The Sad Story of Sidney’s Stone

Grave of Sidney Berry, Wetmore Cemetery, North Warren (I need to apologize about the strange lighting on this picture. In order to get his words to show up on the old stone, the picture had to be brightened a lot)

The GPS announced I had arrived at the Wetmore Cemetery in North Warren. I slowed down as I searched for a place to park but the traffic on Route 62 prevented me from slowing down too much and I quickly passed the cemetery. A glance to my right revealed the sign for the cemetery atop the small, but steep bank on the eastern edge of the road.

I found a place to turn around and returned to the cemetery, parking in a lot on the opposite side of Route 62. I studied the cemetery and wondered how to gain access to the sacred piece of ground.

From where I sat I could see a car lot next to the cemetery and debated parking there while visiting the historic cemetery. Some spaces were available where I could park my vehicle, but part of me didn’t feel comfortable parking my vehicle there while I walked the cemetery grounds.

I did another quick internet search and found mention of a road to the cemetery from South State Street. I drove slowly along South State Street until I found the dirt road and drove slowly on this dirt road, which by all appearances I thought was a driveway, and parked where it ended at a small, overgrown lot.

I wasn’t happy about the location where I parked. I was near somebody’s garage, but I stayed far enough away that I wasn’t blocking entry into it. There were some people standing outside a nearby house but they didn’t say anything as I got out of the vehicle, and I took it as a sign that I was allowed to park here while visiting the cemetery. I crossed the patch of overgrown lawn and entered the oak grove which sheltered Wetmore Cemetery.

I paused at the edge of the cemetery to take a moment to study the land before setting foot onto the sacred grounds. The sign for the cemetery and a newer fence existed along the western edge of the cemetery, which is at the top of the embankment near Route 62. Pieces of an ancient fence border the other three sides of the cemetery, but most of it has become victim of time. On the north side of the grounds, right next to the car lot, stand two granite shafts which mark the original entrance into the cemetery, but were mostly hidden by trees and brush.

Many of the stones in the cemetery were either broken or merely field stones. The cemetery, despite it’s age, is in good condition; somebody has been taking care of the landscape and it appeared that somebody had been there working in the cemetery recently. Note: Little did I know at the time the cemetery had just cleaned up from a tornado which had passed over it in 2016, downing some trees and destroying some of the stones.

The oldest stones have weathered over the years and are difficult to read, if they ever had words etched into them. A handful of modern stones exist, scattered around the cemetery grounds. I carefully crossed the cemetery to investigate the sign that stood at the western edge of the grounds. An attached paper stated there were one hundred and fifty three burials in the old cemetery and most of those burials were listed as “Unknown.”

The Wetmore Cemetery was originally known as the Jackson Cemetery and some still refer to it by this name. It is located on land originally owned by Daniel Jackson, an early settler, who is believed to be buried in the cemetery. Upon his death Daniel willed his property to a Mr. Winters who donated the cemetery grounds to the Conewango Township supervisors. When the lands surrounding the cemetery were purchased by the Wetmore family the cemetery took their name and is still called that to this day.

The first recorded burial is a Mrs. Ramsey, who rests in an unmarked grave. The last burial in Wetmore Cemetery occurred in 1954. According to a May 29, 1962 article in the Warren Times Mirror (Warren, Pa) titled “Forgotten Cemeteries Ready for Memorial Day,” the last burial was Andrew Harzemper who drowned in Lake Erie “under particular circumstances.” Harzemper’s grave was never marked.

Turning my attention back to the cemetery, I scanned the sacred grounds. Spotting the stone I was there to visit, I carefully made my way among the old stones toward it. The sandstone is roughly two feet wide, eight inches thick and between four and five feet tall. The writing on this piece of sandstone was hard to read, but I could make out enough to know that this was the grave I was searching for. This stab of sandstone marks the resting place of Sidney Berry.

Sidney’s life would not earn him a place in the history books. However, the erection of his monument secured him a place in regional history. The marker tells the following story: “Sidney N Berry / Whose Death / October 29th AD 1839 / Was Caused / By a Fall of This Stone / Aged 32 Years / Though didst it well, oh cruel stone / To let thy fatal weight on one / So well prepared / Now guard thy victim’s mouldering dust / While to it’s home of holy rest / His spirit fled.” The rock that caused Sidney’s death would become the stone to mark his resting spot.

Sidney was employed to help construct the Hazel Street Bridge which existed from 1839 to 1855 and was the first bridge to cross over the Allegheny River in Warren. Sidney was at the bridge site when the fatal accident happened. A piece of rock had fallen on him and he soon passed from his injuries.

Sidney’s body would be buried in the Wetmore Cemetery and from the rock that claimed his life a marker was formed. The story of Sidney’s death was chiseled into it and placed atop his gravesite.

As I prepared to leave the cemetery, the lettering on another tombstone caught my eye and I walked over to investigate. The stone marked the graves of Polly Doty and her daughter, Emily. Polly was 62 when she died in 1842 and Emily was just sixteen when she passed in May 1832. Between the two names is engraved: “Blessed are the dad / who die in the Lord.” Just a small spelling mistake.

I left the cemetery and its memories and stories behind as I paused at the edge of the cemetery and turned to scan the grounds one last time. While Sidney’s stone was the one I came to visit, I could not help but wonder how many other stories lie forgotten in this small piece of land. With that thought in mind, I turned and left the residents to their eternal slumber.

Note: If you choose to visit, I ask you do so respectfully. Please be careful when moving through the cemetery, many of the older stones are extremely fragile.

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