PITTSTON — October is the month when leaves change color, daylight gets shorter, nights get chilly and it’s synonymous with Halloween where ghosts and goblins make an appearance at the end of the month.
For the Greater Pittston Historical Society and the Pittston Cemetery Association, October is the best time to have an official historical cemetery tour.
The Pittston Cemetery tour will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. Tour groups will be led by Ron Faraday, Greater Pittston Historical Society president; Ed Philbin, historical society member; Bob Ayre, Pittston Cemetery head caretaker/historian, as well as other members of the historical society. Everyone attending is asked to park on Swallow Street.
Philbin has been riding his bicycle through the Pittston Cemetery since he was 14 years old and is very familiar with the grounds. This tour will allow participants to learn about the history of the cemetery and those buried in it.
“The event is going to focus on the cemetery’s history. It’s not going to be goolish and there won’t be zombies popping out,” Philbin said. “It’s strictly an historical tour.”
Philbin still occasionally walks through the cemetery. A few years ago, he met the new caretaker Bob Ayre.
“We stuck up a friendship and it didn’t take long,” Philbin said. Since Ayre took over the cemetery’s caretaking duties, he quickly became an historian of the cemetery. “We would talk about the people buried here and would mention something about someone he researched and we’d share information.”
Out of those conversations, both agreed a cemetery tour for the public would be interesting. With Halloween approaching at the end of the month, the two agreed October would be a great time for such an event.
“Even though it’s Halloween time, the event will be kid-friendly and we are trying to piggyback with some local organizations that could provide cider, hot chocolate or even a bake sale,” Philbin added.
The cemetery dates back to the mid-1800s with many prominent people buried there. Benjamin Harding, the first mayor of Pittston, and his family are buried in one of the original sections of the cemetery. Harding was born in 1834 and died in 1899.
“To my knowledge, there’s never been a tour of any kind in the cemetery so there’s quite a following of dedicated cemetery tour people. I’m sure they are chomping at the bit to come in here because they just eat that stuff up,” Ayre said.
The cemetery is the final resting place for veterans from all wars, including the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, Pittston businessmen, politicians, and mine disaster victims. There are many victims of disease, including three children from one family who died in 1873 and are buried in the same grave.
“We have four guys that were wounded from the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, buried here and there are seven that died from that war,” Philbin said. The Battle of Fredericksburg took place Dec. 11-15, 1862.
According to Ayre, there are upwards of 10,000 people buried in the 17.5 acres of the Pittston Cemetery.
Because there is no charge for the tour, organizers are hoping for donations that would be shared between the historical society and the cemetery association.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the tour is asked to send a message to the historical society via Facebook.