Charles G Buehler as pictured in the 1909 convention report
Back in 2014 I wrote a series of articles on this blog on the subject of what came to be known as the United Cemeteries, Pittsburgh. When the Society sold the property they retained a special burial area that was intended for Bethel workers and pilgrims and their families. The center of the plot contains a pyramid monument which was designed to have the names of all those buried inscribed on its four sides. In reality, only nine names were ever inscribed before the idea was abandoned. The articles Who Are Those Guys, parts 1 and 2, published here in September of last year, outline the history of the individual Bible Students, Charles Taze Russell and eight others.
Other articles from last year established that, excepting the burial of CTR’s sister, Margaretta Land, beside him in 1934, the graveyard was to all intents and purposes abandoned until the 1940s. The remaining graves were then sold off. This was established from an examination of memorial inscriptions on the site, personal interviews while visiting Pittsburgh, plus a handwritten document that appears to show who purchased graves, although giving no actual dates.
Then last week I received the official interment records for this special area. I am very grateful to the current owner of United Cemeteries for making this available, and to friend Gabriel who worked hard to achieve this. As expected, it shows a number of gaps. This indicates that, while all available spaces have been sold, not all have been used. Several families opted for alternative arrangements like cremation when the time came. Some owners are still with us, because interments are still taking place. The official records cover from Grace Munday’s burial in December 1914 up to June 2015 (at this time of writing just last month). After CTR’s sister, interments were resumed in 1943, although we do not know when the grave in question was purchased.
This leads us – finally – to the subject of this article, Charles Buehler. Charles is a mystery that doesn’t quite fit the pattern, because he was buried on this site on March 27, 1925. This is one solitary burial throughout the whole of the 1920s, but there was no name added to the pyramid inscriptions.
The location of the grave is interesting. Below is a plan of the site, and the grave plots as they exist now. (Originally they hoped to cram in more burials, but a curved hillside site presented logistical problems, and the original plan that you can make out on the sides of the pyramid monument was soon rejected.)
The plan is looking across the site – to the left is in the bottom of the hill and to the right is the top. You can see where the named Bible Students on the pyramid sides were buried – apart from CTR himself, they were in little clusters at the corners of the site. In the top right hand corner were John Perry, Grace Mundy, Henry Addington, Lorena Russell (no relation to CTR) and Flora Cole. In the top left hand corner were Arabella Mann and Mary Whitehouse. In the bottom right hand corner was John Coolidge, whose stone still survives. But the bottom left hand corner was unused. However, it was obviously the plan to start at the four extremities of the Society’s site and work their way inwards. There were going to be problems when they met in the middle, but those were future problems.
The one unused quadrant of the whole site, section T-47, is where the grave of Charles Buehler is found, in the far corner again. That fits the pattern, but then there were no further interments (apart from Margaretta Land who obviously owned the grave next to her brother) until the 1940s when the policy was to now sell off the remaining plots.
So who was Charles Buehler? He was obviously a Bible Student, and had probably secured a plot on this site long before he died in 1925.
There was a Charles Buehler who died in Kings, NY (where the WT Bethel then was) in 1925, but by then the Bethel workers were being buried in the Staten Island cemetery near the WBBR radio station. There was also a Charles Beuhler who lived in Allegheny for a time, but census returns give no clue as to him being a Bible Student.
What we do have are three references to Charles Buehler in Bible Student materials. The first is the 1909 Convention Report. The 1909 Denver Colorado Convention program contained a symposium on The Fruits of the Spirit. C G Buehler gave the segment on Long-Suffering, and the photograph at the head of this is taken from this source. Then (as far as this researcher’s labors are concerned) there is silence until 1922. In that year the Bible Students’ unofficial newspaper, The New Era Enterprise (formerly the St Paul Enterprise – named after the place, not the apostle) mentioned the name twice in connection with funeral reports. And while there may have been more than one Charles G Buehler in the Bible Student community, it seems unlikely.
The January 24, 1922, issue had a funeral report for one R Fritz who had died in an accident. The report, written by the widow, then residing in Kansas, reported “we secured the use of the community hall seating over 600 for the services and sent to St Joseph, Mo., for Brother M.E. Reimer, who sent Brother C.G. Buehler in his stead. The discourse was grand...giving the divine plan as briefly as possible and the people were very attentive. We have heard many favorable comments, some saying it was the best they had ever heard.”
Two months later, the March 21, 1922, issue had a funeral report for Amy C Merrett, of Kearney, Mo., who “had had present truth since 1883.” The brief report noted that “Brother Charles Buehler of Kansas City, conducted her funeral.”
Crucial extant copies of the New Era Enterprise for 1925 are missing, which is a pity because an obituary for Charles himself would probably have removed all mystery.
It seems likely that this Charles G Buehler is the man who died in 1925 and was buried in T47, H4. But by this late date, why here? Why no others? Why only him? The site remained unused and apart from any who wished to visit CTR’s grave, probably unvisited. In 1929 Bible Students who had seceded from the Watch Tower Society held their first reunion convention in Pittsburgh, and held a memorial service at the site. It was observed that “either the friends have not been dying, or the plan has been changed.”
So why was Charles Buehler the exception?
As yet I don’t know the answer to that one. But suggestions are welcome.