Note about dates: Most of the dates given in this article only refer to the month and the year. There are discrepancies between published genealogies of the Russell family, as well as newspaper reports and interment registers. In most cases the difference is likely between date of death and date of interment, but it is simpler just to give month and year. At this distance, it doesn’t really matter all that much.
Entrance to the Allegheny Cemetery
Plan of graves in Section 7 Lot 17 in the Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA.
Owner: James G Russell. Size of lot: 300 (square feet). Graves: 1. Mary Russell, 2. Charles T Russell, 3. James G Russell, 4. Sarah A Russell, 5. Joseph L Russell, 6. Ann E Russell, 7. Joseph L Russell Jr., 8. Lucinda H Russell, 9. Thomas B Russell.
As cities in America grew in the 19th century, the problem of burying the dead became an issue, involving both public health and space. Town and city graveyards tended to be small, sectarian, and full. The rural cemetery or garden cemetery was a solution. It was designed to be a landscaped region that allowed the public to have parkland outside the city area, while also allowing the families of the rich to indulge in eye-catching memorial architecture. The latter seemed to work on the principle that, while you may not be able to take it with you, at least you could show the huddled masses you’d once had it! It also took the burial of the dead outside of church control.
The first rural cemetery in America was founded near Boston in 1831. Quickly others followed, including the one where most of CTR’s immediate family are buried, in Allegheny. The Allegheny model was chartered in 1844, and the grounds (originally one hundred acres of farmland) were dedicated to their new use on September 20, 1845. Other tracts of surrounding land were later purchased, so that a 1910 guide describes the cemetery as having grown to a little over 273 acres, divided into 39 sections.
Modern publications give a figure of around 300 acres, divided into 48 sections with fifteen miles of roadways. The area is carefully landscaped with well established trees, and is a haven for wildlife. Over 124,000 are buried there. Perhaps the most famous resident is Stephen Foster, the nineteenth century composer. One of the Memorials is for the child victims of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion in 1862 that is mentioned in chapter one of the current history book in progress. Forty-five of the victims were buried in Section 17 of the Allegheny cemetery with a special memorial pillar to commemorate them.
Although the cemetery location was chosen to be well outside the metropolis, inevitably the city encroached around it and then way beyond it. Today it is a very useful green space with some forestry, as well as a cemetery, in the middle of an urban area. It is located in the Lawrenceville neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, bounded by Bloomfield, Garfield and Stanton Heights. Its official address is 4734 Butler Street.
The original prospectus allowed for the purchase of individual graves or family plots. The prevailing sizes of the latter were 150, 225, 300, or 500 square feet each. A 150 square foot lot was for six graves, using wooden rough boxes only, a 225 foot lot was for eight interments and a 300 foot one ten burials.
So finally we come to the Russell family.
We know that Charles Tays Russell (CTR’s Uncle) came to Allegheny and founded a business in 1831, if his obituary is accurate. Other family members gravitated to the same area. His brother James Russell is listed in the 1840 census, and he it was who purchased the cemetery plot in the brand new Allegheny cemetery – initially one assumes due to the death of Sarah Russell. The family plot is Section 7, Plot 17.
It should be noted that the usual family tree for the Russells in circulation calls Sarah, James’ sister. There appears to be no proof of this. The burial registers for both Sarah and James make no comment on familial relationship. Had Sarah been James’ sister it would have been more logical for the patriarch, Charles Tays, to buy the family plot. But it was James who made the purchase, and it would make far more sense for him to buy the plot for a wife rather a sister; especially as he was soon to be laid to rest alongside her.
James Russell’s plans included his extended family also staying there. Forever. Literally. He purchased the 300 square foot size, designed for ten interments. As it worked out, only nine family members would eventually use the site.
Exact figures exist for the new cemetery. Although covering a large number of acres, initially the take-up was small. In the first year, 1845, from September (the first burial) to the end of the year there were only eight in total.
