The House That Cyrus Built

By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist

On June 7, 1870, Cyrus W. Pyle, a 26-year old carpenter, was enumerated by the Census taker in the household of Simon Rinehart, a stone cutter, in Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Compared to Simon Rinehart with thousands of dollars in real and personal estate, Cyrus had just personal estate valued at $200 and a teenage, carpenter’s apprentice boarding with him in the Rinehart house.[1] Cyrus was also a newlywed, having married Susan E. Hertzog in neighboring Fayette County, Pennsylvania, on 28 April 1870,[2] but the young couple were living separately as late as 12 August 1870, when the Census taker reached Susan at her parents’ house near Masontown, Fayette County.[3]

The Rineharts were the artisans behind many of the fine tombstones in Green Mount Cemetery, so it is interesting that their tenant, Cyrus W. Pyle, purchased a block of lots immediately across the street facing that burial ground on 1 April 1875.[4] Cyrus’s property in the Flenniken Addition of Waynesburg, contained lots 53 and 54. When Cyrus sold the property on 25 January 1882, there was a notable change of language in the Deed description to include buildings with the land.[5]

Close up of Cyrus Pyle’s property across from Green Mount Cemetery cropped from the map of Waynesburg in Caldwell’s Illustrated, Historical, Centennial Atlas Of Greene County, Pennsylvania, 1876. Digital image courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection.

Between 1875 and 1876, Cyrus built the house that still stands in lot 53, now addressed as 645 N. Morris Street. Construction was either complete or significantly in progress by 1876 because Caldwell’s Illustrated, Historical, Centennial Atlas of Greene County, Pennsylvania, published in 1876, depicts a structure in the northeast corner of lot 53 on a detailed diagram of Waynesburg.[6] Furthermore, a photograph of Waynesburg dated circa 1875-1876, shows this house, recognizable as the one still standing today, across from Green Mount Cemetery.[7] We know that the photograph dates circa 1875-1876, because the Methodist Episcopal Church built during the same year is visible behind the Greene County Courthouse on Washington Street, while significant changes made in 1877 to the Morris Street entrance of Green Mount Cemetery are not visible.

Close up of Cyrus Pyle’s house across from Green Mount Cemetery cropped from the circa 1875-1876 photograph of Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania, item no. JACB_AN001_0001, Helen Mae (Jacobs) Fonner Collection, shared by George and Anna (Fonner) Blystone, Greene Connections Archives Project.

A Civil War Veteran’s Greeting

Red (top), white (left), and blue (right) post-Civil War patriotic entrance created by Cyrus Pyle in the 1870s. See complete photo tour of house as it appears today at www.MorrisStreetHouse.com. (Photo by author, 2016).

Cyrus was a Civil War veteran. He served from 10 February 1865 to 24 August 1865, as a Private in Company G, 192nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.[8] As a mark of his service, Cyrus included three panes of glass around the front door to the Morris Street house. Stained-glass colors one pane red and one blue, while the third was left clear to symbolize white. This patriotic reminder of post-Civil War days remains intact at the entrance.

Master of the Stairs

According to his biography in the mug book, Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania , Cyrus owned a planning mill in Waynesburg before moving on to Uniontown to continue the trade in Fayette county. The same sketch explains that Cyrus and Susan’s oldest son, Albert Eugene “Bert” Pyle, apprenticed carpentry under his father and became “an expert hardwood worker…specialized principally as a stair builder.”[9] For anyone who has climbed the steps at 645 N. Morris Street, this will be a notable fact. Bert was born in the Morris Street house and learned the craft from the man who constructed what is doubtless one of its most unique features. The splendid newel post and set of detailed spindles that ascend to the second floor make the narrow entrance hall grand. Cyrus’s real mastery though is the ergonomically carved railing that perfectly suits the holding hand of any resident or guest making good use of his stairs.

Home for a Time

At least three of Cyrus’s five children were probably born in the Morris Street house, since the family owned the property from 1875 to 1882, during the years in which Susan gave birth.[10] However, it seems likely that Cyrus built the house to sell it, not to call it home for long. This pattern of construction, dwelling, and selling was repeated in Uniontown when Cyrus, “built a frame dwelling on the western limit of the Gilmore estate and occupied it for several years.”[11]

Quiet Neighbors

During the short time that the Pyles called the Morris Street house home, significant developments took place across the street. Green Mount Cemetery had been established by an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on the 15th day of April 1853.[12] Two years later in 1855, surveying was complete for the original property and lots were made available for purchase. Once established, Green Mount Cemetery fast became Waynesburg’s primary burial ground. Two town cemeteries and several small family cemeteries that were in existence prior to Green Mount’s creation, were eventually removed to Green Mount as properties were reclaimed for modern development, ultimately making Green Mount the most common burial ground for Waynesburg ancestors.

