The History of Black’s Graveyard, Part II (2/14)

BY MARY MARGARET STEWART / February 2014

Not until March 14, 1844, was the burial ground on Belmont Road, Cumberland Township referred to as Black’s Graveyard in the Gettysburg Presbyterian church records. Before that date and invariably after that date (except in the 1840’s), it was called “burying ground,” “the Graveyard at Upper Marsh Creek in the Country,” “Old Graveyard in the Country,” or “Marsh Creek grave yard.” In the Adams County Landowners Map, published by G. M. Hopkins in 1858, the cemetery is marked and designated “Black’s Gr. Yr.” Through the years, I suspect, the burial ground was commonly known as Black’s Graveyard.

The name Black must refer to Robert Black and his wife Sarah Malachai Black, Scot Irish immigrants from Northern Ireland, who were among the first settlers west of the Susquehanna River. Black farmed near what is now Mummasburg and called his plantation “Cross Keys.” After Robert was thrown from a horse and died in 1760, at the age of 46, Sarah raised their seven minor children. In about 1776, she became an innkeeper and the family home, located at the intersection of the road from York to Chambersburg (1747) and the Baltimore to Shippensburg Road (1769), became known as Black’s Tavern Cross Keys. Five of the Black sons served in the Army of the American Revolution. Robert (1760) and Sarah (1790), as well as their son Adam (1816), and at least five other Blacks are buried in the graveyard now bearing their name.

Since no church documents recorded burials in this graveyard, some graves were never marked, others were marked only by field stones which carry no inscriptions, and since through the years grave stones disappeared, were destroyed, or defaced, it is impossible to compile an accurate list of those interred in the graveyard. After the establishment of Evergreen Cemetery in 1856, many bodies originally interred in the Upper Marsh Creek graveyard were exhumed and reinterred in Evergreen Cemetery. Among those who moved the remains of their ancestors were the Buchanan, Cobean, Edie, Ewing, Gettys, Hamilton, Hays, Horner, Jenkins, McConaughy, MacPherson, Russell, and Smith families. After Scot MacPherson and Ned Brownley concluded their careful study and platting of the graveyard in 2002, they determined there were one hundred two graves.

The Bighams, a pioneer family in the Marsh Creek Settlement, did not remove the remains of their ancestors. In fact, that family has one of the distinctive markers in the cemetery. The stone that indicates the graves of John, Agnes, and William Bigham is large and flat, covering the entire plot. On the stone is carved the family coat-of-arms which depicts a lion rampant in a shield, with a clenched hand surmounting it. An inscription commemorating the three is engraved beneath it. During the American Revolution, William (1748-1816) served as a sergeant in Captain Thomas Church’s Company of the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, commanded by Colonel Anthony Wayne. He was wounded in fighting around Ticonderoga, 1776.

Among those buried in Black’s Graveyard are several other veterans of the War of the American Revolution: Isaac Armstrong (1752-1830); Quentin Armstrong II (d. 1795); Adam Black (1750-1816); Samuel Cobean (1770-1832); James McAllister (1739-1782); Rev. Robert McMordie (1724-1796); Francis McNutt (1769-1853); David Moore (1736-1803); Joseph Wilson (1762-1847).
One of these veterans, Rev. Robert McCordie, also served as the first minister of the Upper Presbyterian Congregation of Marsh Creek. Probably born in Ireland about 1724, he was ordained by Donegal Presbytery on May 22, 1754, and began his ministry at Upper Marsh Creek. He also farmed the glebe. Because theological differences developed between pastor and congregation, the relationship between Rev. McCordie and Upper Marsh Creek was dissolved in January 1761. Between 1762 and 1772 he did missionary work in Virginia and North Carolina. By the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he had no pastoral charge and was residing near Gettysburg, probably on his 200-acre farm in Cumberland Township.

From 1776 through 1783, he served as Chaplain, first with the “Flying Camp,” then the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, then the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment, briefly with the 2nd Pennsylvania Brigade, and finally, upon the recommendation of General Arthur St. Clair, Chaplain of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment. As an officer in the Continental Army, he was made a member of the Society of Cincinnati. He was awarded 400 acres in Jefferson County. On May 25, 1785, he retired and lived on his farm in Cumberland Township until his death on May 22, 1796. He was buried in Black’s Graveyard, where his daughter Margaret had been buried in 1777. When his wife Janet Boyd McCordie died in 1808, she was buried near the graves of her husband and daughter.

When the snow disappears, visit Black’s Graveyard. In the meantime, Google Find A Grave: Blacks Graveyard. It’s not entirely accurate, but what is?

Mary Margaret Stewart is a member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.