Gould Hill Cem, Belle Vernon, PA
Here are my notes from a visit Ralph Billiter (my brother) and I made to Gould Hill Cemetery in 1990.Note that the cemetery no longer exists.I learned recently that the first Gould Hill burial, that of Lewis Cisley, was moved to Rehoboth Cem.In the unlikely chance that Joseph Billiter's grave or marker (the third burial at Gould Hill) was also removed to Rehoboth, my family plans to visit Rehoboth over the 2001 Thanksgiving holiday.
Cordially, Jim Billiter
-------- My notes from 1990 follow -----------
VISIT: On June 7th and 8th, 1990, RPB and JHB visited Belle Vernon, PA, in an attempt to find more information about Joseph Billiter, his progeny, and his origins.
We tried first to locate the cemetery in 'Seldom Seen' on Gould Hill, described as the burial place of Joseph and his two sons, James and Lewis (p 315 Voorhis' "The Old and New Monongahela"). All the kind people, including the reservationist at the hotel and the police chief, gave us directions to Seldom Seen, now known as East Belle Vernon, but the critical pointer came from an older fellow driving a small tractor at the incorporated cemetery (est. c. 1867).He said he had played around tombstones as a child and directed us to a point where some old steps led from the heights above the river into a 'hollow' at the level of the river plain.These are located in Seldom Seen where the North end of Solomon Street ends at 'Gould Hollow'.By the way, the name 'Gould Hill' was not known locally as a place name in the town.'Gould Hollow' was.
We found the steps into the hollow, but the city had closed them off some years ago.It appeared they descended about 150 feet vertically from the end of Solomon street.They were impassable with overgrowth and poison ivy.We eventually scrambled down the hill using adjacent, more clear property, sometimes using the steps themselves as the most unobstructed way.The steps ended about 1/3 of the way down; the rest had probably collapsed and fallen down the cliff.Treetops were visible through the under- and overgrowth where the steps ended.
The fellow at the 'new cemetery' advised us to go about 40 yards (he said 'feet' at first) from where the steps ended.Clearly, they had ended at the bottom of the cliff when he had played there many years before, but now the collapse of the steps, and perhaps part of the hillside, posed essentially a leap into oblivion.
We retreated up the hillside, looking closely for signs of tombstones on several ledges in the hollow. Upon returning to the car, which was parked on the river side of Solomon Street between the first and second houses from the steps, we struck up a conversation with a lady on the porch of the second house.She was maybe between 50 and 60 years old. This kind lady related that she had heard from her mother that the houses had been built on a cemetery. It had extended from somewhere near the steps about 200 yards or so along the ridge parallel to the river.Bones were found when basements were dug, and someone had turned up half a wedding ring.This indicates the real cemetery was on the hill itself, which has a beautiful view of the Monongahela, rather than in the hollow.RPB estimates the houses were built between 1900 and 1920.Perhaps the builders had thrown some of the offending tombstones down the hill.
At any rate, the tombstones described by the cemetery employee were inaccessible from the hill.It may bepossible to get to them from the bottom of the hollow where some trailers are established.
During the conversation with the lady on the porch, another lady from the house directly across Solomon Street hailed us.She was the property owner and we explained our purpose.She said she believed the houses were built "on an old Indian burial ground".We explained this was the first cemetery in Belle Vernon.The "porch" lady mentioned that three tombstones had been moved to the new cemetery; they were black stones.We couldn't find them, and there were no Billiters buried in the new cemetery, according to the custodian's index.
--------- End quote from Jim's notes from 1990 ----------