigrations of people who would become permanent residents in Bradford County.
These people were the Irish.
They came first to dig the canal and later mine our coal and build our railroads. They worked to make enough money to purchase the rich farmland of this area. Little Irish settlements began to spring up throughout the county. Many of the early Irish settlers were Roman Catholics, although there was a settlement in Herrick Township at Ballibay where a group of Scotch-Irish lived. The Roman Catholics worshiped in Towanda at SS. Peter & Paul's Church.
The parish there was founded in 1841 by Father I. Vincent O'Rielly. Prior to the erection of the church in Towanda, a priest would travel through the area from Friendsville in Susquehanna County.
Catholics who lived on the east side of the Susquehanna River from Towanda could not get to the church on Sunday due to the fact that the covered wagon bridge spanning the river vas a toll bridge and was not open for travel on Sunday.
The two large Irish Catholic settlements that were most affected by the closing of the bridge were the Pond Hill, or Lake Wesauking, and the State Road Irish. These two groups of settlers got together and formed a cemetery association in hopes that Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic Bishop John Neuman, now St. John Neuman, would see that they were serious about planting their roots here.
They were also hopeful that the establishment of a cemetery would lead to the construction of a church to serve the needs of the rural residents. The name of the cemetery when it was registered for incorporation was Ireland's Catholic Cemetery.
But over the years it has become better known as State Road Cemetery. The land for the cemetery, which is located in Standing Stone Township, was deeded from Michael and Margaret Kirk to Bishop Neuman on March 4, 1854.
The sum of money transferred in the deal was $25. The Kirks' son John died in 1854 and was the fifth person to be buried in the graveyard. I am sure that the Kirks wanted to ensure that the church would consecrate and maintain the cemetery after the death of their son.
Michael Kirk's first wife Margaret died on Feb. 3, 1856. Another son Daniel pass(ed) on in 1874. Michael Kirk's second wife Mary died on March 15, 1890, and finally Michael met his maker on March 21, 1891, at the age of 79.
According to Margaret Kirk's gravestone, she was a native of County Cork, the Parish of Inch, the village of Fassett, in Ireland.
Margaret Kirk was 45 at the time of her death. Information such as what is printed on Margaret Kirk's gravestone is prevalent throughout the cemetery and is very helpful to those searching their genealogy.
The first person buried in the Maloney I graveyard was John Dougherty. He died on Jan. 3, 1848. Dougherty was followed by several other residents whose families were sending the message to the Roman Catholic Church that they were serious about making this area their permanent home.
A walk down through the cemetery causes one to wonder about those interred there.
Where did they come from? What were they like? People like Margaret Mary McCarthy who died on Oct. 4, 1891, at age 23. Her monument inscription reads, "In youth and love she died."
The young woman reportedly died of Typhoid Fever and is buried in the family plot with her parents, James and Johannah Sullivan McCarthy. James McCarthy was a native of Grenough, County Cork, Ireland. He immigrated to America with his brother Denis.
Several days out to sea from Cobh (pronounced cove), County Cork, Ireland, they were shipwrecked and had to return to the motherland. .
They set out again and after their arrival in America, they worked their way towards Friendsville, where they had relatives. James McCarthy, while working in Towanda, was matched (a custom where the parents arranged the marriage of their children) to Johannah Sullivan.
She was 15 years old when they were married at SS. Peter and Paul's Church in Towanda in 1853. The McCarthys had seven children and resided in the Pond Hill settlement on Morley Hill in Rome Township.
The plot next to the McCarthys is that of Johannah’s parents, John and Ellen Shea Sullivan. Ellen died in 1879 and the inscription on her monument reads, "Children dear assembled here your mother's grave to see. Not long I go I dwell with you but soon you'll dwell with me."
Her gravestone also gives the information that Ellen was a native of the Parish of St. Barry, County Cork, Ireland. (Ellen Shea Sullivan was my great-great-great grandmother, so when I visited Ireland several years ago I was anxious to find the Parish of St. Barry. I found that St. Barry is a nickname for Finbar and that Ellen was in fact from Cork City and had been baptized at St. Finbar's church in 1804. Due to the information provided on her tombstone, I was able to get a copy of Ellen's baptismal certificate, which listed her parents' names and where they lived in the city in 1804.
What a genealogical find!
Ellen's husband John Sullivan died in 1892 at the age of 91. One of the couple's five children, William, is buried in the State Road Cemetery plot with them.
