T his beautiful historic cemetery is located on a hillside in Harpers Ferry overlooking the breathtaking Harpers Ferry Gap. The cemetery is predominately Irish, with the newer section being predominately Irish and Italian.
The exact year St. Peters Cemetery opened is somewhat of a mystery. The oldest surviving stone in the cemetery lists a death date of 1834, however, many unmarked graves are scattered throughout the older section of St. Peter's Cemetery. The construction of the church began in 1830 and finished in 1833, so the first burial may have occurred as early as 1830.
The older section of the cemetery was in disrepair until a cleanup effort commenced in the 1970's or 1980's. During the cleanup effort, many broken stones were placed underneath other stones (to keep them from falling), placed in the ground for use as stepping stones, and placed in the woods surrounding the cemetery.
Many of the older stones are difficult, if not impossible to read due to weathering of the stone.
Just like it's accompanying church, surviving records have been taken over by St. James Parish in Charles Town, WV. Original burial records for this cemetery either do not exist or have not been located, but the church does have a helpful cemetery survey taken in 2009 that they are happy to provide for free (I personally suggest a small donation).
The cemetery is still active and plots are still available for purchase.
T he old Welsh plot is located in Section 1 of the cemetery. The accompanying map is from a cemetery census taken in 2004.
Sections 1, 2, and 3 are the oldest sections of the cemetery. The census taker admits that there are many more obvious graves in these sections than markers. These three sections are located on the left hillside, separated by the old road which goes to Montgomery Street, directly back from the mound of Virgin Mary, where countless infants were buried.
The plot is located on the hillside of a very large hill, with a breathtaking view of the Harpers Ferry gap. The burials of seven family members are marked in the plot, however we believe there are likely some unmarked graves located here as well (see below).
As many infants of church members were buried unmarked in the Virgin Mary mound, it is possible that William and Dorothy's stillborn daughter, Mary, was buried there following tradition, as she is not listed as being laid to rest with her parents.
The following people have marked graves in the plot, and records have been found proving their burial there:
M y grandfather would take my father to the cemetery often as a small child. St. Peters Cemetery was almost always the destination. My father remembers my grandfather giving him the "whose who" run down, standing in the middle of the old Welsh plot.
But most of all, he vividly remembers Honora's tombstone:
"It was old and crumbling, and I liked it because it looked like the tree was growing out of it. I remember the date on it, it was old."
He also remembers Patrick's stone, which was right beside Honora's. He remembers that stone as being small, and almost to the point of being unreadable. Right beside Patrick's tombstone was the couple's oldest son, Martin.
Two of those stones he remembers so well are no longer there -- and he's very adamant that they truly were there.
He remembers visiting the cemetery after a bad storm had gone through the area, and he remembers seeing tombstones down all through the cemetery. He said that next time he visited the cemetery was after a cleanup effort, and those two stones were gone. He also remembers a friend who attended the church telling him that they put a stone under Annie's tombstone to keep it from falling over.
I've had people [from the church] tell me that, their stones aren't there, there's no record, they aren't buried here. But I know I saw it. It's not that I think I remembered that. I know it was there. I know for a fact I saw that.
Although the graves appear to be unmarked, the tree on the Welsh plot where my father saw the stones as a child, does have two pronounced, sunken areas underneath it.
Unfortunately with burial records missing and no marker, we have been unable to prove the graves' existence. We have looked in to probing the area, but the cost seems to be prohibitive.
Many stones were scattered in the woods behind the cemetery after the cleanup effort, however they no longer seem to be located there. The whereabouts of those tombstones currently are unknown, but were likely buried or destroyed.
Annie's tombstone is once again leaning, and our only current possibility is to see if we can get the stone propping it up out. Could that stone be either Honora or Patrick's elusive stone?
I have also looked for a possible alternative burial location to no avail. A few people who I would expect to appear at the original burial plot are missing, in addition to Patrick and Honora: Two of the original sons: James and wife Margaret, and Patrick. Martin's son, Michael's, mother is missing as well. Could any of these people be buried in the plot unmarked as well?