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St. Joseph and St. John
Cemetery History

Geistown, Richland Township
Cambria County, Pennsylvania

Information provided by Carl Gaus

The earliest Catholic Church in the Johnstown area was St. John's in 1844 on Church St. in the old Conemaugh Boro* area. The original cemetery was also at this location and was sometimes referred to as the Conemaugh Burial Grounds in obituaries. Some bodies buried there before 1855 MAY have been reinterred in St. Joseph Cemetery.

The Germans founded St. Joseph Church in 1852 at the corner of Singer & Huber Sts. in Conemaugh Boro*. In 1855, they acquired a cemetery site at Sandyvale that was known as the "Catholic Burial Grounds." After this cemetery was severely flooded in 1887, St. Joseph's began looking for a new cemetery site on higher grounds. After considering sites at Grandview or Geistown , the one in Geistown, offered by the Nees family for $200 per acre, was selected.

The earliest burials in Geistown were victims of the 1889 Flood. All bodies were removed from the Sandyvale site to Geistown and they sold the Sandyvale site in 1920 for industrial use. This was separate from the site of the current Sandyvale Cemetery.

A mission chapel in honor of St. Benedict was built in 1893, at the site of the present St. Joseph's Mausoleum. This building was moved to Geistown (site of the present St. Benedict Church) in the early 1930's on land acquired from the Freidhoff family.

St. Johns, lacking space on Church St., also acquired a cemetery site in Geistown. All bodies were then reinterred in Geistown and the Church St. site was sold for housing development.

* Conemaugh Boro was later incorporated into Johnstown Proper and is NOT part of either Current East Conemaugh boro or Conemaugh Twp.

The following item was published in the Johnstown Weekly Democrat Fri. Nov. 30, 1894.

Bodies in St. John's Cemetery Being Interred in Geistown

As fast as possible the bodies, many of which have remained for years in St. John's cemetery in the Tenth ward, are being raised and removed to the new cemetery in Geistown. Since the cold weather set in a few weeks ago, 19 corpses have been removed. The work of removing the dead is in charge of John Navin, who was, prior to the abandoning of the cemetery, the regular gravedigger.

"I am inclined to the belief," said Mr. Navin said Monday to the DEMOCRAT reporter, "that within the next few years all the buried in the ancient yard will be taken out and laid in the new cemetery. I think it will be a grand thing when the work is completed," he continued, "as this section of the city is becoming too thickly populated to have a cemetery along one of the main streets. Since I began work a few weeks ago I have been kept busy and each day brings new orders for removals. If the cemetery was devoid of the dead, it would be a delightful place for the erection of homes. As it is, the place at night is lonely and many timid persons would prefer going home at night by other streets if it were possible."

The many other cemeteries which once occupied prominent places in the city have been abandoned and the dead removed, and there is every reason to believe St. John's, as well as the Sandyvale cemetery, will soon be among the number.

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