By Kaylee Lindenmuth
GIRARDVILLE - Two community meetings were held Saturday, one at 9am and the other at 6pm, with the purpose of organizing the effort to clean up St. Joseph's Cemetery in Girardville, a cemetery which has sat inactive since the 1950s.
St. Joe's Community Church of Girardville, organized in 2017 after the purchase of the former St. Joseph's Church, hosted the two meetings at the church.
Karyl Moser, owner of the church property, moderated the 6:00pm meeting, attended by roughly ten community members, and began first by stressing that her organization was separate from the cemetery.
"We do not own or have any legal connection to St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery," said Moser. "That has nothing to do with this property here, and I think there is some confusion in the general public sometimes that, because we have this (the church), that's also ours. It's not."
Moser continued by noting that her organization would support the efforts to clean the cemetery, though they would not spearhead the project.
"We would like to make it clear what we are able to offer to the community and to this project about this," said Moser, continuing on to refer to a list on the meeting's agenda.
According to Moser and the agenda, the community church offered the use of their facility as a meeting place, some physical labor and personnel to assist the cleanup, the use of equipment, childcare for those assisting the cleanup, refreshments, and a portion of the church's weekly offering.
The meeting shortly moved into a discussion regarding the cleanup of the cemetery, which is said to be roughly three acres, and the final resting place of 3,000.
The cemetery has sat inactive since the 1950s, and, apart from cleanups in the 1990s, has largely been overtaken by nature. Situated along the side of Locust Mountain, the steep grade makes traversing the cemetery difficult.
The cemetery is still owned by the Catholic church, according to the Schuylkill County Parcel Locator, though at a meeting in May, the church noted that would not stop a cleanup effort.
Ideas discussed those echoed at prior meetings, including clearing paths from the entrance at Mahanoy Avenue up to the top of the cemetery.
"If we put a path up, that might create interest in people going and looking for their relatives," said Girardville councilman Rob Krick.
Also discussed were liability concerns and insurance if an organization took the lead, finances, specifically regarding who would be responsible for taking donations, having an engineer evaluate the property, among others.
Regarding financing and the ability to accept donation, an idea was tossed around for the donations to go through the Girardville Historical Society, which Krick noted he would suggest to the society's board.
One concern raised is the lack of an accurate map to locate plots in the cemetery, though records exist for the majority of plots in the cemetery. According to Krick, the records pertaining to the plot's locations aren't always correct.
Paul Kowalick, Girardville, suggested seeking a high school student from North Schuylkill, Shenandoah Valley, or another nearby school district to digitize the records, and map out the plots for their senior project.
"If we showed them the information we have, they could plot it and make it a lot easier, and make it very accurate and we could double check it with the headstones that are there," said Kowalick.
"It's going to be great for the town," added Kowalick regarding the project. Kowalick maintains the entrance and plots just beyond, including the gravesite of Col. Patrick Monaghan, a Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.
The meeting concluded with the attendees exchanging contact information, and a second meeting date was set for August 11 at 7:00pm at St. Joe's Community Church.