In 1846 there were only 29 new interments. These included Sarah Russell. One must assume that James had the pick of many potential family plots; his choice then being dictated partly by cost, but also by situation and outlook. However, total interments were 67 that year, because there were also 38 re-burials. It was common in the early days to remove bodies from city cemeteries at the request of relatives, who wanted a more congenial final resting place for their whole family.
So by the end of 1846, a grand total of 75 burials or re-burials had taken place at the cemetery. Sarah died of consumption in the December; her burial registration number is 73.
Almost exactly one year later, in December 1847, James died. His burial registration number is 264. He was laid to rest next to Sarah in the top row of two on the plot, the one furthest from the roadway. James died of paralysis, so one assumes he suffered a fatal stroke at the age of 51. Initially wooden grave markers were the norm, but they are obviously long gone. The cemetery plan reproduced with this article suggests that there may have been more substantial grave markers for James and Sarah at one time, but if so they are also long gone.
So that made it two down, and eight places left to go in the family plot (only seven of which were eventually taken up).
By the time James died we assume that Joseph Lytle (sometimes spelled Lytel) Russell was already living in Pittsburgh, and it was his branch of the family who would use the site next. The Allegheny Cemetery charter laid down strict legal provisions for inheritance of family plots – first to children (James and Sarah do not appear to have had any) then parents, and then brothers and sisters.
In common with many in those unhealthy times, Joseph and his wife Ann Eliza were to lose three of their five children quite early on. Thomas, pictured in the January 1, 1912 WT (but not the reprints) was the first – he died of whooping cough and was buried in a row nearest the roadway in front of James and Sarah’s graves. The cemetery record states he died in August 1855 at the age of five years and three months.
Thomas B Russell had been the firstborn in 1850, and was no doubt named after his maternal uncle, Thomas Birney, who lived in Pittsburgh. He was followed by Charles Taze Russell in 1852 (both Charles and Taze being an obvious nod to his paternal uncle, Charles Tays) and then Margaret Russell in 1854. Charles and Margaret survived to adulthood of course, and were finally buried side by side, but elsewhere.
Then a young daughter named Lucinda was born. She died from scrofula (sometimes spelled scrophula), a form of tuberculosis affecting lymph nodes in the neck, in July 1858 at the age of a year and a half. Lastly, there was a young son, Joseph Lytle Jr, who died of croup at the age of six months in April 1860. The family had been living and working in Philadelphia at this point, but it was still important to the family to bring the little bodies back to the Allegheny cemetery for burial in the family plot.
For the three children, two sad little gravestones have survived, but they are very weathered and – from photographs at least - the memorial inscriptions on them are now indistinct.
Finally, after losing her three children, mother Ann Eliza died from consumption in January 1861. Her funeral took place from the home of her brother, Thomas Birney, in Pittsburgh. Her will, written just the month before, when she was no doubt very ill, lists her husband, Joseph Lytle, as “her agent in Philadelphia.” The notice of death in the Pittsburgh Gazette for January 26, 1861 calls her the wife of Joseph L Russell (of Philadelphia, PA).
Her grave stone survives, although it is worn in places. It reads:
JOSEPH L RUSSELL
DIED (indistinct) 1861
IN THE 39 YEAR OF
There is an inscription at the bottom – probably taken from a scripture – but this writer is unable to decipher it from photographic evidence. If any reader can do better, please do try. You will find a photograph of the stone on the Find a Grave website.
After Ann Eliza’s death, the family plot remained unused for nearly fifteen years. During this time, CTR and his sister grew to adulthood, and CTR started his spiritual journey in earnest.
Then, in 1875, the oldest of the Russell brothers, the original Charles Tays died. His life story, such as we know it, is covered in an earlier article on this blog – The Other Charles T Russell. Charles Tays died of hepatitis in December 1875 and was buried in the family plot. The grave was positioned in the top row, next to James and Sarah, whose funerals had been 30 years before. Charles Tays’ grave stone is quite well preserved and again can be read on the Find a Grave site.