Patrick Sullivan, another son of John and Ellen, is buried in the cemetery with his wife Margaret Brennan. Margaret died on Sept. 27, 1882, while giving birth.
John Sullivan's brother William is also buried at the State Road Cemetery. William's stone states that he died on March 23, 1890; and was a native of the Parish of Clanhive, County Cork, Ireland. William was married to Johannah Galvin, who is not listed on the grave marker but must be buried there.
Beside William's grave is the plot of his daughter and her husband, Johannah and John Hayes and their family.
The couple were both born in Ireland and the marker states that John was a native of Clonakilty, County Cork.
Andrew Brennan, a native of County Tipperary, Ireland, is also buried at the State Road Cemetery, as are his two wives -Mary who died on May 27, 1851, and Catharine Lynch, a native of County Clare, Ireland, who died on May 28, 1874.
Andrew's grandson Andrew Brennan became a Roman Catholic priest and vas the bishop of Richmond, Va., at the time of his death.
Directly behind the Brennan plot is that of Andrew's brother John Brinnin.
This is an example of what happened to the spelling of people's names due to the fact that they could not read or write. Oftentimes those recording the names spelled out the pronunciation that they heard.
On a little ways from the Brennans is the plot of the John Hurley family. John died on Sept. 10, 1879, at the age of 106. His son Daniel Hurley, a noted Bradford County politician for many years, also lived to the ripe old age of 106.
John and his wife Mary have many of their family buried at the State Road Cemetery, including Arthur who died at the Confederacy's Andersonville prison, where he was held after being taken prisoner during the Civil War.
Arthur, a Union soldier, died in 1863 at the age of 23.
Michael Meloy, another Civil War soldier buried in the cemetery, was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.
In the row beside Michael Meloy, we find Purcells and Cuffneys.
There is Hannorah Cuffney who died on Feb. 19,1876, at the age of 7 and Catharine Cuffney who died on May 18,1876, at the age of 4 months and 8 days. The Cuffney girls were the daughters of William and Ellen Donovan Coveney.
The story that has been handed down over the years is that William could not read or write and when he stated his name, Cuffney was what was noted.
A relative from Ireland was here for a funeral and saw the spelling on the girls' grave markers. This relative informed the family of the mistake. William went to court to have his name changed twice, first to Covney and then to Coveney.
William and Ellen were the parents of 12 children and when this error was found, some of the older children had already left home and married and did not wish to change their names.
To this day there are Cuffneys and Coveneys who are from the same family.
William Coveney was buried in the cemetery at the time of his death in 1902, but his remains were later moved to SS. Peter and Paul's in Towanda.
John Donovan, an uncle of the Cuffney girls, is buried beside them as is their first cousin James Maloney, who died on April 25, 1866, at the age of 11 months.
John Donovan died on July 15, 1868, at the age of 24. He died of sunstroke while working in the fields of the family's Pond Hill farm. The summer of 1868 was so severe that the heat was unbearable and sunstroke was a cause of many deaths.
Michael Lynch, who was in Towanda for a funeral, died of a sunstroke the same day as John Donovan.
James and Mary Austin Donovan, John's parents, are buried at the State Road Cemetery as well. They were natives of Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland, who came here to work on the canal.
The Donovans split a Rome Township farm with Mrs. Donovan's brother, Thomas Austin, who came to Bradford County in 1829.
The Donovans were the parents of five children. The grave of their daughter, Margaret Maloney, and her family is across the cemetery from the Donovans. Margaret, her husband Michael and three of their children, Bridget, Thomas and Joseph, are buried there.
Joseph was the last of 11 children born to the Maloneys. His death on July 30, 1898, of consumption devastated the family. This was a loss that the parents never got over as they had already lost two children to the deadly disease -- Catharine Maloney Crowley in 1892 and Michael Maloney Jr. on Dec. 5, 1894.
The newspaper account of Michael's death stated that he had gone to Towanda on business on Dec. 4 and became violently ill. He died the next day of what was diagnosed as quick consumption.
Michael Maloney Sr. was a native of Ireland and was one of the few settlers who had been educated in the old country. We know this because he was listed as executor for many estates. This was due to the fact that he could read and write.
The large granite monument of the Bustin family lies behind the Maloney plot. John and Mary Coleman Bustin and one of their seven children, Ellen, are buried there.
