Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mary Packer's Chapel of the Resurrection in Upper Mauch Chunk Cemetery

Jack Sterling led many groups through the Upper Mauch Chunk Cemetery this past weekend.  The tours focused on both the prominent business leaders as well as some of the more colorful characters of early Mauch Chunk.  Jack's great, great grandfather was the original Sexton of the cemetery back in the 1850s-1870s.  Jack is a member of the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center as well as the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.

Betsy Miller was a freed African-American slave who came to Mauch Chunk in the 1850s.  An herbalists known for making cures, potions and candy for neighboring children, she lived near Dr. Erwin's castle on Opera House Hill.  "Aunt Betsy" was well liked and her burial among the rest of Mauch Chunk is a testament to the town's early egalitarian roots. 

    Maura Phelan and Lauren Serbel and families look down the 100 year old crypt shaft.
    The hand pumped hydraulic lift has a window at left so the operator can see when the lift has lowered.  Doors at the top of the photo open to load the casket into the white-tile crypt room.

    Benjamin Barge was an educator from Lockport (below Walnutport).  He was a nephew of Daniel Bertsch, a man who acquired wealth through the coal fields.  Barge has a 100-foot, 80-ton monument in section 5 of the cemetery.  Each year, on Halloween a mysterious person climbs the monument and places a nicely carved jack-o-lantern atop his mortar board.  It is also said of Barge that the thickness of the pages in the book he is holding change from time to time, indicating he is still reading.  The Binder Brothers of East Mauch Chunk used Harry Bobst, the St Mark's Choir director as the model for Benjamin's monument..
    Here is Keith Bellhorn, local historian and curator of the Chapel of the resurrection in the white-tiled crypt storage area.
    This is the hand pump with hydraulic oil tank used to pump the lift up and down the shaft.  It hasn't been touched in over 50 years.
    Floor view toward rear of the chapel...Note the large granite marble in the corner.  It was retrieved after vandals rolled it off its monument, down the embankment over the Switchback tracks, down the steep mountainside and Opera House Hill, across Broadway smashing onto the Kennedy Spring on Race Street.
    This beautifully carved angel and child in section five is just one example of the work of the Binder brothers of Mauch Chunk that can be found in this cemetery.  The Binders had a marble yard behind their home along River Street on the East Side.
    This is perhaps one of the oldest tombstones here that is still legible.  It belonged to town founder, Josiah White's mother, Rebecca who died in 1826.  It is hard to imagine a woman of her age (she was 82 when she died), coming from the relative civilization of the Philadelphia area, to the unknown, wilderness town of Mauch Chunk.  If the light is just right, you can still read "Rebecca White" across the top.  Josiah is not buried here, having relocated back to Philadelphia.  He died of typhoid fever while out in Indiana.
    This is the rear set of panels in the Chapel of the Resurrection.  Each panel depicts a different scene of life conquering death.  Here, all true believers are being gathered, no matter what race or culture.  This is said to be the only religious stained-glass panel of a Native America in possibly the world.

  • The front doors to the Chapel, donated by Mary Packer, Asa Packer's last living child.  Mary, though married for a time, had no children of her own, and neither did either of her brothers, who died childless in their 30s.  Mary gave to many charities, this project she dedicated to her sister, Marion.  Note the Alpha and Omega grotesques on either side of the door.
    Here Mr. Bellhorn holds one of two sets of original 'biers' found inside the chapel.  A bier is a stand used for holding up coffins for display. 

No comments:

Post a Comment