This close up of Cyrus Pyle’s house across the street from the Green Mount Cemetery caretaker’s house and columnar entrance is cropped from a panorama of Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania, 1897. This section of the incredible diagram is slightly off because the alleys are not included between the avenues, making Cyrus’s house look closer to his neighbors on both sides than it really was. T. M. Fowler and James B. Moyer, cartographers. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

However, the cemetery was struggling at the time Cyrus started to build his house next to these quiet neighbors. In March 1871, fire set to corn stalks in an adjoining town lot spread through Green Mount with the wind. Overgrown conditions contributed to a quarter of the cemetery property burning before the fire was under control.[13] Despite a positive development in 1873, when Washington Street was extended up the hill to reach Green Mount,[14] the cemetery’s care continued to decline to the point that a new board was court appointed in January 1877.[15] Accordingly, in the late 1870s, Green Mount was remade. The entry road off Morris Street, directly across from Cyrus’s house was improved with distinctive landscaping that included a boundary wall and stately columns. On 28 January 1880, the new board released a memorandum that declared, “buildings have been erected, grounds put in good order, new fences put up, streets and walks laid out.”[16] Though we are still determining the date of its construction, one of these buildings may have been the uniquely designed caretaker’s house that was situated on the bank opposite Cyrus’s Morris Street house. Arrangements to house Green Mount’s caretaker on the property meant familiar new neighbors for Cyrus. His old housemate, Mary Ann Rinehart, the daughter of Simon the stone cutter, had married David Buchanan,[17] a fellow Civil War veteran, who had taken up the job at Green Mount. In the 1880 Census, the Buchanans and Pyles are listed beside one another.[18]

This image circa 1910s – 1920s, shows Cyrus Pyle’s house on Morris Street sporting a big front porch (now gone) and awnings. The remnants of the old alley that ran close to Morris Street can also be seen slightly, where Cyrus’s block of two lots looks almost like it is broken up. That alley is also now completely removed. Green Mount Cemetery’s entrance road and Morris Street are both bricked. The standout architecture of the caretaker’s house and columnar entrance and wall, built in 1877, welcomed visitors to Green Mount. Parades marched through town up this road into the cemetery for Memorial Day celebrations, speeches, and picnics. Item no. GCHS-AN027-0001-0096, Greene County Historical Society Collection, Greene Connections Archives Project.

The mystique of Morris Street was altered when the cemetery house came down in the late 1900s and the old columns at Green Mount’s entry were removed. However, the view from Cyrus’s upstairs windows is now an uninterrupted perspective of Waynesburg’s local history in lasting tribute as the grand old burial ground rolls over the hill.

Cyrus Moves On

When the Pyle family left Morris Street in 1882, a lot of life still lay before them. Most of the subsequent two decades were spent in the Uniontown area, though they were lodging in Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in 1900 while Cyrus had carpentry work there.[19] According to Susan’s deposition, Cyrus abandoned her in 1906, leaving her little good to say about him in the many pages of testimony and affidavits she was required to compile to prove she was still his lawful wife at the time of his death and thereby qualified to receive a widow’s pension as a part of his Civil War service. The complete file has been digitized for the Greene Connections Archives Project. Significant particularly for family historians, it is admittedly a compelling read for non-relatives too, due to the forthright testimony of not only Susan, but also that of Delilah Markley, the woman for whom Cyrus built a house on Gordon Street in Uniontown, into which he subsequently moved to live with her.[20]     

Morris Street House

Though under new ownership, Cyrus’s Morris Street house continued to stand as the neighborhood evolved. The simple structure can be seen on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Waynesburg in 1908 and 1918.[21] The color-coded diagrams display a neighborhood of wooden structures spread sparsely across town blocks. Today, those streets are much more crowded with residential dwellings and the Waynesburg University campus touching the edges of Green Mount Cemetery.

The house Cyrus built is largely unchanged. Modernized and customized by subsequent owners, his handiwork and style still give the house its personality. It’s simple and plain in many ways, with just the touches of elegance in such things as the trim around exterior windows, flourishes on mantlepieces, and the grand entrance with the patriotic stained-glass doorway leading to his masterful staircase.

Personal Note

As a teenager, I discovered genealogy in the oldest sections of Green Mount Cemetery, where I met my ancestors by accident during a search for a haunted mausoleum (see She Watches from the Grave). Over the years of researching each burial, transcribing every monument inscription, creating Memory Medallion profiles, and leading historic tours, I always looked over to Cyrus’s house thinking how great a place that would be to live. When fates collided in 2016, I was able to join the list of people to call that house home. I thought I would grow old there. However, like Cyrus, Susan, and the Pyle children, I was only meant to be its caretaker for a few short years. Job opportunities and changing circumstances sometimes take us in unexpected directions. Such a house with such a history has been a delightful part of my story. The genealogy of this old house continues to extend its branches to new generations.

Cyrus Pyle’s house as seen from Green Mount Cemetery. See complete photo tour of house as it appears today at www.MorrisStreetHouse.com. (Photo by author, 2019.)

[1] 1870 U.S. census, Marion Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Waynesburg post office, page 305 (stamped) / 29-30 (written), dwelling 206, family 204, Simon Rinehart household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed 2020); National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 1348.

