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Headstone of Charles Henderson, USCT

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African American History
in South Central
Pennsylvania:
the 19th century

Midland Cemetery
Artifacts of a Historic Cemetery

 

Midland Cemetery was recently rescued from neglect by local historian Barbara B. Barksdale, who began the Friends of Midland organization.  That organization is the best source of information on the cemetery.  They can be contacted at the following address:
Friends of Midland, P. O. Box 7442, Steelton, Pennsylvania 17113-0442.
E-mail: 
Friends of Midland

I

n the course of restoring and preserving these historic burial grounds in Steelton, members and workers of Barbara B. Barksdale's Friends of Midland Association have uncovered many fascinating objects. Some are historic records of a burial, such as the wooden grave markers for husband and wife George and Jennie Roebuck. Some, such as the metal coffin handles, aged from decades under the earth, are intriguing. A few are particularly poignant, such as the delicate handle from a small child's coffin. All of these historic objects are being preserved and cared for by the association, as a record of a community's way of interring and honoring its members who have passed on.

 « Husband and wife George W. and Jennie V. Roebuck were honored with identical wooden grave markers.  Although it is not known when the markers were originally placed, it is probable that they were done so at about the same time, as the style, material, paint and degree of weathering are nearly the same on each.

Several years ago, these markers were stored for preservation because their age and state of decay made them unusable as markers (note the damage from the elements at the bottom of George W. Roebuck's marker). In 2004 they were replaced by a permanent marker.

George W. Roebuck is recorded as a Steelton resident at least as far back as 1894, where he is listed as a laborer in Boyd's Steelton Directory.  His residence was listed as 157 Ridge Street.  For some reason, he does not appear in the 1897 edition of the directory.  By 1919, one year prior to his death at about age 54, he is listed with his wife Jennie at 257 Adams Street.  His occupation was still listed as a laborer.  Also at the 257 Adams Street address was his son George W. Roebuck, Jr., a clerk. (more history)

»  Molissa Howard's grave was originally marked with this nicely crafted wooden marker.  Still attached is the stake used to secure it in the earth.  A wooden marker in this remarkably good condition would normally still be in place, but this one has been replaced by a more permanent stone marker by her family.

« This handle from a glass pitcher may be a surviving artifact from the African American practice of placing everyday household objects on top of graves.  Although seldom seen in modern burial practice, this tradition was very strong in the southern United States, and is still practiced in some remote areas there. 

« A tiny metal handle, probably from a small child's or an infant's coffin.  This artifact, like the others on this page, were found during restoration and preservation work being performed at the cemetery.  

 

»  Two coffin handles with portions of the original round wooden handle still attached.

« An elaborate intact coffin handle--one of the largest pieces found during restoration work.  For a view of the entire collection of recovered pieces:

Click this link

 

More Midland Photo Galleries

The Civil War Burials at Midland
African American Burial Traditions at Midland
World War Burials at Midland
Gallery of Home Crafted Tombstones
Gallery of Plot Boundary Markings

Names of Persons Buried at Midland

Tombstone Transcriptions
All Names, A-Z

Other Pages

Steelton Death Certificates, 1892-1893
About the Friends of Midland


Special
Feature
~ The People of Midland:
Clayton E. Carelock

Return to Midland Introduction

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This page was updated November 9, 2003.