Sunday, June 04, 2017

Bedford, PA: Day 4

On our last day in Bedford County, we took Grandma to the church where she grew up attending Sunday School and services, the Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, Pennsylvania.

The church was built the same year Grandma was born - 1931 - and her grandfather, Alvin Deremer, was one of the donors and founding members of the congregation. Alvin, my second great-grandfather, was a farmer and mailman in Bedford County in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The service was nice and attended by some older locals, although it's obvious that they're having some of the same problems that my grandma's parish in Tinley Park is having: no young kids to fill the pews and replace lost members. 

You wonder what will happen to tiny parishes like this. I can't sit here and say that I hope people will attend without sounding like a hypocrite; I myself am no longer religious and typically work out on Sunday mornings instead of attending church. Still, it seems like part of the community would be lost, especially in small towns like this. I hope they are able to find their way.

Grandma really enjoyed attending; she said it was her second favorite thing we did on the trip, aside from Clyde's party.

We had lunch in Centerville; there is only one restaurant, and it's in the gas station, but it was tasty all the same. Mom and I thanked Grandma and her ancestors for moving to "the big city" of Bedford, and then Chicago, because that's a little too country for me.

OK, now it's my favorite part of the trip - the cemetery tour!! I enjoyed this way more than I probably should have, but basically I located a few of my ancestors' graves and we did a scavenger hunt all afternoon.

First up was right in Centerville: in Union Cemetery was my second great-grandfather Alvin Deremer, the same mailman / farmer I mentioned above, with his wife, Minnie (O'Neal) Deremer.

My grandma gave me an article about them; he died when he ate a toothpick and it got lodged in his small intestines, resulting in a blood clot and fatal heart attack. His wife, Minnie, kept the toothpick and some of the intestines in a jar for years, apparently. Weird bunch.

Down the road apiece was my third great-grandfather, Lorenzo Dowe Cessna, and his wife Hannah (Hendrickson) Cessna, at the Bethel Methodist Church Cemetery. (Fun fact, Hannah Hendrickson links me to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton; through Hanna, "Eliza" is my fifth cousin eight times removed.)

This was probably my favorite grave of the day! It's so elaborate and neat. I kind of want to order flowers for it.

On our way to the next cemetery, we came upon my grandma's childhood home! Sitting in the foothills of a small mountain, it's a cute little country house where my grandma lived until she was about 11 or 12. She said it pretty much looks the same, except there is no outhouse anymore!

The next cemetery was a little harder to find, mainly because I didn't have GPS at that point (we were in the country!) and I hadn't mapped things out in advance. But we were able to get some directions by a couple of locals, and we found the Friends Cove United Church of Christ Cemetery and the grave of Captain Anthony Smith, a veteran of the Revolutionary War!

I particularly loved the location of this cemetery, with the rolling hills and cows in the background. Captain Smith is my sixth great-grandfather and one of seven Revolutionary War veterans I have confirmed in my researches! If the graves look nicer than you'd expect, it's because some locals bought new tombstones for the Revolutionary patriots in this cemetery. I also sort of love him because his parents had been named Schmidt and anglicized it to Smith. I can't get away from my German immigrant heritage, even in Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

Captain Smith's great-grandson, Anthony S. Smith (my second great-grandfather and, I'm assuming, named for Captain Smith) and his wife, Maria (Karns) Smith, were just down the road in Clearville Union Church Cemetery

This was an interesting one for me for a few reasons. Number one, the Anthony Smith family name. Number two, because Maria Karns links me to her father, Jonathan Heft Karns, a veteran of the Civil War, which is really cool. Number three, I guess this church and cemetery must not be frequented very often, because someone called community watch on us, and an octogenarian came by to ask me and my grandma some questions. (Seriously??)

On our way out of Clearville, we saw a llama / alpaca farm, although sadly, I don't think any of them were the alpacas I bought yarn from.

Our penultimate and ultimate grave stops of the day were both back in Bedford proper. I needed to call Dave for a bit of assistance with directions, but I was eventually able to find one of the coolest graves of the day: Major John Cessna III, veteran of the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War.

This particular family member was a major badass and big man on campus during the 18th century. He is buried alone in a field with a fancy fence and his own American flag.

This was really cool to see; it's definitely a piece of history. It was my mom's favorite site of the day. This is my sixth great-grandfather; I'm descended from him through Grandma's mother, Charlotte (Cessna) Deremer.

Once we had finally located Maj. Cessna's grave, I wanted to go back to town and find my great-grandparents, i.e. both sets of parents for my grandma and grandpa. They're both in the same cemetery, as were some of my grandma's brothers.

This did not turn out to be as easy as it sounds. After traipsing around random rural Pennsylvania cemeteries for hours, it took us longer than normal to find these last graves for two reasons. One, they were flat ground markers instead of upright tombstones, which are easier to see from a distance. Two, Grandma forgot which cemetery they were in!

I had done all my research on, which is a website that is pretty much exactly as morbid as it sounds. Findagrave said that they were in Bedford County Memorial Park, whereas Grandma was convinced they were in Bedford Cemetery.

We wandered around Bedford Cemetery to placate grandma, but we couldn't find anything related to our family. I did find this, though, which I think will be a great screen saver:

Anyway, in the end, we made it over to Bedford County Memorial Park, which, by the way, I had been wandering for days, since it was right next to the hotel and I needed somewhere to walk. It's a really nice cemetery!

I found Grandpa's parents pretty much right off the bat, Chester and Bessie (Mock) Smith:

Then we found Roy and Charlotte (Cessna) Deremer after a bit of searching:

These were the first people we visited all day that I had actually met. Although Bessie and Charlotte were gone by the time I visited Bedford as a child, I do remember visiting Chester Smith in the nursing home, and Roy Deremer at his home in Bedford. All I remember about Grandpap Deremer is that he liked bananas with his corn flakes.

Me and Grandpap in Bedford in the 1980s
All day, I'd been spotting the graves first, but Grandma finally found one: she found her brother Milton, right as we were almost giving up and heading to dinner.

Right near him was Ernie, who my mom found:

I loved visiting all the graves, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to visit more. I'm going to make a Google Map for myself of all the spots, and the next time I'm there I'm going to add more names to my grave scavenger hunt.

After all that cemetery walkin' throughout the day, we were more than ready for some dinner. The farm-to-table restaurant I had wanted to visit was closed, so we just ate some snacks in the hotel and got ice cream at The Penguin.

This ice cream was so good! They had a roasted peanut butter flavor that made my mind go completely blank.

The visit to Bedford was over, and we were ready to go back to our lives in the BIG city, Chicago. But it was great spending these days with my mom and my grandma: a ladies trip to our ancestral homeland. I cemented my newfound interest in genealogy, I connected with long-lost relatives, and I learned some history. I'm excited to come back to Bedford anytime (as long as they still have yarn and ice cream).

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