The rear and lower sections of the cemetery were deeded to the trustees of the Associate Reformed Congregation of Saw Mill Run from Andrew and Margaret McFarlane, Alexander and Elizabeth Long and James and Margaret Long in May and June 1805 for a church and burial ground. The congregation’s first church–a 35-by-50-foot log building that stood in what is now the lower section of the cemetery–was built in 1806. Additional cemetery property was purchased in the mid to late 1800s from Robert Long and the estate of Madison Bailey. The church minutes report that around this time a white picket fence with two gates and an arch over the entrance surrounded the cemetery. It is said that the large open area on the hillside is a potter’s grave. No records support this and we hope one day to ascertain this fact through an archaeological dig or ground penetrating radar.
While it is uncertain when the first burial took place –as many of the original markers have disintegrated, toppled or fallen victim to vandalism–it has been said the first burial took place in 1806. The earliest legible stone found in a 2004 survey was from 1812. There are supposedly 10 Revolutionary War soldiers buried here, although only three have been positively identified: Nathaniel Plummer, James Glenn and John Henry.
In 1858, the congregation decided to allow people who had no connection to the church to be buried in the cemetery for an additional $2. Old deeds show that in 1865 three cemetery plots cost $38.
In 1874, Mt. Lebanon Cemetery on Washington Road was established. While it got off to a rocky start, by 1899 it had been reorganized and was surely taking some of St. Clair Cemetery’s “business.” In fact, there are stories that it was fashionable to move graves from St. Clair to the new cemetery across the street.
In 1907, on petition, St. Clair Cemetery was incorporated by the Court of Common Pleas as a non-profit corporation whose members and officers must be MLEP church members. Cemetery funds (used primarily for maintenance) are kept separate from church funds. The last burial in the cemetery took place in Nov. 2003.
A walk through the cemetery turns up many familiar names such as McNeilly, McCully, Beadling, Carnahan, Kelso and Beltzhoover. These were early residents whose names have been immortalized as streets and neighborhoods. It also turns up a sad fact of life for early settlers of our area – infant mortality: 30 to 40 percent of those buried here are children.