St Vincent’s Cemetery
In the Fall of 1868, at a point in time when this country was recovering from the ravages of the Civil War, and General Ulysses S Grant was elected President; the mission church of St. Vincent’s was built. St. Mary’s of Wilkes Barre was then the mother church for the whole area and priests from the Diocese stationed at St. Mary’s came to Plymouth to celebrate Mass. Soon families living in East Plymouth and Larksville were added to the parish rolls and it became imperative to built a church.
In the latter part of 1872, St Vincent’s celebrated its first Mass and was officially established as a separate parish. Rev. Richard E Hennessy was appointed it resident pastor, saying Mass in the new church on November 2.
A record number of immigrants had reached the United States by the year 1882. The greatest number of Irish who came into this area became members of this parish. It continues to this day as the ‘Irish’ church in Plymouth.
St. Vincent’s established their first cemetery on Welsh Hill in Larksville. It was situated at the end of Cemetery St., and did not at that time encompass a great area of ground. The Polish in the area, later purchased land to St Vincent’s Cemetery and until 1911, the Irish and Polish rested side by side. In 1911, the Kingston Coal Company, seeking new land to mine or strip for coal, purchased the ground that the Irish were using for their burials; consequently, the Irish then moved their dead up higher on Larksville Mountain to ground given to them by the Coal Company. Some of the Polish ground was also purchased at that time, but not a great deal. When the graves were moved, the Polish were given a section of the new Irish Cemetery for themselves. It is located at the very top of section 3. The irish never did have records for that section, and today, there are no records anywhere except the headstones themselves. Even St. Vincent’s have few records on those people who were moved from their old to their new cemetery. On the record cards these people are most often reflected only as “remains”. I asked one old gentleman why a proper record was never kept on these persons. “Why!” he said, “We knew who they were!” Today, few remember.
It was common in the days of the early Church in the U.S., the Catholic Church, at any rate, to have ground set aside outside of the main cemetery for the burial of the unbaptized, the derelictis, and those persons who for one reason or another, could not be buried within the Cemetery proper. They called this section the ‘Dark’ or ‘Black’ corner. St Vincent’s had theirs at the very end of Cemetery St. just before the entrance to the Consecrated ground. If these bodies were ever moved up to the new Cemetery is not known.
In the new Cemetery, this section is at the top of the entrance road but to reach it, you must leave your car and go by foot along a woodland path several hundred feet. It lies on the left where two old wagon roads intersect. They can still be discerned today (1979), but there are no markings on any graves in this area. The last burial in the ‘Dark’ corner took place during the time when Mr. James Tobin, Jr was the caretaker. Since he is now deceased, and that was 40 years ago, no one I have contacted knows of anyone by name that might be buried there.
To everyone’s relief, that practice was discontinued many years ago, and today, even non-Catholics may be buried within the Cemetery proper, through certain rules and regulations are always in force, and must be dealt with accordingly.
The caretakers for the Cemetery that I know of were Mr. James Tobin Sr., Mr. James Tobin Jr., Mr. MacElwee, Mr. George Matthews (1954-1975) and William H. Nelson, (1975-____). Mr. George Matthews, was my father, and he decided to take the job ‘temporarily’ while the Woodward Colliery where he had worked for many years, was out on strike. He stayed for 21 years, and we were all raised in the house outside the Cemetery Bridge. When he retired, we were living in Maine and were invited down to take over the position; so now my husband Bill, manages the Cemetery, and was are raising our children in the house outside the Cemetery Bridge.
In order to put together this record of stones, I would take my portable tape recorder with me into one section at a time and read into it the names and dates on each of the stones. Then I would type them off of the tape into an index card file. Now arrange them alphabetically, they could, if they could talk, tell the whole history of the Irish immigrant into this area. The earliest of these people came here seeking relief from the horrible potato famines in Ireland. They were following work; arriving in droves in those areas sprouting newly opened coal mines. Many of them lived out their lived in drafty, ill-equipped company homes, and died as penniless as they had lived. But they were faithful to two things: Their Church, and their Irish Culture. No more do you hear talk of ‘Banshees’ and ‘Evil eyes’, but you did once. No more the Irish brogue; the ready laugh; the shawled mothers. But still the Church continues, and twinkling eyes, and sweet Irish lullabyes; passed from one mother to another, are still sung to today’s babies; and the Rosary and the Novena and the Sunday Mass are still a closely woven part of the heart of today’s Irish.
For myself, I will one day, though God willing, not too soon; be the fifth generation of our family to rest in this Cemetery. That pleases me, for I wouldn’t want to be buried among ‘strangers’.
Written by: Georgetta Ann Nelson
These records were donated by:Joann
© Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors