As early as 1834 an attempt was made by Dr. J. Ramsey Speer, Stephen Colwell and John Chislett, Sr. to establish a rural cemetery. The three persons named were connected with the Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, of which Dr. D. H. Riddle was Pastor, and the congregation not having procured a burial ground, their attention was drawn to the subject and it was proposed to purchase a lot belonging to the heirs of Judge Roberts, situated on the south side of Wylie Street.
The entire lot, containing eleven acres, was offered for Five Thousand Dollars on easy terms and was considered large enough for one congregation.
In the meantime, the decided success of Mount Auburn Cemetery at Boston led them to change their plans, so as to embrace the prospective needs of the whole population of the two cities of all denominations that might think proper to join in the movement. With this thought in mind, Dr. Speer visited Mount Auburn at Boston, which was chartered in 1831, Laurel Hill in Philadelphia, 1836, and Greenwood in New York, 1838.
In the interval of years between 1834 and 1842, continued efforts were made to keep the subject alive through occasional articles in the newspapers advocating the measure.
Repeated explorations were made of all the sites that were considered suitable or available for the purpose, until finally the farm and homestead of Col. Bayard, embracing one hundred acres, located between the Greensburg Pike and the Sharpsburg Ferry, was chosen.
Several meetings of interested citizens were held, which resulted in the Act of Incorporation being passed by the Legislature without objection and returned with the approval of Gov. David A. Porter, dated April 24th, 1844.
Legal matters in regard to drafting the Charter and additional legislation was placed in the hands of the Hon. Richard Biddle, a very prominent lawyer. The Charter of Allegheny Cemetery is not limited in time, nor does it contain any clause reserving the right to revoke the privileges granted. Therefore the Cemetery is legally protected for years to come.
The following is a brief synopsis of some of the provisions of the Charter:
To select a number of persons designated as Corporators, not to exceed forty, from whom to elect annually a Board of Managers, President, Secretary & Treasurer, and prescribes the duties usually performed by these officers.
Another section provides that no street or road shall ever be laid out through the grounds of the Cemetery, except under the authority of the Corporation.
Another provision - to set aside certain sums for the perpetual maintenance of the grounds - assures the beauty of the Cemetery for all time. Additional ground has been obtained from time to time until today the Cemetery consists of three hundred acres. A considerable area is still undeveloped.
As times and conditions have changed, the Managers have developed the Lawn Plan and other types of burial space for the choice of the public.
Additional legislation has been passed for the protection of burial grounds and lot holders, which has placed Allegheny Cemetery in an enviable position for the future.
The same policy of the civic minded men who established the Cemetery has been carried on since 1844, and today many of our most prominent citizens are proud to serve as Managers and Corporators without the thought of remuneration for their services.
In 1848 a site was chosen as a burial place for naval heroes and an impressive memorial erected. This spot is known as "Mt. Barney." The remains of Com. Joshua Barney and Lieut. James L. Parker were moved from other locations to this beautiful place.
On May 30th, 1937, an impressive memorial was erected to the memory of the more than seven thousand ex-service men buried within the Cemetery. The bronze dedicating tablet reads as follows:
"This memorial was erected by Allegheny Cemetery and was dedicated on
Memorial Day, 1937. It is a tribute to those who served their Country both at
home and abroad."
These and many other actions of the Managers, for the good of the community, have prevailed at all times.
The fallacy that Cemeteries are morbid and uninviting to visitors has been dispelled by the policy of beautifying the grounds, which has resulted in thousands of people, including nature study classes and kindergarten groups, who enjoy the seasonal beauties of the year.
Many others visit the resting places of Stephen C. Foster, Lillian Russell, and the many persons who were responsible in a great measure for the growth and progress of our City. The names of Negley, Mellon, Roup, Winebiddle, Baum, and Gross are among many for whom streets were named, as well as hundreds of others whose contributions have meant so much toward the religious and civic conditions which we enjoy today.
The response on the part of the public is an inspiration to the management to beautify and perpetuate for all time "God's Acre."