IN MEMORY OF
CHARLES TAYS RUSSELL
A NATIVE OF
COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND
AT PITTSBURGH PA
DEC 28 1875
IN THE 70 YEAR
OF HIS AGE
Eleven years went by before the next interment. The extended Russell family who settled in Pittsburgh included an unmarried sister, Mary Russell. When Charles Tays died, he left $3000 in a trust fund for her support. By 1886 the plan had gone awry and it was necessary to dip heavily into the capital to care for her. (The transcribed legal documents can again be seen in that earlier article – The Other Charles T Russell). She died in the September of 1886 and was buried in the top row next to her brother Charles Tays. No stone seems to have been provided.
There was only one more person who would share this final resting place, CTR’s father, Joseph Lytle. Joseph had re-married (his second wife being CTR’s wife’s sister) and they had one child, Mabel, who was to live until 1961. The family moved from Pittsburgh to Florida, but Joseph Lytle then returned to Pittsburgh shortly before his death, likely so he could die there. He was buried alongside his first wife and the three children who had died before them.
Joseph’s stone reads:
JOSEPH L RUSSELL
BORN IN IRELAND
JULY 4 1813
DIED IN ALLEGHENY
DEC 17 1897
The inscription at the bottom reads: Blessed and holy are all they who have part in the first resurrection. They shall be Kings and Priests with God.
And that was it, as far as the Allegheny cemetery plot was concerned; a total of nine interments out of a possible ten. The years went by, it became forgotten, and grass encroached over the stones lying flat on the ground; until in fairly recent times the plot was rediscovered. The memorial inscriptions for Joseph Lytle and Charles Tays are in the best condition today, but of course they are the most recent.
So why didn’t CTR end up buried here with his family in the one remaining space?
I have no way of knowing how carefully to scale the chart of graves reproduced with this article may be, but if accurate, it might appear that squeezing in another interment could be problematical. Probably more to the point, CTR was involved in founding a new cemetery.
The Rosemont, Mount Hope and Evergreen United Cemeteries were founded on land purchased from what was called the Wiebel farm in 1905. One section, the Rosemont Cemetery, was earmarked for Bible Student use. In his will, written in 1907 CTR directed that he be buried there. By the time of his death the area was simply called the United Cemeteries.
The aim had been to have a special section of cemetery for the Bethel family as well as for those who served as travelling representatives, then called Pilgrims. A 1919 convention report details plans to erect a pyramid monument in the center of the site on which all their names would be engraved on the four sides. The special Watch Tower section was planned to contain 275 burial spaces. CTR was buried at this new location in early November 1916. Notice of the pyramid’s completion was given in the St Paul Enterprise for February 10, 1920. By that time all the other surrounding cemetery land and farmhouse had been sold off, and seven others in addition to CTR had been buried there.
As it happened, this plan was quite soon abandoned. A reunion convention of those who had left the Watch Tower society held a memorial service at CTR’s gravesite in 1929 and on examining the pyramid monument for inscriptions tartly remarked in their convention report: “either the friends have not been dying or the plan has been changed.”
The remaining graves were all sold off and were since used by people unconnected with CTR’s associates.
It is not difficult to guess why this happened. For a start, there were theological problems with a pyramid monument as the 1920s wore on, but probably it was logistics more than anything that caused the change of plan. CTR’s heart was in Allegheny. The new cemetery company was founded while he still lived there. CTR lived nearly all his life there, until the move to Brooklyn in 1909. It made sense for him to be buried there, even if not with his natural family in the Allegheny cemetery. But apart from a brief switch back to Pittsburgh when J F Rutherford and others were imprisoned, Brooklyn became the focus for the Watch Tower Society after CTR’s death. The Bethel family lived in New York. The workers and officials of the Society generally had no family ties with Pittsburgh. What was the point of the great expense of shipping bodies all the way back to Pittsburgh? So another cemetery plot on Staten Island, near the radio station WBBR, became the cemetery of choice instead.
The only historical postscript is that when CTR’s sister died in 1934 the family obviously must have had a claim on the plot next to CTR. She was buried there, with no fanfare, in November 1934. Her name in death was registered as Margaretta R Land (rather than Margaret). There is no stone to mark her final resting place.