[2] Cyrus Pyle, pension file, 30 April 1897, application no. 1190404 / certificate no. 949365 and Susan H. Pyle, Widow’s pension file, 20 January 1921, application no. 1168698 / certificate no. 931770; Civil War, Military Pension Records; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[3] 1870 U.S. census, Springhill Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Masontown post office, page 451 (stamped) / 10 (written), dwelling 76, family 76, Andrew Hertzog household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed 2020); National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 1343.

[4] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 28: 441, Grantors: John C. Flenniken and Caroline, his wife, of Waynesburg, and Beden Bebout and Sophronia, his wife, of Richhill Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania / Grantee: C. W. Pyle of Waynesburg, Date of instrument: 1 April 1875 / Deed recorded: 10 March 1880; Office of the Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[5] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 30: 243, Grantor: Cyrus W. Pyle and Susana H. Pyle, of Waynesburg / Grantee: Joseph G. Ritchie, of Waynesburg, Date of instrument: 25 January 1882 / Deed recorded: 27 January 1882; Office of the Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[6] J. A. Caldwell, Caldwell’s Illustrated, Historical, Centennial Atlas Of Greene County, Pennsylvania (Condit, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell, 1876), Waynesburg map, loose insert; digital images, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, David Rumsey Map Collection (https://bit.ly/CaldwellAtlas : viewed 2020; C. W. Pyle property, Flenniken Addition, lots 53 and 54.

[7] Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania, item no. JACB_AN001_0001, Helen Mae (Jacobs) Fonner Collection, shared by George and Anna (Fonner) Blystone, Greene Connections Archives Project (https://greeneconnections.pastperfectonline.com/photo/43E76AA4-1EDC-4166-90DA-477471671921).

[8] Cyrus Pyle, pension file, 30 April 1897, application no. 1190404 / certificate no. 949365; Civil War, Military Pension Records; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[9] John Woolf Jordan and James Hadden, Editors, Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912), 1: 220-221, biographical sketch of Joseph Pyle family; digital images, Ancestry.com, (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=25129 : accessed 15 December 2015.

[10] Names and birth dates of the four children who survived infancy are listed in Cyrus Pyle’s Civil War pension file, 30 April 1897, application no. 1190404 / certificate no. 949365. Susan further noted that she had borne five children, four of whom were surviving, when she applied for a Widow’s pension, 20 January 1921, application no. 1168698 / certificate no. 931770. Civil War, Military Pension Records; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[11] James Hadden, A History of Uniontown: The County Seat of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (Uniontown, Pennsylvania: 1913), 197; digital images, Google, Google Books (http://books.google.com/ : viewed 2020).

[12] Green Mount Cemetery Deed No. 37 (section D, lot 20, east half), Waynesburg, Pennsylvania; collection of the author, 2020. The lot was sold on 31 July 1878 to Simon Rinehart Jr. as authorized by Green Mount Cemetery Board President James Inghram and Secretary R. F. Downey. Deed includes “Rules and Regulations” under which item number IX defines the incorporation of the cemetery. Original deed passed from Simon Rinehart Jr. [1821-1885] to his daughter Mary Ann (Rinehart) Buchanan [1859-1931] to her daughter Lettie Harriet (Buchanan) Fenske [1892-1985] to her son James Arthur Fenske to his second cousin twice removed Candice Buchanan for family history preservation.

[13] “Cemetery on Fire” article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 15 March 1871, page 3, column 2.

[14] G. Wayne Smith, The Waynesburg Commons and Parks (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania: Cornerstone Genealogical Society, 2004), 5.

[15] “New Cemetery Board” article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 17 January 1877, page 3, column 6.

[16] “Green Mount Cemetery” ad, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1880 issues.

[17] Buchanan-Rinehart marriage announcement, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 26 December 1877.

[18] 1880 U.S. census, Franklin Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 71, page 211B (stamped) / 41 (written), dwelling 334, family 352 David Buchanan household and dwelling 335, family 353, C. W. Pyle household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed 2020); National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1133.

[19] 1900 U.S. census, Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Ward 5, enumeration district (ED) 405, page 175A (stamped) / 1 (written), 140 Fifth Avenue, dwelling 3, family 5, Ella K. Wilkinson household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.Ancestry.com : accessed 2020); National Archives microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241368.

[20] Susan H. Pyle, Widow’s pension file, 20 January 1921, application no. 1168698 / certificate no. 931770; Civil War, Military Pension Records; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[21] Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (New York: Sanborn Map Co., 1908); digital images, Pennsylvania State University Libraries (www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/sanborn.html : accessed 2020), sheet 3, house now addressed as 645 N. Morris Street is visible across from the entrance to Green Mount Cemetery. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (New York: Sanborn Map Co., 1918); digital images, Pennsylvania State University Libraries (www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/sanborn.html : viewed 2020), sheet 12, house now addressed as 645 N. Morris Street is visible across from the entrance to Green Mount Cemetery.

4 Comments on “The House That Cyrus Built

  1. What a great read! Thank you for the wonderful history lesson. I just noticed the house for sale yesterday. I hope that the next caretaker takes as much care with it as you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the story about this house. I have often wondered about the history of this beautiful house.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderfully detailed and thorough article. What a treasure to have the house still in use.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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