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The Homewood Cemetery in a Variety of Contexts

Signals, January 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dinner, 6:15 p.m. & Program, 7:30 p.m.

Shannopin Country Club, Ben Avon Heights, PA Ben Avon Area Historical Association & Old Moon Township Historical Society

A Presentation by Jennie Benford

When The Homewood Cemetery was founded in 1878, its design and management were the most modern and forward thinking among Pittsburgh’s various burial grounds. Jennie Benford, will present an illustrated talk that includes, but also looks beyond, the biographies of famous people at the cemetery. She will discuss the meaning of the cemetery’s landscape design, the styles of monuments found within the grounds and some of the fascinating stories that only a cemetery insider can know.

Jennie Benford has been affiliated with The Homewood Cemetery for almost 20 years. She is now Director of Programming for The Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund, creating tours, talks, performances and other events that focus on the history of the cemetery, its landscape, mon- uments and “permanent residents.” Prior to taking her current position, she was University Archivist for Carnegie Mellon University, archivist for Rodef Shalom Temple, a reference librarian for The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and a Clayton docent at The Frick.


Sewickley cemetery was located above the Village on land purchased in 1859 from the Reverend Robert Hopkins (1798-1891). Rev. Hopkins had been an itinerant Methodist preacher before coming to the Valley in the 1840s; he was elected the First Burgess of Sewickleyville when the Borough was organized in 1853.

A new cemetery was needed. The cemetery at Graveyard Lane (today’s Graham Street) had fallen into disrepair after fifty years of use, and the graveyard at the 1840 Presbyterian Church was about to be abandoned, as that congregation was planning to construct a new sanctuary across Beaver Road at Grant Street.

The Cemetery opened November 1, 1860, five days before the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. The dedicatory exercise consisted of a prayer by Rev. J. S. Travelli, Principal of Sewickley Academy, an address by Rev. Henry W. Baker, Pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the singing of a hymn composed for the occasion by Robert P. Nevin, a prayer by Rev. James Allison, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church and a benediction by Rev. John White of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Robert Peebles Nevin (1820-1908) was a lead merchant. He was also editor and founder of the Pittsburgh Times and later, editor of the Pittsburgh Leader. He was the father of musicians Ethelbert and Arthur Nevin.

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