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She Watches from the Graveby Candice Buchanan on 2023-02-26T20:05:00-05:00 in Female ancestors, Photographs, Genealogy, Cemeteries, Waynesburg College Alumni | 0 Comments
(Originally published by Candice Buchanan as a contributing chapter in Supernatural Lore of Pennsylvania: Ghosts, Monsters and Miracles, Thomas White, Editor (Charleston, South Carolina: History Press, 2014), 35.)
Far from its main entrance, where the gravel road winds near the back gate, stands Green Mount Cemetery‘s haunted mausoleum. It is not especially large, but it is stately, with a small porch supported by four pillars. Its heavy, gray stone is contrasted by a tempting patch of color within. To get a good look, a passerby must climb the stairs to the narrow porch and come nose-to-nose with the crypt’s glass doors to peer between the metal bars. On each side are four drawers, occupied and identified accordingly. On the back wall, in vivid hues and artisan craftsmanship, an elderly woman stares back from a stained-glass window portrait. Her expression is stern, but it is her eyes that are haunting. As you study her, she studies you back. There is an eerie feeling of being watched. According to legend, her eyes actually move to follow visitors until they are safely out of range. Local lore explains that she holds this eternal vigil because her husband wronged her in life and she is forever watching him in death. Other versions say that she guards her family from beyond the grave, with her eyes not only on anyone who approaches from the outside, but also on everyone entombed on the inside. Children who play hide-and-seek games in the cemetery see her both as protector, using the mausoleum as safe base, and as opponent, identifying her as the threat to either hide or run from.
Known most often simply as “the haunted mausoleum,” the structure stands in section P, lots 49 and 50. These lots were bought on July 18, 1924, by brothers Joseph T. and James J. Martin, whose initials preside over the crypt’s entrance. The mausoleum was constructed in the same year and marked with the date at the roof’s peak. The first record in the lot book is for Maud Martin, daughter of Joseph. Her sudden death on July 12, 1924, was likely the event that prompted her father and uncle to purchase the property and initiate construction. A crossed-out notation in the cemetery’s interment book indicates that Maud may have been temporarily buried in section G until the mausoleum was completed.
Maud was not the only family member buried elsewhere until the tomb was ready. Disturbed graves and ghost stories go hand-in-hand and digging up the dead to remove and reinter relatives was familiar practice at Green Mount.
Upon its establishment by an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on April 15, 1853, Green Mount became the foremost burial ground for Waynesburg and the surrounding area. Several nearby community and family cemeteries that had been in existence prior to its formation were eventually removed to or memorialized at Green Mount as their properties were reclaimed for modern development. In many cases, Waynesburg families preempted these mass relocations by buying lots into which they could remove ancestors from older cemeteries to Green Mount so that the past and present generations were buried together. Green Mount records note that between May 19 and 21, 1926, the Martin family removed the remains of four relatives from Fredericktown, Pennsylvania, to be entombed in the new mausoleum. One of those four was Martha (Moor) Martin [1819-1880], mother of Joseph and James.
Though no name is printed on her stained-glass window, there are notations at each bottom corner in a thin black script that is almost lost in the brightly colored design. Each has a date: “Born Oct. 21, 1819” and “Died Sept. 18, 1880.” In a tribute to their mother, Joseph and James added these inscriptions to mark the timeline of Martha (Moor) Martin’s life. Deceased long before the mausoleum was built, Martha did not select or order her own image to preside over the family; they chose it to remember her. Her prominent location is one of honor by her heirs, rather than sinister dominance over them. Martha’s identity removes some of the chill from her intimidating presence, but as to the watched feeling – it merely names the watcher.
In addition to the Martin relatives who rest within the actual building, there are two buried in front of it. The pair of graves outside belong to Martha’s grandson Edward Martin and his wife, Charity (Scott) Martin, who both lived 1879-1967. Edward entered the military while a student at Waynesburg College and rose to the rank of General. Equally successful in politics, he served as Governor of Pennsylvania (1943-1947) and a U.S. Senator (1947-1959). Though Edward and Charity are memorialized apart from the mausoleum that his father and uncle built, Edward’s prestigious career contributed to the safekeeping of his family’s history and the preservation of a rare record that helps to unlock the mausoleum’s mystery. In the archives of the Greene County Historical Society, where a large Edward Martin Collection is housed, his grandmother’s familiar gaze can be met once again, this time in an actual photograph. In the picture, Martha’s eyes sit in exactly the same uneasy positions that they do in the crypt window. In life, Martha had a condition that actually caused her eye to wander. Preserved unedited by the artist, this eye condition recreated in stained-glass lends itself to the illusion of watchfulness.
Her identity known, her place of honor recognized, and her eyes understood; there remains one element of the ghost story that the archives cannot reconcile. The most popular telling of Martha’s tale consistently claims some wrongdoing by her husband in life that causes her to be ever watching him in death. Martha’s crypt identifies her as “Martha Moor, wife of John M. Martin,” but there is no space labeled for John. Though Martha was one of four burials removed to Green Mount from Fredericktown in 1926, the accompanying three were her parents and her daughter, her husband is not listed.
When Martha died, John M. Martin [1823-1903] was 57 years old. With a lot of life still ahead of him, he buried Martha with her parents in Fredericktown and then he started over. On February 1, 1881, four months after Martha’s death, her widower was married to a woman 20 years younger than he, widow Isabelle (Barr) Montgomery [1843-1930], with whom he raised a second family.
The sons of John and Martha (Moor) Martin brought their mother to the mausoleum and put her picture in the window, but left their father where he lay. John was not buried with either of his wives. He rests with his father and a son by his second marriage at Amity Cemetery in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
In the end, the one piece of Martha’s mysterious stare that cannot be reasoned away is the possibility that she really is forever watching for her absent husband.
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