Thursday, July 16, 2015

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg


The founding father of the Evergreen Cemetery, David McConaughy was a man of vision. McConaughy was the driving force in establishing Evergreen Cemetery and served as the association's president from 1854 - 1863. A year before the Battle of Gettysburg, he envisioned a Soldiers' Cemetery as part of Evergreen. At the time, only two native sons of Gettysburg had been killed during the Civil War, so there was not enough support from the community to fund the project.

When the Battle took place in July of 1863, McConaughy was in the forefront once again. Having already laid the groundwork for his concept by previously talking to the adjoining landowners, McConaughy acquired purchasing rights for the 17 acres of land north of Evergreen Cemetery. By doing so, McConaughy foiled rival lawyer David Wills' plans to purchase the land for the State of Pennsylvania. Ultimately, the Evergreen Cemetery gave the rights to the state of Pennsylvania to acquire the land with the stipulation that a fence divides the two properties.

Immediately following the battle, McConaughy began buying parcels of land with his own money to preserve the battlefield. He left the presidency of Evergreen Cemetery Association to help establish the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, for which he served as its first president for 10 years.

Peter and Elizabeth Thorn emigrated from Germany and were married on September 1, 1855; coincidentally, the same day the cornerstone was laid for the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse. The Thorns were the first family to live in the gatehouse when Peter became Superintendent of the cemetery in 1856.

After Peter joined Co. B, 138th Pennsylvania Infantry, Elizabeth was left in charge of the cemetery and served as caretaker from 1862-1865. With the help of her elderly father, Elizabeth buried 91 soldiers in the weeks following the Battle of Gettysburg. While six months pregnant, she dug the graves in one of the rockiest regions of the cemetery. Her post-war reminiscence is one of the best known civilian accounts of the battle.

Image 1: David McConaughy

Image 2: Elizabeth Thorn, 1832 - 1907; Peter Thorn, 1826 - 1907


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