Thursday, November 9, 2017

United Cemeteries Revisited

by Jerome

The United Cemeteries burial plot where CTR is interred has featured on this blog on several occasions in the past. Back in 2014, after visiting the area in person, I was able to write a series of articles covering the cemetery’s history, the history of the pyramid monument (including the infamous break-in) and also the history of the people whose names are inscribed on the pyramid’s sides. Also the claim by conspiracy theorists that CTR was a freemason because - shock, horror – there is now a Masonic temple on the site has also been discussed in detail in the past by both me and others.

However, since finding a couple more photographs hidden away on a hard drive, this article will go over some of this history briefly again. And it may be of interest to new readers who have not delved back into this blog’s own past.

Using the United States Investment Company, the Society purchased farming land formerly belonging to a Margaret Wible in 1904, with the intention of forming a cemetery company. It would be a commercial venture, but a percentage of the profits would go towards their religious work. There was already a cemetery adjacent owned by the Roman Catholic St Philomena Church, so the change of use was logical. Plat maps of the 1890s show a farm and land belonging to Margaret Wible, with the St Philomena Cemetery to the south.

When CTR wrote his last will and testament in 1907 he asked to be buried here. A special area of the cemetery came to be known as the Bethel plot, and was to be reserved for full time workers, either in Bethel or as pilgrims or colporteurs.

Our first picture was taken in early November 1916 and shows a view down the hill across the special “Bethel” cemetery area.

Two small grave markers can be seen on the grass. These are for Mary Jane Whitehouse and Arabella Mann, who were both interred in June 1916. Their graves mark the end of the special Bethel plot. The land in front, while still belong to the cemetery company, was not part of the Bethel plot. Looking further down the hill you can see a large house. This was the original farmhouse, now occupied by J Adam Bohnet, who was cemetery manager in 1916. He’d lived there for some years, and had earlier used the surrounding farmland to grow “miracle wheat.”

In front of the house on the right of the picture you can see some substantial grave stones clustered together. You will not find these today because this was apparently a collection of monumental masonry for purchase from the cemetery company.

So in 1916 CTR died and arrangements were made for his funeral. The next picture shows the grave being dug.

You can just see the head of someone in the bottom of the grave. The group of men include J Adam Bohnet on the far right. Bohnet’s distinctive bald head is covered over by a hat. The small graves stones for Mary Whitehouse and Arabella Mann are shielded in the picture by the group. Below them is the house along with the sample grave markers.

Our next picture takes us forward to very early in 1920. The pyramid monument has been erected in the center of the Bethel plot. This is covered in some detail in the New Era Enterprise newspaper for February 20, 1920, which reproduces this photograph.

This photograph, taken near dusk, appears to have been taken from the location of CTR’s grave. Looking down the hill, you can still see the two small grave markers for Whitehouse and Mann. It looks like the lights are on in the house.

However, the house no longer belonged to the Society. In December 1917 the whole cemetery, with the exception of the Bethel plot and a couple of other small areas, was sold off to what was now called the North Side Catholic Cemetery Association. J Adam Bohnet no longer lived in this house. After a short spell in Brooklyn he would spend the next decade as a Pilgrim loyal to the IBSA travelling across the country.

Once the pyramid monument was installed, no further names were inscribed on it. Apart from two further burials – Charles Beuhler in 1925 and Margaretta Russell Land (CTR’s sister) in 1934 – the site fell into disuse until the Society started selling off plots in the 1940s.

Our next picture dates from November 1991.

The site looks a little neglected, although that might just have been the time of year when the picture was taken. You can see CTR’s grave, the pyramid monument, and assorted grave markers both inside and outside of the Bethel plot. The two little grave markers for Whitehouse and Mann have now disappeared. So has the farm house. The land opposite is just scrubland, with just a few possible graves near the path.

In 1994 the Catholics (rebranded as the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc.) sold off this waste ground to the Masons. The documents from October 1994 show they sold 42.40 acres of land to the Masonic Fund Society for the County of Allegheny for $610,000. The Masons then built their shiny new Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center there.

Our final picture (taken in 2014) shows CTR’s grave, the pyramid and the Masonic buildings in the distance.

It must be stressed to any who persist in linking a Masonic conference center with CTR’s grave that the land was sold to the Catholics in December 1917. The Catholics appear to have done nothing with it until selling it on in 1994. So there is absolutely no connection with CTR and the Society’s burial area. But when did facts ever get in the way of conspiracy theorists?

There are numerous pictures of the area showing it as found today. The one reproduced above is my own, but had to be cropped because I appear in the original. Being of a naturally shy and retiring nature I decided to edit it accordingly.


Gary said...

Thank you for this great article Jerome. Most timely for me since last Saturday I had an interesting discussion with an evangelical who raised the supposed CTR/Masonic connection. (In fairness to my call, he has been taken in by some online article claiming to prove the link.) When I revisit I hope to direct the conversation to a more constructive scriptural theme, but I will take a copy of the article and Appendix 1 from 'A Separate Identity' and leave it with him.

