Exploring Salisbury’s old Catholic cemetery


Social media can be a powerful tool.

One day I posed a question, “Anyone know anything about some old Catholic Cemetery?” and within days two young new friends returned from tromping in the brush on a cold January day surprising me with incredible photographs and invaluable genealogical information.

Others remembered seeing the cemetery before, as had Jason Wharton, and their memories were helpful.

But Jason, along with Amy Duddy, took the next step, literally, back to the cemetery to document it.

After I expressed awe that they took such quick initiative, Jason said to me, “I just feel bad when I see a place like this that’s overgrown, not taken care of and nobody has visited.”

Jason, a surveyor who works as a crew chief for Parker & Associates of Salisbury, said there was so much history in that cemetery and he felt it would be great if the information they contributed helped others locate their family history.

And oh, what they found.

Tucked off the road at an obscure location, the cemetery is not far from Nanticoke Road and Business Route 50. It is not yet known when this cemetery was established but it is identified on the 1877 atlas of the area.

There are only nine identified grave markers; it is not clear if there are unmarked graves. A couple of the markers were difficult to read. But the earliest deaths recorded among the markers were in 1871.

Johannah Drennen died Sept. 11, 1871, and is buried alongside her husband William Drennen (1814-1881) and they were both born in Ireland. Another 1871 burial was of Timothy Mullin, aged 14, who died in August of that year.

There is the grave of Giacomino Galante, who died in 1909 and was born in Salisbury. Savino Paolone died in 1910 and was identified as born in Italy.

Amy contributed the recorded information to the website findagrave.com and researched the names in ancestry.com. The cemetery is identified on the website as “Rt. 50 Immagrant Cemetery,” for those who check out the site.

Few have visited the cemetery because there no longer seems to be easy access. Overgrown and located near Owens Branch next to abandoned railroad tracks, it can be tricky to get to. The issues of access have yet to be figured out, and help with that is welcome.

A member of St. Francis de Sales Parish has expressed an interest in cleaning up the cemetery deploying a troop of eager Boy Scouts to spruce it up. But easy access to that cemetery is important for their safety.

I am still trying to learn more about the age and history of that cemetery. At the time of these burials, the Catholic Church was located downtown on Church Street. The cemetery apparently was known early on by the community.

In 1901, George R. Cooper reminisced about his early life in Salisbury in a series of articles in the Salisbury Advertiser describing Salisbury of 30 years earlier. He described visiting friends on the West Side, in the area known as California, and noticing young “Miss Kitty Tracy on her favorite pony, taking a canter out to the Catholic cemetery.”

As cemeteries go, this one is small. But the history these two young people recorded is a huge contribution.

And by doing so, they’ve helped families with their genealogy and identified some remarkable Salisbury history.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com

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