Sheltered among the trees along the Monongahela River, just 15 miles south of Pittsburgh, early travelers located some of the most fertile soil and picturesque landscape that they had ever laid their eyes on. A simply amazing discovery, the area was not only perfect for boat and ship building, but it offered a hub for various forms for incorporating businesses in the area, and it offered conditions perfect for sustaining during the heat of summer and the brutal winters that western Pennsylvania is known for.
Sometime during the mid to late 1700s, settlers from New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware began moving into the area now known as Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, taking advantage of the lush foliage and generous farmland that sat nestled between Brownsville and Pittsburgh, two cities bustling with riverfront transportation and glass making businesses during a time when migration and community development was in it's infancy. Elizabeth, Pennsylvania was named after Elizabeth Mackay Bayard, the wife of Colonel Stephen Bayard, who along with Elizabeth's brother, Samuel Mackay, founded the town in 1787.
Elizabeth later became the bustling borough that it is still known for today in 1834. Elizabeth is most famous for boat building and is known for having been visited by the famous pioneers, Lewis and Clark, and the highly accomplished Capt. John Walker was more than likely contracted to build the fifty-five foot keel boat aka "big boat" that was used in the Lewis and Clark expedition. While many will argue that the "big boat" was built in the boatyard near the Liberty Bridge in Pittsburgh, the mystery of where the big boat was built according to the founding fathers of Elizabeth, was built at the edge of the Monongahela River and later the durable merchant vessel set sail from the shipyard based in Elizabeth.
One later account of the origins of the famous keel boat carrying Lewis & Clark came directly from a reliable source during an interview with Col. George A. Bayard, son of Col. Stephen Bayard in early 1852. Col. Bayard was reported as stating that the early involvement of boat building included the famous keel boat that was built by John Walker at the boatyard located along the waterfront in Elizabeth Borough, confirming the previous historical documentation involving the paper trail of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Today, Elizabeth has many more mysteries that embody the town with intrigue and is a definite place of interest for anyone who loves history, paranormal activity, beauty, fine dining, dancing in the streets, and that welcoming small town feel that a community like Elizabeth offers. Elizabeth, once known as Elizabeth Town, is the second oldest town in Allegheny County and is known for being home to the first ship building industry west of the Allegheny Mountains.
It wasn't long before the town became famous for her very own ship, the "Monongahela Farmer" who sailed from Elizabeth to New Orleans in 1800. Towboats nudging barges filled with coal along the river, work and pleasure boats, water sports, music, history, festivals, and a variety of excellent cuisine are all a huge part of what makes Elizabeth the bustling community that it is today. It is quite possible that the festivities are so lively that even the ghosts travel down from "Town Hill" to be included in the activities in the heart of the town where music, dancing in the streets, festivities, fine dining, and highly spirited celebrations occur down on Plum Street, Second Avenue and Water Street.
Plum Street, Elizabeth is a favorite pass time for locals and tourists who enjoy a variety of music. Plum Street closes down to traffic and opens up to those who desire to dance in the street for some serious summer fun. A variety of bands blast the town with tunes that lure in the crowds every Thursday night to the "Sounds of Summer."
Rockwell's Red Lion Restaurant at the corner of Plum Street and Second Avenue has been a favorite upscale dining choice since 1980. Spirited banquets featuring weddings and Christmas parties and other festive occasions are celebrated events that can be found regularly in the lower level of the famous restaurant, located in the "Lion's Den."
The Grand Theatre, located on Second Avenue, next to the Rockwell's Red Lion Restaurant is the perfect location for paranormal activity. Ghosts enjoy being around people and this building is constantly filled with activity. Dark shadows, unexplained noises and voices have all been a part of the theatrical experience even after the last performer has exited the building and the doors have been locked.
Walking past the theater, strange forms have appeared in the windows and apparitions have been seen inside of the building from various sources. Perhaps it is the ghost of Elizabeth Bayard, merely seeking a night of entertainment, away from the humdrum of the dark and quiet surroundings found just up the hill at the haunted cemetery where her soul is forever lost. The July Riverfest in Elizabeth is another crowd pleaser that draws in thousands of spectators who enjoy good food, live music, festivities, fireworks, boats, competitions, first-responder demonstrations, and a parade.
Unfortunately all towns have their scars and secrets, and Elizabeth is no exception to this rule. The Borough of Elizabeth is known for having a historical cemetery that is considered a "Disgrace to Elizabeth." This historic cemetery is where the founding fathers of the town are buried. Historians will find the graves of Walker,McClure, Penniman, Lynch, Mitchell, and the VanKirk family. These are just a few of the first pioneers who settled in the area and would eventually be buried in the very place they called home. Their grave sites can be found among the trees in the upper section of the cemetery, untouched by time, severe winters and overgrown weeds. This famous cemetery was also once the final resting place for Elizabeth Mackay Bayard, for whom the town was named.
