PINE TOWNSHIP — The cemetery off Gill Road — which goes by at least three names — is small, but it’s brimming with history
Its stones tell many stores, including the 1918 flu pandemic, coal mining, and the Mafia.
Earlier this month, about 70 people followed with members of the Grove City Area Historical Society and Museum on a walking tour of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery, also known as the Beloved Disciple Cemetery and the Gill Road Cemetery.
Confirming information about those interred in the cemetery was a challenge because a lot of the details aren’t recorded in books or online, said Kathy Jack, president of the historical society.
In some cases, the task fell to relatives of the deceased, and Jack said she was grateful for their help.
The cemetery was officially established in 1907, on land was donated by the Ziccardi family.
The Church of the Beloved Disciple maintains the cemetery, which has 284 people interred. The most recent headstone has a date of 2018.
Jack said the cemetery has served as final resting place for many of the area’s Italian immigrants and their families.
She pointed out small ceramic portraits placed on some of the headstones – black and white photos showing the person buried in that plot. Such portraits were once common in Europe and Latin America.
By 1929, Americans could buy one at Montgomery Ward for less than $20, the equivalent of about $300 today.
Time has taken a toll on those portraits — some of the headstones have empty spots where they used to be, while others are cracked or faded — and the headstones themselves. Many of the stones are difficult to read, are sinking or crumbling.
But Samuel Puntureri’s picture is clear. His dark hair and mustache are still visible, after more than a century. He was born in 1870 and came to Pine Township from Italy with his family in 1902, Jack said.
He died in 1913 after a mining accident, and his wife Josephine wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life. Deprived of her husband’s salary, she earned an income running a boarding house for miners.
As historical society volunteers walked around with photos of the those buried at the cemetery, Jack pointed out a small white cross that said “P. Coppolella.”
Coppolella, whose first name and gender are unknown, was born in 1808 and died in 1913, and is believed to be in one of the cemetery’s oldest burial plots.
Nearby is the grave of Anthony Coppolella, a World War I veteran who worked as a coal miner. He died at the age of 57 from black lung and heart disease, Jack said.
Many of those buried in the cemetery were victims of the 1918 flu pandemic that stretched into 1919.
“In Grove City, this flu spread quickly,” Jack said.
Worldwide, the 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people and killing 50 million.
In the Grove City area, churches and schools closed, residents were advised to get fresh air and avoid crowds, Jack said, and streets were hosed down with water.
The Bumbaco family is buried toward the back of the cemetery. Joseph Bumbaco came from Italy when he was 14. His father, Giuseppe Bumbaco, was thought to have been murdered by the Black Hand, which Jack said was connected to the Mafia.
Joseph Bumbaco, whose first name was an Anglicized version of Giuseppe, ran a shoe repair business in Pine Township that his son, the late John Bumbaco, took over.
Jane Cleary, library manager and genealogy researcher for the historical society, talked about the Walsh family. In a largely Italian cemetery, Joseph Walsh is one of the few people in the cemetery who was born in Ireland.
Mary Ann Collins, a member of the historical society, took on the life story of her grandfather, Frank Sarnataro. He came to the area from Italy after his wife, Mary, died, and worked in the coal mines.
The Ziccardi family mausoleum is near the cemetery’s center. Joseph Ziccardi was born in 1863 in Italy before coming to Pine Township.
He got divorced in 1909 and married his second wife, Raffela, that same year. They had five children, and Ziccardi ran a general store on Route 208 at Forest Drive in an area that was known as Hallville, Cleary said.
Ziccardi, who died in 1951, and his son Jack built the mausoleum. The front of the structure notes that it was built in 1923 “in memory of all the family souls forever in peace,” along with a skull and crossbones.
The cemetery includes stillborn infants, babies and children like Albert Patrick, who died at the age of 7 after drowning, probably in what is known today as Wolf Creek, Cleary said.
The Keller family was well-known. Frank Keller was born in Switzerland, and his wife, Veronica, came from Germany.
He ran a dairy farm in Hallville and collected garbage, leaving Mrs. Keller to take care of delivering the milk. She also worked as a midwife.
“She performed the duty often in the Hallville area,” Cleary said.
Genevieve (Puntureri) Perry said she and her siblings were delivered by Mrs. Keller, and she remembers the milk deliveries.
John Pompa was born in 1885 in Italy, and he and his wife Teressina lived in Springfield Township with their six kids, Cleary said.
He was a store salesman and had loaned money to a fellow grocer, which didn’t sit well with the Black Hand.
In 1924, Pompa was stabbed to death by a Black Hand member who was tipped off by a signal that the victim – an accordion player — that the victim was approaching.
Pictures and video of the cemetery tour are posted on the historical society’s Facebook page and website.
Cleary said the historical society museum has more information about the cemetery.
The Grove City Area Historical Society and Museum is located at 111 College Ave., Grove City. It is open to visitors noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday through mid-December. For more information, call 724-458-1789, or visit www.grovecityhistoricalsociety.org or the organization’s Facebook page.