All good wishes

Anonymous said...

What a great succinct article Jerome! Thank you so much for putting it together.

Chris G. said...

Hello Jerome and thank you for sharing this so much
I have a pic of the pyramid in it's "broken into" state if you would like it, from c. 1991 or so.

jerome said...

Hi Chris

I would be very interested in seeing a picture of the damaged pyramid. Could you send it to me back-channel?

Those who repaired it on one occasion took some photographs inside it, and I was given permission to reproduce these in a 2014 article. Perhaps these will link up with your picture.

Chris G. said...

Hello Jerome
I just sent the photo

jerome said...

Many thanks

Andrew said...

Thanks for this information !


roberto said...

Hi Jerome, can you explain better this passage:

"It would be a commercial venture, but a percentage of the profits would go towards their religious work." Thanks

roberto said...

I have understood now, Jerome.

roberto said...

Si può intravvedere la testa (coperta) di qualcuno sul fondo della tomba. Il gruppo di uomini include J. Adam Bohnet all’estrema destra. La caratteristica testa calva di Bohnet è nascosta da un cappello. Le piccole lapidi di Mary Whitehouse e Arabella Mann sono coperte dal gruppo, ma si possono distintamente vedere sia la casa che le lapidi da posizionare.
La nostra prossima foto ci porta al principio del 1920. Il monumento di piramide è stato eretto al centro del terreno di proprietà della Betel. La foto sottostante è tratta dal giornale New era Enterprise del 20 febbraio 1920 che in alcuni dettagli trattò l’argomento.
Questa fotografia, scattata all’imbrunire, sembra essere stata fatta dalla parte della tomba di Russell. Guardando verso la collina, si possono ancora vedere le due lapidi di Whitehouse e Mann. Sembrerebbe che le luci della casa fossero accese.
Ma in quel momento, la casa non apparteneva più alla Società (Watchtower) . A dicembre 1917 l’intero cimitero, con la sola eccezione dell’area di proprietà della Betel, e un paio di altri piccoli appezzamenti, furono venduti a quella che ora è conosciuta come North Side Catholic Cemetery Association. Bohnet non viveva più in quella casa. Dopo un breve periodo a Brooklyn avrebbe speso il decennio successivo come leale pellegrino degli Studenti Biblici viaggiando per la nazione.
Una volta che il monumento di piramide fu eretto, non furono più scritti nomi su di esso. A parte due ulteriori sepolture, - Charles Beuhler nel 1925 e Margaretta Russell Land (sorella di CTR) nel 1934 – il sito cadde in disuso finché la Società (Watchtower) decise di vendere il terreno negli anni 40.
La foto che segue è del novembre 1991.
Il sito sembra un po’ trascurato, anche se potrebbe dipendere dalla stagione in cui fu scattata la foto. Si può vedere in primo piano la tomba di Russell, il monumento di piramide, e diverse lapidi di vario genere sia all’interno che esterno di quello che una volta era il cimitero della Betel. Le due piccole lapidi di Whitehouse e Mann ora non ci sono più come neanche la casa colonica. Il terreno di fronte è coperto di boscaglia e macchia, con appena alcune possibili lapidi vicino al sentiero.
Nel 1994 la Chiesa Cattolica (tramite la Catholic Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Inc.) vendette questa ampia area cimiteriale ai Massoni. Gli atti pubblici a partire dall’ottobre 1994 ci dicono che la Chiesa Cattolica cedette ai massoni della Masonic Fund Society for the Conty of Allegheny, 42,40 acri di terreno (cioè 17,16 ettari o se preferite 171.600 mq) al prezzo di 610.000 dollari. A quel punto i massoni costruirono il loro nuovo scintillante edificio, il Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center sul terreno appartenuto alla Chiesa Cattolica
La nostra foto finale (scattata nel 2014) ci fa vedere la lapide di CTR, la piramide, e sullo sfondo il palazzo massonico.
Tutta la faccenda può causare un forte stress a coloro che insistono nel sostenere che ci sia un collegamento tra il Centro Massonico e la tomba di Russell, mentre in realtà il terreno dove sorge ora è appartenuto alla Chiesa cattolica fin dal 1917. Sembra la Chiesa Cattolica non abbia fatto nulla fino al 1994 quando lo vendette ai massoni. In conclusione non esiste alcuna connessione tra il palazzo massonico e Russell o l’area cimiteriale una volta appartenuta alla Società (Watchtower). Ma quando è mai successo che i fatti si sono trovati sulla strada dei teorici della cospirazione?
Ci sono numerose foto dell’area che la mostrano come appare oggi. Quella riprodotta qua sopra è mia, ma è stato necessario tagliarla perché ci sono io nell’originale. Ma essendo di natura timido e riservato ho preferito modificarla di conseguenza.

Hal.9000 said...

Thank you very much Jerome for this exaustive article, and many thanks to Roberto for the italian tradution.