Sadly, bad planning that included the decision to uproot and remove old graves from the "Old Cemetery" and place them into the Elizabeth Cemetery was a disaster resulting in several mounds of broken tombstones and lost graves. The planned removal caused considerable chaos and the loss of many headstones and bodies. This monumental disaster is noted in the October 4, 1889 issue, claiming that the number of bodies removed from the Old Graveyard is much larger than most people had suspected and is a disgrace to the town of Elizabeth. The Elizabeth Cemetery, located on Cemetery Road is the final resting place for more than eighty-two Civil War veterans.
Ghosts have a way of getting their point across in the only way that they know how. Severe distress at the "Old Graveyard" was causing concern to all that visited. An abundance of appearances from unsettled ghosts and misguided apparitions, summoning for some type of reckoning to anyone who would listen that help was desperately needed for those lost souls that were so easily forgotten about.
Reports of orbs, glowing lights, dark shadows and eerie sounds were becoming a steady occurrence at the Old Graveyard nestled between Tanner Aly, Bayard Street and 5th Avenue. Fear of the unknown kept citizens away from the cemetery grounds, hidden high on top of the hill, under the protection of the shade trees, up until the late seventies, when the heavily overgrown cemetery was almost impossible to walk through.
Through the years complaints to the city flooded in from family members of those who were buried in the destroyed remnants of what used to be the final resting place of their loved ones, but is now nothing more than a few graves surrounded by a bungled mess. The lack of detail and loss of loved ones, poor record keeping and the total disregard to the family's when it came time to exhume and transfer the remains to an entirely different grave site forced the community to jump into action over a distressing issue that was simply not going to go away. Historians, Della and Frank Fischer were called in to decipher what headstones they could read and volunteers cleaned, mowed and reset the remaining headstones. Many of the grave sites have no stones, including the grave marker for Elizabeth Bayard, that is presently, forever lost.
Elizabeth borough today has a population of nearly 1,500 citizens. At the corner of Bayard Street and 5th Avenue, there is a lined trail that will lead you to the handful of the last few graves that have been left behind, most of which contain Elizabeth's founding fathers. The rest of the broken mounds of rubble left behind from discarded tombstones is all that remain of the "Old Graveyard."
The "Old Cemetery" remains as a reminder to those who built the town and put it on the map. The entrance to grave sites still remains. Steps with a historic marker greet you as you walk up the hill towards the remaining headstones. Some are intact while several others are dumped in an unorganized mound of crumbles that leaves us wondering where the restless souls of those confused spirits that were tossed about so haphazardly could be found roaming today.
Are they forever stuck in transition.....or were these restless spirits eventually capable of overcoming such blatant disregard and ignorance and put their muddled burial mishap behind them. Many residents still claim that there are ghosts residing on top of the hill of the "Old Graveyard" while others simply do not believe that paranormal activity is the cause of the many unexplained events that take place when the moon is void and the night is as black as the coal that surrounds the town that houses it.
The Borough of Elizabeth is a thriving community filled with businesses that are a mirror of days gone by. History repeats itself in everyday life and in many of the historic buildings where ghosts and spirits make themselves heard in sound and presence, attempting to contribute themselves, still wishing to be an active part of the town where they once lived and worked. Paranormal activity is evident in many of the older buildings where workers labored and etched their names into the many pieces of what makes Elizabeth still flourish today.
Second Street offers historians and ghost hunters a glimpse into the heart and history of Elizabeth. Many of the business owners along this main thoroughfare claim that paranormal activity has long been a part of the town's charisma. The old warehouse located under the Malady Bridge that now houses the Elizabeth Beer Distributor was once a church. Echoes of the past are heard at different hours throughout the day and night at the historic building. Disembodied footsteps, dark shadows and strange voices keep the staff on their toes, but just like the residents of Elizabeth, the ghosts are friendly and welcome customers to come in for a spirited visit.
Just before midnight, during the new moon on August 14, our small group of ghost hunters conducted a paranormal investigation. Ascending the steps of the "Old Graveyard," we noted that the air felt cooler despite it being a relatively warm evening. Previously, on our walk towards the haunted cemetery, the night showed promise of an eerie sort quiet and calm, but once we got to the middle of the hill on Bayard Street at the entrance to the muddled mess of broken graves we found that the grounds were anything but silent.
After reaching the furthest point in the cemetery along the fence and the alley, along the back side of the cemetery, we all noticed the strong odor reminiscent of roses. The smell was so prominent that it immediately overpowered the entire area. The bizarre anomaly was accompanied by footsteps coming from the tree area where the Penniman tombstone sits.
At the same moment, the EMF spiked, and the temperatures dropped for several seconds, detecting a strange energy force. The cameras picked up several orbs and with them came the odd sensation of not being able to breathe due to the air becoming thick and permeated by a strange mist. Within a few minutes the graveyard returned to normal even though none of us could quite shake the overwhelming feeling of being watched by someone or something that was undetectable to the human eye. With these discoveries came an unsettling feeling, yet there was never a threat of danger, only an overpowering sensation of a peaceful calm, possibly due to acknowledgment and the existence of truth that was once forever buried on a lonely hill.
Location: Sixteen miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along route 51, just cross the Malady Bridge and exit right into the historic and haunted borough of Elizabeth.
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Sheltered among the trees along the Monongahela River, just 15 miles south of Pittsburgh, early travelers located some of the most fertile soil and