The story of Ellen's death is tragic. She was married in a double ceremony at SS. Peter and Paul's Church. Ellen married John Farr of Ridgebury and her brother Thomas Bustin married Hannah Lynch. Ellen and John went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon where Ellen became very ill. She and John were on their way home and made it as far as Elmira, N.Y., where Ellen died on Dec. 6, 1895, at the age of 21.
The cause of her death just one week after her wedding was appendicitis and peritonitis.
John Farr was never heard from again after her death.
Another family that populated the State Road area was the Foyle family. John, the progenitor, died on Nov.14, 1878.
He was a native of the parish of Balnokill, County Killkinna, Ireland, as was his wife Mary Fogerty, who died on Dec. 28, 1878. They were the parents of nine children, one of whom was William Foyle, a well-known and respected lawyer and politician in Bradford County.
He died in 1913 and his remains lie in the State Road Cemetery, as do those of his wife Ellen Fitzgerald and two of their three sons, William and John. Ellen Fitzgerald Foyle was the daughter of Thomas and Isabella Lackey Fitzgerald. Thomas,
Fitzgerald was born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1810. Isabella Lackey Fitzgerald was born in 1826 in County Down, Ireland, the daughter of John and Ellen McGee Lackey.
John and Ellen immigrated to the United States in the 1830s. Thomas came in the late 1830s and worked on the Erie Canal and then on the North Branch Canal, hooking mules to boats. He later was a foreman of the canal works and owned a canal boat. Thomas and lsabella Lackey Fitzgerald were the parents of eight children.
The Lackey and Fitzgerald families are interred in the cemetery.
The Dolans were another prominent family from the State Road area. They, like so many of the Irish settlers, used family names over and over, so nicknames like "Red Luke" and "Black Luke" were used to distinguish which Luke Dolan was being referred to. Thomas Dolan had a prosperous farm just across the road from the cemetery.
Thomas met a tragic death when the wagon he was driving was hit by the Lehigh Express at the East Towanda crossing on Nov. 2, 1906. Dolan and his spirited team of young horses died as a result of the accident.
Among the Civil War veterans buried at the cemetery are Lt. William Meehan, born Dec. 24, 1843, County Clare, Ireland. He died on April 18, 1865, in Washington, D.C., after being wounded in the fighting around Petersburg, Va., on March 31 of that year.
James Mahoney, of the 9th , Pennsylvania Infantry, an outfit that fought in the Spanish-American War, is also buried at the cemetery.
World War I veteran Joseph Grimes, a private with the 304th Army Engineers, is buried there as well. He was born on Sept. 27, 1893, and died Jan. 24, 1958.
The residents of the local Irish settlements came from counties Cork, Longford, Armaugh, Tyrone, Clare, Sligo, Tipperary, Cavan, Down and Kerry. They came to America and Bradford County seeing a new and better life than they had known back home.
Many of these people had never been more than five miles from their homes in Ireland, yet they were willing to leave the homes and families that they loved so well for the opportunities offered here.
The last person buried in the State Road Cemetery was Dennis Purcell in 1965. Dennis was one of the six children born to Edward and Bridget McCarthy Purcell. The Purcell's farmed in Rome Township on Morley Hill. Dennis was a hermit of sorts and lived an eccentric life.
My brother Bill used to spend vacations during the summer months with our uncle and aunt John and Catherine Murphy Maloney. Dennis was a first cousin of my uncle John's, as their mothers were sisters.
Dennis lived on the next farm over from the Maloneys. We used to love to be sent out to pick wild strawberries as this gave us an excuse to head for the Purcell's place.
Dennis lived in the family home but confined himself to the kitchen. We were always impressed that Dennis could live in the kitchen with his trusty bike and his sheep.
We thought Dennis was really living well.
This is the end of my story on the little graveyard on the State Road. If you are ever out there, stop and check out this well-kept reminder of our past.
Charles "Skip" Miller of Towanda is the volunteer caretaker of the land. He does an excellent job preserving our Irish heritage.
I hope that others can benefit as I have from the information so carefully carved on the gravestones of these pioneers of Bradford County.
Henry Farley is the president of the Bradford County Historical Society. He can be reached at (570) 265-2240.
© Copyright 18 March 2001, The Sunday Review, Towanda, PA.
Used with permission of The Sunday Review, James Towner, publisher;
and author Henry Farley, Sayre, PA.
Transcribed by Dick McCracken, Towanda, PA, 18 Mar 2001