Union Cemetery in Bellefonte is one of the oldest cemeteries in Centre County and the resting place of many of the county’s early notable leaders.
The first known burial took place in 1808, and the cemetery was chartered in 1856. Beginning with five acres on Howard Street, it has expanded over the years to nearly 20 acres.
The name is generally considered to have been derived from the fact that many Union soldiers from the Civil War are buried there. The Soldier’s Circle, with a semicircular wall, holds the remains of Union soldiers. It was built in 1908 and funded by veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The cemetery’s gatehouse was built in 1859. The Gothic Revival building was used for decades by the cemetery superintendent. By the 1980s the gatehouse had fallen into disrepair, but it was purchased and renovated.
Unlike many cemeteries that had “Caucasian Only” burial restrictions at the time, Union Cemetery was racially integrated in the late 1800s, although the exact date is unknown.
Among the notable Centre County citizens buried in the cemetery are: Andrew G. Curtin (1815-1894), Pennsylvania governor from 1861-1867, and his spouse, Katharine Irvine Wilson (1821-1903); James A. Beaver (1837-1914), Pennsylvania governor from 1887-1891 and acting president of Penn State from 1906-1908, and his spouse, Mary A. McAllister (1842-1926); Daniel H. Hastings (1849-1903), Pennsylvania governor from 1895-1899, and his spouse, Jane Armstrong Rankin (1851-1937).
Also buried in the cemetery are Evan Pugh (1828-1864), first president of the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, the predecessor Penn State, and his spouse, Rebecca Miles Valentine Pugh (1832-1921); Col. James Dunlop (1727-1821), co-founder of Bellefonte, and his spouse, Jane Boggs Dunlop (1740-1812); James Harris (1755-1826), co-founder of Bellefonte, and his spouse, Anne Dunlop Harris (1767-1844); Rev James Linn (1783-1868), pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte for 58 years, and his spouse, Jane Harris Linn (1791-1822); James Irvin (1800-1862), who donated land to establish the Farmers’ High School, and his spouse, Juliann Gregg Irvin (1797-1856); George W. Harris (1835-1921), a Civil War veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor; and Anna Wagner Keichline (1889-1943), the first woman architect in Pennsylvania and an award-winning inventor.
The Union Cemetery is maintained and preserved by the Bellefonte Cemetery Association, which was chartered in 1856. Volunteers clean and repair headstones, help beautify the grounds, document the cemetery’s history, and raise funds for projects.
Bellefonte Union Cemetery. https://bellefonteunioncemetery.com(Accessed July 1, 2022).
Centre County Genealogical Society, Cemetery Inventory Project. https://centrecountygenealogy.org/cemetery-inventory-project/ (Accessed August 3, 3021).
Centre County Cemetery Guide, Centre County PAGenWeb Project. http://pagenweb.org/~centre/graves.htm (Accessed August 3, 2021).
First Published: August 29, 2021
Last Modified: April 3, 2023